STL Not Interested in Evidence Implicating Israel

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The chief prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Canadian Daniel Bellemare sits at the the start of a landmark international tribunal to try the suspected killers of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in the Hague. (Photo: AFP - Marcel Antonisse)

By: Omar Nashabe

Published Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The controversial tribunal investigating the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri continues to refuse looking into claims Israel had role in the crime despite mounting evidence.

“The submission made by Attorney Marwan Dalal in October does not obligate us in any way,” an official of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) told Al-Akhbar Monday by telephone from The Hague.

He was referring to the memorandum which Dalal, introducing himself as “an attorney and citizen of the State of Israel,” presented to the tribunal, in which he made the case that the Israelis may have been involved in Hariri’s murder.

“Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare has employed investigative procedures that are consistent with international standards,” the official continued, “and the investigations led to the collection of sufficient evidence to charge the four individuals (Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi, and Assad Sabra) with the crime of assassinating Hariri.”

Asked whether the criminal investigations carried out by the International Independent Investigation Commission since 2005, and by the STL prosecutor’s office since 2009, had considered the mere possibility that the Israelis may have been involved in the crime, the official answered “No.”

After a pause, he added: “There was no need. The results of the investigations pointed to the four individuals and did not indicate any Israeli involvement in the crime.”

But why hasn’t the possibility of Israeli involvement been taken seriously since the start of the probe, or since the STL prosecutor’s office was established?

And professionally speaking, isn’t one supposed to avoid reaching conclusions before investigations have been completed?

The official avoided answering these two questions by reiterating that Bellemare adheres to international standards.

However, the STL did confirm that it has made no attempt to gather information from occupied Palestine about possible Israeli involvement in the 14 February 2005 car-bombing that killed Hariri.

This came in the form of a written answer provided on Monday by the STL’s official spokesman, Marten Youssef, to a question submitted by Al-Akhbar.

He was asked: Given that any exchange of information between the STL and the Israelis would require an agreement between the two sides, did the STL ask Israel to sign a cooperation agreement with it, and if so, when, and with what outcome?

The reply was: “No. Israel was never approached by the STL to sign a cooperation agreement. The STL only has cooperation agreements with Lebanon and the Netherlands. ”

Youssef noted that any information about the investigators’ work – including whether or not they had visited Israel or met Israeli officials to seek information related to the Hariri assassination – would have to be provided by the prosecutor’s office.

He said he had passed on Al-Akhbar’s questions in this regard. There had been no reply by press-time.

But the topic about which Bellemare is reluctant to respond was discussed at length last year by Israeli security and intelligence analyst Yossi Melman.

He wrote in the daily Haaretz on 23 November 2010: “The UN commission’s resources have been relatively limited...The potential countries that have spy agencies with the necessary technology is also limited, and includes the National Security Agency in the United States, British, and French intelligence, and undoubtedly, Israeli intelligence.”

If that is the case, and seeing as the STL has officially said it has no cooperation agreement with Israel, then Melman’s report would appear to reveal that Bellemare and his team have been violating STL rules, and that Israeli officials have been violating Israeli law.

Two observations need to be made in this context:

First, Israeli intelligence would not cooperate with any foreign party, or provide it with information about monitored or intercepted communications in Lebanon, except under clear orders from the highest Israeli political authorities.

Secondly, it is – at the very least – unlikely that the motives for this ‘irregular’ cooperation can be separated from the conclusion reached by Bellemare’s investigation, namely that Hezbollah officials were involved in Hariri’s assassination.

And at most, it is not unlikely that Israeli intelligence could have collaborated with Western agencies in the hi-tech fabrication of electronic evidence for Bellemare to base his indictment on.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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