August 4th, 2007 04:25 EST
Lebanon: UN legal chief invites countries to submit candidates for Hariri tribunal
The United Nations’ top legal official today sent a letter inviting UN Member States to submit names of candidates to be considered as international judges of an independent tribunal to try the suspected killers of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri.
UN Legal Counsel Nicolas Michel sent the letter on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asking for names to be submitted by 24 September this year, spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters.
Mr. Ban will appoint the judges based on the recommendation of a selection panel established by him, after he has indicated his intentions to the Security Council, Mr. Haq added.
That selection panel – which is itself yet to be appointed – will comprise two judges, either sitting or retired from an international tribunal, and a representative of the Secretary-General.
The tribunal will be of “an international character” to deal with the assassination of Mr. Hariri, who was killed along with 22 others in a massive car bombing in downtown Beirut in February 2005.
Once it is formally established, it will be up to the tribunal to determine whether other political killings in Lebanon since October 2004 were connected to Mr. Hariri’s assassination and could therefore be dealt with by the tribunal.
In June Mr. Ban began taking the steps and measures to formally establish the tribunal after Lebanon missed a deadline to ratify itself.
That month a senior UN official also told reporters that it is likely to take at least a year for the tribunal to begin operations as funds have to be generated, a seat for the court must be found, judges and other officials appointed and security arrangements for staff, victims and witnesses determined.
According to the applicable rules, the Tribunal will not be established until there are sufficient financial contributions to create the court and run it for a year and enough pledges to meet the expected expenses of another two years.
The senior UN official said about $30 million could be needed to finance the court's first year, but that amount may change depending on whether the Tribunal is housed in existing buildings, a renovated complex or an entirely new structure. The Tribunal will be based outside Lebanon at a venue to be determined.