Saad Hariri calls on Lebanon to continue funding UN-backed court

The trial of Salim Ayyash was cancelled over lack of funds

A statue of assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri at the site of the 2005 explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. EPA
A statue of assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri at the site of the 2005 explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. EPA

Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Saad Hariri has called on the country to continue funding a UN-backed court set up to prosecute crimes related to the 2005 assassination of his father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The court announced last week that it was halting legal proceedings over a lack of funds and cancelling a new trial against Salim Ayyash, a member of Iran-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah who was convicted in the case last year in his absence.

“We call on the Lebanese state to pay its dues and we call on friendly and brotherly countries to submit financial obligations to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, because its work would put an end to political killings,” Mr Hariri's press office said.

The UN and foreign donations pay for 51 per cent of the budget of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Although Lebanon is responsible for the rest, it has been unable to fulfil its commitments due to a crippling economic crisis that began in 2019.

In March, the UN granted $15.5 million in additional funding, but this was not enough.

Mr Hariri described the suspension of the tribunal as a “sad decision”.

“We fear that abandoning the Special Tribunal for Lebanon would be an abandonment of justice and human rights,” his press office said.

“This is something that would encourage political assassinations, impunity and the consecration of the law of the jungle in a country like Lebanon that is drowning in a sea of crises.”

Political paralysis has worsened Lebanon’s economic crisis. Bickering among politicians, including Mr Hariri, has stalled the formation of a new Cabinet since last August.

Mr Hariri’s tweets come a day after Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab urged the UN and the international community to explore alternative mechanisms to finance the tribunal.

The STL was set up in 2009 at the request of the Lebanese government and was scheduled to try Ayyash on June 16 for attacks on three senior politicians that the court said were linked to Hariri’s killings.

But Hezbollah has refused to recognise the legitimacy of the tribunal and never handed him over to the Lebanese authorities.

Lebanese investigations into political assassinations have never yielded results. The most recent killing occurred on February 4, when political activist and writer Lokman Slim was found dead in a rental car in south Lebanon. He had been shot six times in the back and the head.

The UN denounced in March a “reported surge of arrests, intimidations, threats and violence against human rights defenders, journalists and activists”.

Rafik Hariri was assassinated on February 14, 2005, when his convoy of vehicles was targeted by a truck bomb in Beirut. A total of 22 people were killed in the blast and 220 injured.

Updated: June 6, 2021 09:54 PM

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