Lebanon’s Siniora had said ‘no’ to Malta hosting UN tribunal on Hariri assassination

US assistant secretary for international organisation affairs had pressed Siniora to host UN tribunal in Malta.

The Lebanese Prime Minister had indicated to the US that placing the new tribunal in a secure European city would be preferable.
The Lebanese Prime Minister had indicated to the US that placing the new tribunal in a secure European city would be preferable.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora had expressed "unease" at a United States proposal in 2007 to have Malta host the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) which was set up by a United Nations Security Council Resolution to prosecute those responsible for the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri in Beirut.

A US embassy cable signed by Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman in Beirut in May 2007, revealed details of a meeting between US assistant secretary for international organisation affairs Kristen Silverberg with Lebanon's then Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Silverberg had pressed Siniora on the site selection to host the tribunal and had touted Malta and Cyprus as possible venues.

But the US cable goes on to say that "concerning site selection, Siniora expressed unease over placing the tribunal in either Cyprus or Malta."

According to the cable, Siniora said "that Syrian intelligence has numerous assets in Cyprus, while the security establishing the court in Malta may be compromised as well, but by Libyan agents."

The Lebanese Prime Minister had indicated to the US that placing the new tribunal in a secure European city would be preferable.

The tribunal was eventually set up in Leidschendam, near The Hague in The Netherlands, and also has a field office in Beirut.

The tribunal officially opened on 1 March 2009. There was an initial three-year mandate for the court and there is no fixed timeline for the judicial work to be completed, so the tribunal may be operational for several years.

In March 2011, Antonio Cassese, the president of the Tribunal, issued his second annual report on the operation and activities of the tribunal in which he anticipated the completion of the bulk of the court's work by 2015. "The end of investigations with a view to submitting indictments by 29 February 2012 would allow us to begin with maximum alacrity, already in this third year, at least pre-trial and some trial proceedings, thus being able to complete the core mandate of the Tribunal within a total of six years", Cassese said.

The Prosecutor submitted an indictment on 17 January 2011 and filed an amendment to the indictment on 12 March.

After a review by the pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen, the tribunal submitted four confidential arrest warrants to the authorities of Lebanon on 30 June 2011. According to secondary sources, the warrants name four senior members of Hizbollah.

The party's leader Hassan Nasrallah denounced the legitimacy of the tribunal three days later on 3 July.

Before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was established there was a UN investigative commission (UNIIIC), which worked on the Hariri assassination. The UNIIIC's role was to gather evidence and to assist the Lebanese authorities to conduct their investigations. The STL and UNIIIC are completely separate organisations.

The United Nations investigation initially implicated high-level Lebanese and Syrian security officers in Hariri's killing.

Damascus denied involvement. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals were detained by the Lebanese authorities for four years without charge in connection with Hariri's killing. One of the first acts of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was to order the release of the generals after an STL judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to justify their detention.

More in National