UNIIIC CHIEF BRAMMERTZ CITES PROGRESS, SEEKS EXTENSION

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id: 63025
date: 5/5/2006 15:54
refid: 06BEIRUT1417
origin: Embassy Beirut
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination:
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3379
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 001417

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/WERNER/SINGH
STATE FOR L

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/05/2016
TAGS: IS, LE, PGOV, PREL, PTER, SY
SUBJECT: MGLE01: UNIIIC CHIEF BRAMMERTZ CITES PROGRESS,
SEEKS EXTENSION

Classified By: Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman. Reason: Section 1.4 (b).

1. (U) This message contains an action request. See para
16 below.

SUMMARY
-------

2. (C) UNIIIC Commissioner Brammertz said his team is now
well-established, has considerable momentum, and is pursuing
several fruitful lines of inquiry. In a meeting that took
place before the GOL's official decision to ask for an
extension, he confirmed that he has recommended that the
UNIIIC be extended for a year. Brammertz' chief of
investigations, Peter Nicholson, was confident this extension
would allow his investigators a good chance of "cracking the
case," at least in terms of how it was done, and which
individuals bore primary responsibility. Brammertz indicated
the complex assassination operation involved not only
security officials, but perhaps an "outside proxy"
organization. Several hypotheses were still be tested with
the now-indexed body of evidence and eliminated one by one.
Although UNIIIC is only authorized to provide technical
assistance to Lebanese investigators concerning other acts of
political violence, it is using this access to acquire
additional evidence that can be used to supplement and
validate the Hariri evidence. Brammertz' June 15 report to
the UN Security Council will once again focus on
administrative and compliance issues, but will contain enough
findings to show progress is being made, without alerting
those guilty to the investigation's lines of inquiry. For
now, Brammertz said he has little basis for judging the
senior Syrians as "not cooperating" with the investigation,
but he emphasized that this view applies only to the present,
and could change on the basis of future developments. At
this time, he does not intend to recommend that UNSCR 1636
authority be applied to designate certain individuals as
"non-cooperative, and therefore eligible for the application
of UNSC-authorized sanctions against them. Commissioner
Brammertz will be in New York for consultations with the
UNSYG on May 9-10 and asked if he could meet with appropriate
Department of Justice representatives regarding assistance
with a witness protection program. End summary.

3. (SBU) UNIIIC Commissioner Serge Brammertz met the
Ambassador and poloff at the Commission's headquarters in
Monteverde, east of Beirut on May 3. UNIIIC Chief of
Investigations Peter Nicholson joined the meeting. Brammertz
received from the Ambassador supporting data (and explanatory
notes) which the commissioner had previously requested. He
said his investigators would most likely have additional
requests in the next few weeks. Brammertz indicated he was
also receiving forensic support from the Danish government.

INVESTIGATION GATHERS MOMENTUM
------------------------------

4. (C) Brammertz expressed satisfaction with the current
progress of his investigative team. He believes he now has a
strong team in place, they have collated and indexed a large
amount of previously collected evidence, they are continuing
to collect new evidence and subject it to analysis, and
finally, they are pursuing a number of fruitful lines of
inquiry. The commissioner implied that their most promising
hypothesis points to a very complex operation that involved
not only security officials, but may also have involved an
"outside proxy" organization.

5. (C) Brammertz, as he has in earlier meetings with
Embassy officials, expressed concern about the quality of the
evidence that was used to recommend the arrest of four
Lebanese senior security officials, but he stressed that this
opinion did not mean these suspects were not involved in the
crime. Brammertz indicated that Lebanese General Prosecutor
Said Mirza is growing increasingly uncomfortable with the
extended incarceration of the officials and has hinted to
Brammertz that he (Mirza) would like further guidance from
the Commission. Brammertz said he had told Mirza the UNIIIC
could only make recommendations and it was the responsibility
of Lebanon's judicial system to determine whether there were
sufficient grounds for arrest and detention. Brammertz
confided to the Ambassador that although the available
evidence did not yet support "a strong case" against the
generals, he would not reverse the recommendation of his
predecessor, Detlev Mehlis.

BEIRUT 00001417 002 OF 003

6. (C) Brammertz was noticeably keen to exploit the
opportunities afforded by the expansion of UNIIIC's authority
to provide technical assistance to Lebanese investigators who
were looking into other acts of political violence since
October 2004: bombings, assassinations, and attempted
assassinations. He believed that additional evidence
gathered from these investigations could help answer some of
the outstanding issues of the Hariri assassination. The
Commissioner was especially interested in the explosives used
in several of the bombings and revealed that he has received
forensic assistance from the Danish government.

7. (C) Although Brammertz recognized that truly
professional assassins would try to eliminate commonalties
between multiple crimes, he also said that his experience
indicated the more numerous the attempts committed by one
group, the more likely they would "slip up" at some point and
provide investigators with hard evidence. He lamented the
"pitiful" state of Lebanon's forensic abilities and crime
scene evidence management skills, but he felt quite confident
his team was getting close.

