Hariri tribunal limps along, tainted by dubious motives



A revealing interview was published in the Ottawa Citizen last weekend, related to the investigation of the assassination in February 2005 of Rafiq Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister. The case is now in the trial phase, before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and four suspects, all Hizbollah members, have been indicted.

The interview was with Daniel Bellemare, the Canadian judge who recently stepped down as prosecutor of the special tribunal. Before taking that position, Mr Bellemare was the last head of a United Nations commission set up to investigate the Hariri killing. He replaced Serge Brammertz, a Belgian who is currently the prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The Hariri investigation figured prominently in a book I wrote describing the period in Lebanon after Mr Hariri's assassination.

In researching The Ghosts of Martyrs Square, I spoke to onetime members of the UN team, as well as to Lebanese judicial officials who had collaborated with the international investigators. I learned from them that Mr Brammertz, who took over from the German Detlev Mehlis in January 2006 at a critical moment in the enquiry, had progressed very little during the two years he was in office.

Which brings us back to Mr Bellemare's interview. The former prosecutor did not say much, but what he did say unambiguously implied that Mr Brammertz had indeed not done his job. As the newspaper described it, when asked about the state of the investigation when he arrived in Beirut, Mr Bellemare "pauses, smiles tightly and says, 'Let's say there was a lot of work to do.'"

In 2010, a Canadian documentary accused Mr Brammertz of delaying a key facet of the investigation, namely examination of mobile telephone calls between participants in the crime. This confirmed information that I, too, had heard. Instead, it was a Lebanese military officer, Wissam Eid, who cracked the telecommunications data. Why so sensitive a task was left to the Lebanese, when a UN commission had been set up to undertake precisely such assignments, was never explained. My understanding is that Mr Brammertz wanted it that way.

Mr Eid was later killed, but his conclusions spurred UN investigators to pick up where he had left off. Indeed, telecoms analysis served as the basis for the indictment drafted last year. Mr Bellemare confirmed the essential role played by Mr Eid, declaring that a review of his work "was a very, very key starting point for us".

This is no place to address Mr Brammertz's actions. However, there is a strong case to be made that his failures crippled the UN investigation, and that this has had a decisively damaging impact on the trial. All the suspects named until now were allegedly active at the operational level. But investigators early on concluded that Mr Hariri was the casualty of a vast conspiracy, one that went up the political and security hierarchy in Syria and Lebanon. The number of suspects falls woefully short of those who should be in the dock.

Mr Bellemare has been replaced by Norman Farrell, another Canadian and previously Mr Brammertz's deputy at the former Yugoslavia tribunal. Before leaving, Mr Bellemare reportedly filed an expanded indictment. Because he based his initial indictment on the suspects' telephone use, it's likely that the amended indictment will accuse some or all of those in the initial indictment of taking part in further assassinations or assassination attempts before and after Mr Hariri's killing. New individuals may also be identified, but they will probably be linked to the first batch of suspects.

None of the Hizbollah members are in custody, nor is there any hope that the Lebanese authorities will arrest them. That is why in February the special tribunal decided to pursue a trial in absentia.

Not having the suspects in court could represent a major challenge for the prosecution. Mr Bellemare's case, by his own admission, was based on circumstantial evidence more than on witness testimony. While this is perfectly credible, it is also more difficult to prove in court, particularly if the prosecution and defence become embroiled in technical arguments over the validity of the telecoms evidence.

Here is where the poor quality of Mr Brammertz's work comes in. When he took over from Mr Mehlis, the Belgian was expected to consolidate his predecessor's work by gathering more witness statements. Mr Mehlis never doubted that high-level Syrian and Lebanese officials were behind the Hariri murder. He interviewed senior intelligence figures in both countries, even seeking to take down the testimony of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. His strategy was to conduct his probe from the top down - to go after principal decision-makers and use their statements to unravel the layers of the plot.

Mr Brammertz abandoned that approach. Instead, he investigated from the bottom up. Not surprisingly, he lost momentum and was soon bogged down in forensic minutiae. The shift left the UN mission in an investigative no-man's land. That is why Mr Bellemare had so little in his files when he took over. Most damaging, Mr Brammertz formulated an indictment without an articulated motive. Suspects are named, but no reason is offered for why they eliminated Mr Hariri.

The special tribunal may yet find suspects guilty. But no one seriously believes that those who ordered the crime, and most of those who facilitated it, will be punished.

This was not always the case. There were high hopes when Mr Mehlis departed that the truth would come out, ending impunity for assassins in Lebanon. Thanks to Mr Bellemare we now know that Mr Brammertz had other ideas.

