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Lebanon: UN-backed court receives first indictment in Hariri assassination

The United Nations-backed tribunal set up to try suspects in the 2005 murders of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others received its first indictment today, but its contents remain confidential at this stage.

The Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), Daniel Bellemare, submitted the indictment and supporting materials to Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen, who will now review them, court Registrar Herman von Hebel said in a statement in Leidschendam, Netherlands, where the tribunal sits.

The situation in Lebanon has been marked by rising tensions in recent months and last Wednesday, the government of national unity collapsed when 11 cabinet ministers from Hizbollah and allied groups resigned after months of negotiations brokered by Saudi Arabia and Syria failed to produce a compromise over the Tribunal.

In a statement from his spokesman today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his support for the court, an independent body set up following a probe by the International Independent Investigation Commission after an earlier UN mission found that Lebanon’s own inquiry into the massive car bombing that killed Mr. Hariri and the others was seriously flawed, and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the attack.

“The independent judicial process should not be linked with any political debate,” the statement said, stressing that the STL indictment “is in pursuit of its mandate to end impunity for the terrible crimes” that killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others, as well as for related attacks. It underscored that the Tribunal is an independent court of law established at the request of the Government of Lebanon, with a clear mandate from the UN Security Council.

“The Secretary-General reiterates his call on all parties to refrain from any interference or influence in its work, but to allow it to proceed in accordance with the highest legal principles and standards applied by all United Nations-assisted international tribunals,” the statement said.

Last week Mr. Ban met with Mr. Hariri’s son, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in New York to highlight his support for the Tribunal, stressing its independence and voicing the hope that its work would help end impunity in the country.

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