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Lebanon: Special Tribunal

Volume 697: debated on Monday 10 December 2007

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The UK continues to be deeply concerned by the political instability resulting from the absence of a president in Lebanon. President Lahoud's term of office expired on 23 November. The ongoing political divisions over who should succeed him remain a source of instability. We have been urging all sides to come together in the spirit of compromise to choose a president who can lead the country forward. We support them in their efforts to do so and hope they will be able to resolve the political crisis as rapidly as possible.

Despite the ongoing uncertainty, progress continues towards the establishment of the special tribunal for Lebanon. On 30 May 2007, the Security Council adopted Security Council Resolution 1757, establishing the tribunal. The tribunal will try those accused of killing the former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, who was assassinated on 14 February 2005 along with 21 others in a car bomb in central Beirut. This attack was part of a campaign of targeted political attacks against anti-Syrian MPs and political activists in Lebanon. The most recent of these was the assassination of MP Antoine Ghanem on 19 September. Mr Ghanem was killed along with two bodyguards and four other civilians in a car bomb explosion in east Beirut which also injured more than 70 other innocent civilians.

The UK has been, and remains, firmly committed to the pursuit of justice for Rafiq Hariri's murder and the sequence of assassinations that followed it. The UK worked closely with UN partners to establish the UN Independent International Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) into Mr Hariri's assassination. We were also co-sponsors of UN Security Council Resolution 1757 establishing the special tribunal. As part of our continued commitment, and in response to the UN Secretary-General's call for contributions, I am pleased to announce that the UK will be contributing £500,000 ($l million) to the tribunal.

The success of the UN-led investigation process and of the tribunal remains vital for the stability of Lebanon. It is essential that justice is done to send a clear message that political assassinations will not be tolerated. The UK will continue to offer its strong support to the UN and the Lebanese Government as they take this important work forward.