December 2005 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 November 2005
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Expected Council Action
On 15 December, the next report of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) on the assassination of former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, is due.

But, based on media reports about ongoing difficulties which UNIIIC Commissioner Detlev Mehlis is encountering in securing reasonable cooperation by Syria, we expect that the Council will take up the issue of compliance with resolution 1636 before 15 December.

Further extension of the UNIIIC mandate is also expected.

The Council is also expected to endorse the conclusions of the Roed-Larsen report on the implementation of resolution 1559.

Key Facts
On 31 October, the Council adopted resolution 1636 establishing a targeted sanctions’ regime (travel ban and asset freeze) against individuals to be designated as suspects in the Hariri assassination. It also decided under Chapter VII that Syria must fully cooperate with UNIIIC. The resolution, adopted unanimously, signalled a firm expectation that Syria should cooperate promptly and substantively. There was a clear threat of “further action” if the requirements of the resolution were not met.

The Resolution specifies that the initiative, both in terms of implementing the individual sanctions and triggering further Council consideration now lies with Mehlis. UNIIIC is requested to report to the Council at any time if Mehlis considers Syrian cooperation does not meet the requirements of resolution 1636. And Mehlis can also, under paragraph 3 of that resolution, at any time designate an individual as a suspect and report them to the Sanctions Committee, which has very short timelines for consideration of the issue.

At press time, Syria has still not complied with UNIIIC’s request that six Syrian officials should be presented for interview in Beirut.

In a speech on 10 November, the President of Syria Bachar al-Assad seemed to be signalling that Syria would not bow to the request from UNIIIC.  Syria appears not to accept that it has a binding obligation under resolution 1636 to cooperate with UNIIIC on terms set by UNIIIC and that Damascus is not in a position to establish conditions. However, President Assad’s speech did not completely exclude cooperation. A Syrian letter circulated to the Security Council (S/2005/717 of 15 November 2005) is also somewhat ambiguous. It reiterates a willingness to cooperate but it is unclear if this means cooperation in substance.

Nevertheless, at press time Mehlis had still not reported Syria to the Council for non-cooperation under paragraph 13 of resolution 1636.

There have been media reports that suggest Mehlis may not have completely ruled out the possibility of interviewing Syrian officials in a third country.

With respect to the separate issues dealt with in resolution 1559, the second semi-annual report on the implementation of resolution 1559 was released on 24 October. UN Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen indicated that a progressive approach to the disarmament of the militias by the Lebanese government should be seen as satisfactory, but mentioned the transfer of weapons and personnel between Syria and Lebanon in connection with Palestinian militias as a problem.

Key Issues
A key issue at this time is whether, despite the defiant tone of President Assad’s speech, there is actually a prospect of a compromise being worked out which is satisfactory to Mehlis.

A related issue, which may require Council consideration and authorisation if Mehlis is considering interviews in a location other than Lebanon, is the legal framework that would apply, especially if the interviews led to a decision that criminal charges were justified.

The major long term issue for the Council will be the degree of Syrian responsibility in the assassination as opposed to the criminal responsibility of individuals.

Finally, with respect to resolutions 1595 and 1636, it is likely that the Council will need to consider the nature of the trials of the perpetrators. It seems increasingly accepted that international assistance will be sought by the Lebanese authorities.

And regarding resolution 1559, there could be an issue as to whether to take up this matter at all and, if so, whether as a resolution or a statement.

Council Dynamics
Those Council members most determined to hold Syria to its obligations under resolution 1636 are concerned that it might dilute the focus of Council attention if the Roed-Larsen report is taken up at this time. They believe that the Council energy should be concentrated on the priority issue. Others agree that while the report does not need to be considered immediately, it should not be allowed to become stale. And they point out that taking up discussion of the issue is another point of pressure on Syria.

It remains to be seen whether the Council will adopt something in December. On balance, because it will definitely have become stale if it is allowed to roll over to January, there is an expectation of action before the end of the year.

The Council dynamics on resolution 1636 remain muted. Because it was adopted unanimously, as was resolution 1595, there is now a pattern of united Council action which most members will want to retain. Also, another reason for the muted atmosphere is that the Council has effectively empowered Mehlis until 15 December to determine both the substance and the pace of events. Members are therefore waiting for his conclusions.

Of course, the underlying tensions remain between those members who will insist on full cooperation by Syria and those who, because of traditional policy reluctance to contemplate enforcement measures and because of concerns in this case about the stability of Syria, would counsel a more gradual approach.

If Mehlis reports that cooperation is potentially achievable, it is likely that his report will canvass various options or recommendations for the Council.

