Bellemare criticized for suggesting Hezbollah killed Hariri

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Published Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Former Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) head Daniel Bellemare has come under fierce criticism after comments suggesting that Hezbollah was responsible for the killing of ex-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Four members of Hezbollah have been indicted by the tribunal, but there has been no official claim that the party sanctioned the killing.

Bellemare stepped down from his position as chief prosecutor for the STL in February after citing health concerns.

In an interview with a Canadian newspaper published on Saturday, Bellemare suggested that Hezbollah had been responsible for the attack and that they had not known that their cellphones could be tracked.

"Hezbollah didn't know at the time that the cellphones were leaving traces. After that, the line went dead," he said.

The statement marks the first time Bellemare has referred to Hezbollah directly.

Previously, he had left open the possibility that the four suspects could have carried out the attack without the knowledge of the party.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Beirut-based political expert analyst and Hezbollah expert, said the idea the party was unaware their phones could be traced was “laughable.”

“I think it's a ridiculous and absurd argument. This is the same Hezbollah who very successfully used electronic warfare against Israel in 2006 and largely won the war because of electronic warfare,” she said.

“The whole idea that Hezbollah would be so clumsy as to use cell phone communications is laughable...Hezbollah relies on fiber-optic communications network, it does not rely on cellular communications," she added.

Bellamare was also criticized for saying he wanted to bring a Canadian perspective to the international tribunal.

“I thought I could bring a little bit of Canadian justice to the process," he said in the interview.

Hezbollah is currently sanctioned as a terrorist organization by Canada, fueling suggestions that Bellemare may have been keen to target the group.

Hassan Jouni, a law professor specialized in international criminal law, said it was wrong for Bellemare to talk about Hezbollah as he should have focused on the individuals charged.

“He is talking about an organization or a group, but the court system and the procedure and evidence laws prohibit any link between the criminal or suspect and his/her political and non-political affiliation,” he said.

“Questioning whether the suspects are affiliated with Hezbollah or whether Hezbollah is linked to the suspects in not within the legal power of Bellemare. His job is to find the people who committed the crime, regardless of their political affiliation.”

Jouni suggested that Bellemare, who was shown to have strong links with the US following diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, had sought to indict Hezbollah for political reasons.

“The fact that Bellemare talked about organizations and tried to determine whether Hezbollah knew or not confirms that he had a political motive and there is a political goal,” he added.

Norman Farrell on Monday was sworn in as the chief prosecutor in the case. Unlike Bellemare, Farrell has extensive experience in international criminal law.

Prior to his appointment as STL Prosecutor, Farrell was the Deputy Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The new Appeals Chamber Judge, Daniel Nsereko, was also sworn in.

"It is my devout hope and expectation that, with both Prosecution and Defense teams in place and the Chambers now back to full strength, we can together deliver justice in accordance with the law," said Judge Sir David Baragwanath, the Tribunal's President, during the swearing in ceremony.



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