President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Italian Judge Antonio Cassese, has made extensive efforts to convince the Security Council’s permanent members of the necessity of Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare’s resignation from his position, well-informed sources told Al Arabiya.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague has been the subject of controversy not only in Lebanon, but also within its own walls.
The President of the Tribunal questioned the efficiency of Bellemare’s work and argued that the prosecutor has been extremely slow in presenting his indictments against those responsible for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, reliable sources familiar with the situation told Al Arabiya.
Bellemare, according to Al Arabiya sources, indicated that he has three draft indictments to be submitted separately and consequently. The first indictment was submitted on January 17.
The sources also confirmed that each of these three indictments would contain two or three names, none of which are Syrian nationals. Judge Cassese argued that since neither the January indictment, nor the upcoming indictments contain a single Syrian national, there should be no such long delays in submitting all three indictments.
Cassese’s concerns about the delays in issuing the indictments were shared by many senior UN officials prior to the submission of the January indictment. However, unlike these officials, the submission of one indictment has not removed Cassese’s concerns.
Prosecutor Bellemare pointed out that indicting Syrian nationals would require resources not currently at his disposal, according to Al Arabiya sources.
But the United States, France, and the United Kingdom have rejected Judge Cassese’s appeal to pressure Bellemare into resignation, the sources said.
The three western permanent Security Council members argued strongly against any major changes inside the STL at this time.
Meanwhile, Pre-Trial Belgian Judge Daniel Fransen is expected to issue his decision by the end of May or in June regarding the January indictment. At that time, the Court will issue arrest warrants for the accused.
If the accused do not submit voluntarily to the Court or get arrested, they will be tried in absentia at the end of September or in October of this year.
The tribunal’s registrar, Herman von Hebel of The Netherlands, who gave Al Arabiya an exclusive long interview on January 18, the day after the submission of the indictment, will arrive to New York early next week for a series of important meetings with UN officials and western diplomats.
Diplomats are expected to raise the issue of the high cost of the Tribunal which stands at nearly $70 million per year, despite the fact that it only deals with a single issue. In comparison, the International Criminal Court, which has opened investigations in several African, Latin American countries and others, costs around $100 million per year.
These diplomats are expected to request von Hebel to reduce expenditures within the Tribunal by all reasonable means and to suspend further hiring of personnel. Lebanon funds 49 percent of the court’s expenditures, with the international community funding the rest.
In his interview with Al Arabiya, von Hebel explained that the high cost of the tribunal at this stage was solely attributable to the high establishing expenses at this early stage of its work.
The renewal of the tribunal’s mandate, which is set to expire in March 2012, is expected to be the subject of intense debate.
Von Hebel, in his interview with Al Arabiya in January, hinted what he would like to see happen, saying that the Special Court for Sierra Leone, of which he was also registrar, had an initial mandate of three years, like the STL, but then it was extended indefinitely.
He pointed out that the STL has been set up, not only to investigate and try the perpetrators of Hariri’s assassination, but to investigate other related crimes as well.
Our sources indicate that several countries, including some in the west, argue strongly against an indefinite extension of the STL mandate, preferring a two to three-year time frame at first, because of their hesitation to commit to indefinite funding of the tribunal.
STL President Cassese
Tribunal President Cassese enjoys the respect of many in the field of international law. He was the first President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia 1993-1997. In 2006 he served as Chairperson of the UN International Commission of Enquiry into Violations of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Darfur.
In 2009 he was elected President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. He had also several other important international legal positions. The judge cited his strong criticism of Prosecutor Bellemare in conversations with various international personalities, indicating to them that Bellemare should be replaced with his favorite choice, Norman Farrell.
Farrell, who was born in Canada in 1959, has worked as deputy to Prosecutor Serge Brammertz in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague since July 2008.
Al Arabiya sources predict STL Prosecutor Bellemare to resign from his post before the end of the tribunal’s mandate for health reasons. However, they do not expect his departure to be in 2011, but rather towards the end of 2012, after seeing the tribunal through this critical period of its history.
Al-Arabiya has received a Statement from Cassese, categorically denying the suggestions that he tried to convince permanent members of the UN Security Council of the necessity of Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare’s resignation.
He added that whilst the Judges at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon do not always share the Prosecutor’s legal positions, as has been shown by some recent judicial rulings - but this is normal in a court of law. He went to say that The President has every confidence that the Prosecutor and his Office are working professionally and expects that further indictments will be submitted to the Pre-Trial
Judge in due course.