If he reports that satisfactory cooperation is not achievable, the Council will inevitably be presented with a draft resolution imposing sanctions on Syria. There are a range of possible options:

  • Full scope economic sanctions, of the sort imposed on Iraq under resolution 661, are an option. But because of the inevitable hardships on the civilian population there will be resistance to imposing this kind of enforcement measure for a violation-albeit a very serious one-of a resolution requiring compliance with procedural requirements. Such a measure might however be seen as justified if Syria were conclusively determined to have state responsibility for the assassination.
  • A more targeted set of sanctions aimed at the regime and the institutions of the state is another option. The precedents in the Libya case are likely to be looked at very closely.
  • Another option is a stepped process, involving the imposition of certain targeted sanctions coupled with the establishment of a mechanism-separate from the criminal investigation-to follow on from the UNIIIC once criminal indictments are issued and the evidence is available-to assess and report to the Council on issues of state responsibility under international law-in particular resolution 1373.
  • It is possible also that the mix of options will include decisions to be taken by Council members, in their capacities as members of the Sanctions Committee, in the event that Mehlis designates  Syrian  officials as suspects.

UN Documents

 Security Council Resolutions
 S/RES/1636 (31 October 2005) urged Syria to cooperate with the investigation and established sanctions against suspects in the assassination.
 S/RES/1618 (04 August 2005) on terrorism
 S/RES/1595 (07 April 2005) established UNIIIC.
 S/RES/1559 (02 September 2004) on the Syrian withdrawal
 Presidential Statements
 S/PRST/2005/26 (22 June 2005)
 S/PRST/2005/22 (07 June 2005)
 S/PRST/2005/17 (04 May 2005)
 S/PRST/2005/4 (15 February 2005)
 Secretary-General’s Reports / Letters
 S/2005/673 (26 October 2005) transmission of the Roed-Larsen report on the implementation of resolution 1559
 S/2005/662 (20 October 2005) transmission of the UNIIIC report
 S/2005/393 (16 June 2005)
 S/2005/272 (29 April 2005)
 S/2004/777 (01 October 2004)
 S/2005/717 (15 November 2005) letter from Syria regarding its cooperation with UNIIIC
 A/60/555-S/2005/715 (14 November 2005) letter from Lebanon
 S/2005/693 (1 November 2005) letter from Syria
 A/60/409-S/2005/627 (04 October 2005) letter from Syria
 S/2005/203 (24 March 2005) Report of the Mission of Inquiry into the Circumstances, Causes and Consequences of the 14 February Beirut Bombing
 A/58/883-S/2004/706 (01 September 2004) letter from Syria
 A/58/879-S/2004/699 (31 August 2004) letter from Lebanon

Historical Background

 31 October 2005 The Council unanimously adopted resolution 1636.
 29 October 2005 Following the recommendations made by Detlev Mehlis when he briefed the Council, Syria created a special judicial commission to deal with all matters relating to the mission of UNIIIC.
 26 October 2005 The second semi-annual report of the Secretary-General on implementation of resolution 1559 became public.
 20 October 2005 The initial report of UNIIIC was published and its mandate was extended until 15 December. The report deplored the lack of Syrian cooperation with the commission and revealed that the assassination could not have occurred without the knowledge of Lebanese and Syrian security services.
 12 September 2005 The Secretary-General agreed to extend the Commission’s mandate by forty days.
 29 April 2005 

The Secretary-General, in his first semi-annual report on the implementation of resolution 1559, advised that the withdrawal of troops, military assets and intelligence apparatus was underway. However, there was no progress on the implementation of the other provisions of the resolution.

 26 April 2005

Syria confirmed the withdrawal of Syrian troops, apparatus and assets from Lebanon. The Secretary-General dispatched a UN mission to verify.

 07 April 2005

Resolution 1595, passed unanimously, established UNIIIC, based in Lebanon, to assist the Lebanese authorities in their investigation of the assassination.

 29 March 2005

Lebanon confirmed its full cooperation with the investigation commission in a letter to the Council.

 24 March 2005

The report of the Fitzgerald Mission of Inquiry into the 14 February Beirut bombing concluded that an international investigation was needed.

 15 February 2005

The Council requested the Secretary-General to report urgently on the circumstances, causes and consequences of the bombing.

 14 February 2005  Rafik Hariri and twenty others were killed by truck bomb in Beirut.
 20 October 2004  Rafik Hariri, Prime Minister, resigned under pressure from Syria.
 03 September 2004

President Lahoud’s term was extended by three years, thereby aborting the presidential electoral process.

 02 September 2004

Following allegations of Syrian manipulation of the Lebanese electoral process, the Council passed resolution 1559 with 6 abstentions (Algeria, Brazil, China, Pakistan, Philippines and the Russian Federation).

Other Relevant Facts

 UN Special Envoy for Verification of the Implementation of Resolution 1559
Terje Roed-Larsen (Norway)
 UNIIIC Commissioner
Detlev Mehlis (Germany)
 Size and Composition of Commission
129 members, including active investigators, translators, security guards, drivers and administrators of 14 different nationalities. The staff are UN employees.
The funding comes from the regular budget and was approved by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (GA).
 Appointment Process
The task of recruiting the members was entrusted to DPA, in cooperation with DPKO (Office of Mission Support).  UNIFIL and ESCWA in Beirut also provided technical assistance and logistical support.
The modalities of cooperation with the Lebanese government are defined in a Memorandum of Understanding between Lebanon and the UN.

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