Michael Young is opinion editor of The Daily Star newspaper in Beirut

Should late investors consider cryptocurrencies?

Wealth managers recommend late investors to have a balanced portfolio that typically includes traditional assets such as cash, government and corporate bonds, equities, commodities and commercial property.

They do not usually recommend investing in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies due to the risk and volatility associated with them.

“It has produced eye-watering returns for some, whereas others have lost substantially as this has all depended purely on timing and when the buy-in was. If someone still has about 20 to 25 years until retirement, there isn’t any need to take such risks,” Rupert Connor of Abacus Financial Consultant says.

He adds that if a person is interested in owning a business or growing a property portfolio to increase their retirement income, this can be encouraged provided they keep in mind the overall risk profile of these assets.

'Lost in Space'

Creators: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Irwin Allen

Stars: Molly Parker, Toby Stephens, Maxwell Jenkins

Rating: 4/5

Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Mia Man’s tips for fermentation

- Start with a simple recipe such as yogurt or sauerkraut

- Keep your hands and kitchen tools clean. Sanitize knives, cutting boards, tongs and storage jars with boiling water before you start.

- Mold is bad: the colour pink is a sign of mold. If yogurt turns pink as it ferments, you need to discard it and start again. For kraut, if you remove the top leaves and see any sign of mold, you should discard the batch.

- Always use clean, closed, airtight lids and containers such as mason jars when fermenting yogurt and kraut. Keep the lid closed to prevent insects and contaminants from getting in.

 

THE SPECS
Engine: 3.5-litre V6
Transmission: 9-speed automatc
Power: 279hp
Torque: 350Nm
Price: From Dh250,000
On sale: Now

The specs

Engine: 2.3-litre 4cyl turbo
Power: 299hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 420Nm at 2,750rpm
Transmission: 10-speed auto
Fuel consumption: 12.4L/100km
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh157,395 (XLS); Dh199,395 (Limited)

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

Company profile

Company name: Hakbah
Started: 2018
Founder: Naif AbuSaida
Based: Saudi Arabia
Sector: FinTech
Current number of staff: 22
Initial investment: $200,000
Investment stage: pre-Series A
Investors: Global Ventures and Aditum Investment Management

UAE medallists at Asian Games 2023

Gold
Magomedomar Magomedomarov – Judo – Men’s +100kg
Khaled Al Shehi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -62kg
Faisal Al Ketbi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -85kg
Asma Al Hosani – Jiu-jitsu – Women’s -52kg
Shamma Al Kalbani – Jiu-jitsu – Women’s -63kg
Silver
Omar Al Marzooqi – Equestrian – Individual showjumping
Bishrelt Khorloodoi – Judo – Women’s -52kg
Khalid Al Blooshi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -62kg
Mohamed Al Suwaidi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -69kg
Balqees Abdulla – Jiu-jitsu – Women’s -48kg
Bronze
Hawraa Alajmi – Karate – Women’s kumite -50kg
Ahmed Al Mansoori – Cycling – Men’s omnium
Abdullah Al Marri – Equestrian – Individual showjumping
Team UAE – Equestrian – Team showjumping
Dzhafar Kostoev – Judo – Men’s -100kg
Narmandakh Bayanmunkh – Judo – Men’s -66kg
Grigorian Aram – Judo – Men’s -90kg
Mahdi Al Awlaqi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -77kg
Saeed Al Kubaisi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -85kg
Shamsa Al Ameri – Jiu-jitsu – Women’s -57kg

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

T20 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS

Qualifier A, Muscat

(All matches to be streamed live on icc.tv) 

Fixtures

Friday, February 18: 10am Oman v Nepal, Canada v Philippines; 2pm Ireland v UAE, Germany v Bahrain 

Saturday, February 19: 10am Oman v Canada, Nepal v Philippines; 2pm UAE v Germany, Ireland v Bahrain 

Monday, February 21: 10am Ireland v Germany, UAE v Bahrain; 2pm Nepal v Canada, Oman v Philippines 

Tuesday, February 22: 2pm Semi-finals 

Thursday, February 24: 2pm Final 

UAE squad:Ahmed Raza(captain), Muhammad Waseem, Chirag Suri, Vriitya Aravind, Rohan Mustafa, Kashif Daud, Zahoor Khan, Alishan Sharafu, Raja Akifullah, Karthik Meiyappan, Junaid Siddique, Basil Hameed, Zafar Farid, Mohammed Boota, Mohammed Usman, Rahul Bhatia

Asia Cup 2018 final

Who: India v Bangladesh

When: Friday, 3.30pm, Dubai International Stadium

Watch: Live on OSN Cricket HD

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5


Latest
Most Read
Top Videos