8. (C) UNIIIC's Chief of Investigations Peter Nicholson
added that the large amount of preparatory work completed
over the previous three months was starting to pay off in
terms of efficiently pursuing lines of inquiry. When asked
if he was confident his team would "crack the case," he
paused and said he was "70/30 confident" that before the end
of the year, they would know how the crime was executed and
who were its principal perpetrators. Due to the clear
sophistication of the crime, Nicholson admitted it would be
difficult to know every detail, but he did project quiet
confidence regarding a successful investigation.

9. (C) Concerning the senior Syrians' cooperation with the
investigation, Commissioner Brammertz said their present
behavior was acceptable. In response to the Ambassador's
question, he stated that he does not intend to use his
authority under UNSCR 1636 to recommend that certain persons
be designated as "non-cooperative" with the UNIIIC, and
therefore subject to sanctions. Brammertz emphasized,
however, that he was withholding overall judgment on the
question of UNSCR 1636 cooperation until the inviestigation
progressed further. He implied that as the investigation
zeroed in on those responsible, the real test regarding
cooperation would be reached.

BRAMMERTZ SUPPORTS AN EXTENSION
-------------------------------

10. (C) Commissioner Brammertz said he strongly supports a
12-month extension of the UNIIIC mandate and indicated that
as long as his position with the International Criminal Court
was protected he would stay at least through the end of the
year. He said his team was now well organized, operating at
high efficiency, and progressively attacking each challenge.
Brammertz said he was still hiring the last few members of
the team and remarked that process would be very difficult if
he could offer the necessary professionals only a month or
two of employment. (Note: This meeting with Brammertz took
place before the Lebanese cabinet voted unanimously to back a
GOL request to the UN asking that the UNIIIC be extended for
one year.)

11. (C) He said the extension proposal was already being
discussed by the UN Secretariat and he would be speaking with
UNSYG Annan next week in New York about his wish to remain
with the commission for at least another six months.
Brammertz said he was still concerned about his prolonged
absence from the ICC and inquired as to whether the USG could
discuss this matter with the principal sponsors of that
organization, specifically the Governments of Britain,
France, and Germany, to facilitate the approval process.

INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL SHOULD
PROCEED, BUT NOT YET REPLACE UNIIIC
-----------------------------------

12. (C) Commissioner Brammertz said he recently spoke with
Minister of Justice Charles Rizk and came away concerned that
the GOL is underestimating the task of establishing the
International Tribunal for Lebanon. Noting that UNIIIC's
present expiry is only six weeks away, Brammertz indicated

BEIRUT 00001417 003 OF 003

that Minister Rizk does not appreciate the responsibilities
of the proposed tribunal. According to Brammertz, Minister
Rizk is proposing to establish the Office of the Special
Prosecutor for the Tribunal in advance of the court's other
structures. Brammertz sees serious complications with this
approach, particularly relating to custody of evidence,
unnecessary competition for staff, and crossed wires in the
investigation itself.

13. (C) Rather than rushing to establish the tribunal, the
Commissioner recommended that the UN and GOL take the time to
do it right. He maintained that if the UNIIIC is authorized
at least a six-month (and preferably 12-month) extension, it
would be able to complete its investigation and transfer its
findings and evidence in a more organized and comprehensive
manner. He suggested that the Ministry of Justice may face
serious challenges if it rushes headlong into the tribunal
process. Brammertz acknowledged the political necessity to
show momentum on creating the tribunal, but he looked to fill
the current gap with motion (visits by Nicolas Michel, etc.)
rather than actually trying to accelerate the court's
establishment.

INTERVIEW WITH BASHAR ASAD
--------------------------

14. (C) Concerning his interviews last week with Syrian
President Bashar al-Asad and Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa,
he characterized the two leaders as businesslike and
relatively cooperative. But he also emphasized the
interviews were not investigative interrogations. Although
Brammertz said he covered a number of issues pertinent to the
investigation, he indicated that he was not yet ready to
confront the Syrian leaders with specific evidence-directed
questioning -- that would have to wait for a later date.
Brammertz described the Syrian president as surprisingly
talkative, speaking in fairly good English, without notes and
only one advisor. Sharaa, befitting his reputation, was more
taciturn, but again, was attempting to appear cooperative.
The Commissioner said he spoke with Asad for approximately 90
minutes, while Sharaa's interview was completed in an hour.

15. (C) Brammertz indicated he was satisfied that with last
week's interviews, especially in that a procedural barrier
had been broken, and that when he was ready to confront
Syrian leadership with evidence-based questions, the Syrians
would be hard-pressed to refuse.

REQUEST FOR FURTHER ASSISTANCE
------------------------------

16. (C) Action Requested: Commissioner Brammertz inquired
as to whether he would be able to meet with representatives
from the U.S. Department of Justice when he is in New York
next week. He indicated he wished to discuss issues
pertaining to a witness protection program and perhaps
additional requests for information the USG may be able to
provide. He will be in New York at least from May 9-10, and
possibly a few days longer. Embassy Beirut requests the
Office of the Legal Advisor or other bureaus to determine if
this meeting would be possible.

FELTMAN

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