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UN Security Council narrowly approves Hariri tribunal for Lebanon

[JURIST] The UN Security Council [official website] Wednesday approved [UN News report] a resolution to establish an ad hoc international tribunal to investigate and try suspects in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri [JURIST news archive]. The move passed in a 10-0 vote, with China, Russia, Indonesia, Qatar and South Africa abstaining; nine votes were required for passage. The abstaining nations objected in part to the resolution's establishment under Chapter VII of the UN Charter [text], which allows for military enforcement if necessary. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora [BBC profile] earlier this month sent a letter [JURIST report] to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] formally requesting that the UN unilaterally establish the tribunal, as "all possible means" to ratify an agreement to set up the tribunal had failed within the Lebanese parliament; Ban supported Siniora's position despite a preference for Lebanese ratification. The five abstaining nations also voiced reluctance to encroach on Lebanon's sovereignty by ratifying the tribunal agreement on its behalf. Unless first ratified by the Lebanese parliament, the tribunal agreement reached between UN negotiators and Siniora will come into force on June 10. AP has more.

The controversial proposal, supported by Siniora but opposed [JURIST comment] by pro-Syrian Lebanese President Emile Lahoud [official profile], has been a source of major disagreement in Lebanon's deeply sectarian political arena. Pro-Syrian speaker of the National Assembly Nabih Berri [official profile] opposes the Hariri tribunal and has refused to convene the National Assembly to prevent ratification. Lahoud responded to Siniora's letter by saying his appeal to the Security Council "would imply a full bypass of the constitutional mechanisms in Lebanon" and would "hamper the court's judicial capacities to hold an impartial trial."

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