Lebanon urges UN to consider alternative financing for tribunal

UN-backed court was set up to investigate the assassination of prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005

A woman holds up a poster of Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri during a protest in Sidon a day after his assassination. Reuters
A woman holds up a poster of Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri during a protest in Sidon a day after his assassination. Reuters

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister on Friday urged the United Nations and the international community to explore alternative mechanisms to finance the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a day after the UN-backed court announced it was halting legal proceedings over a lack of funds.

In a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Hassan Diab said Lebanon would be grateful if the UN explored “alternative means of financing” the STL.

The court, which was set up to investigate the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, said it was cancelling a new trial against Salim Ayyash, who in his absence was convicted in the case last year.

Ayyash, a member of the Iran-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, was supposed to face trial on June 16 for attacks on three other senior Lebanese politicians that the court said were linked to Hariri's killing. But Hezbollah refused to hand him over to authorities.

Lebanon is responsible for 49 per cent of the tribunal's budget but fell short on its financial obligations because of an economic and financial crisis that has plunged half the population into poverty.

The tribunal's 2020 budget of $67 million was cut by close to 40 per cent for 2021. Mr Guterres requested $25m from the UN General Assembly to cover Lebanon's funding shortfall this year but only $15.5m was approved in March.

Mr Diab said Lebanon was committed to the court, noting that financial obstacles should not obstruct the tribunal’s proceedings.

The STL, which opened in 2009, said that it will close after July if it did not find funding.

“The STL continues its intensive efforts to raise the funds required to carry on its ongoing judicial proceedings and reiterates its urgent call upon the international community for its continued financial support,” the court said on Thursday.

Updated: June 4, 2021 05:21 PM

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