January 2006 Monthly Forecast

MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon/Syria

Recent Developments

On 13 December, Detlev Mehlis, the Commissioner for the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, briefed the Council on his second report containing new findings and detailing progress of the investigation. The report noted Syrian “reluctance and procrastination” in its cooperation with UNIIIC and several Syrian attempts to “hinder the investigation internally and procedurally.” However, Mehlis also noted that Syria had made available for questioning five Syrian officials suspected by the Commission. The interviews took place at the UN offices in Vienna. The second report reinforced the conclusions of  the first report that members of Lebanese and Syrian intelligence and security services had been involved in the assassination.

Prior to the expiration of the UNIIIC mandate, the Lebanese government requested that:

On 15 December, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1644, under Chapter VII:

Expected Council Action
The issue is likely to be before the Council again in January because the Secretary- General has to appoint a new Commissioner to replace Detlev Mehlis, who is returning to his post in Germany.

There is also always the possibility of the Commissioner reporting to the Council if further difficulties arise with Syria. 

A decision on the extension of the mandate and on the nature of international judicial assistance which may be provided will also be required. This will follow once the Secretary-General’s report is received. 

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

Key Facts
On 2 September 2004, by a majority vote, the Council approved resolution 1559, sponsored by the US and France, following allegations of Syrian support for an unconstitutional prolongation of the term of Lebanese President Émile Lahoud. The resolution called on all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon and all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias to be disbanded and disarmed. It also supported the extension of the Government of Lebanon’s control over all Lebanese territory and a free and fair electoral process. Terje Roed-Larsen was appointed Special Envoy for Verification of the Implementation of Resolution 1559 with the task to produce semi-annual reports. Rafik Hariri was at that time prime minister and opposed the decision to extend Lahoud’s term.  He resigned a few days later under pressure.

Following the 14 February bombing in Beirut that killed Hariri, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1595 establishing the UNIIIC to help the Lebanese authorities in their investigation of the murder. In parallel, Lebanese demonstrations against Syria’s 29-year presence in Lebanon, coupled with international pressure, led the Syrian government to withdraw its intelligence and military apparatus from Lebanon in April.

UNIIIC’s first report, made public on 20 October, concluded that Lebanese and Syrian officials had been involved in the assassination of Hariri. Upon request from the Lebanese Government, the Secretary-General agreed to extend the mandate of the UNIIIC to 15 December.

On 31 October, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1636 establishing a targeted sanctions regime, of travel bans and asset freezes, against individuals to be designated as suspects in the Hariri assassination. It also decided under Chapter VII that Syria must fully cooperate with UNIIIC. There was a clear threat of “further action” if the requirements of the resolution were not met. The resolution further specified that the initiative, both in terms of implementing the individual sanctions and triggering further Council consideration, lay with Mehlis. UNIIIC was requested to report to the Council at any time if its Commissioner considered that Syrian cooperation did not meet the requirements of resolution 1636.

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

Finally, there have been more than 15 bombings and assassination attempts, mostly against anti-Syrian voices in Lebanon since 1 October 2004.  In an 11 October letter to the President of the Security Council, the Committee to Protect Journalists called on the Council to expand the probe to include attacks against Lebanese journalists that had occurred in recent months.

Key Issues
Approval of a replacement Commissioner is unlikely to be a controversial issue. Traditionally the Secretary-General, who makes the appointment, advises the Council in advance of his intended appointee and the Council, by letter, confirms its agreement. This is usually preceded by informal consultation with interested Council members.

Determining the nature of the international assistance to the Lebanese judicial system will be a major issue for the Council, especially bearing in mind its increasing reluctance in recent years to establish and fund international tribunals.

Regarding resolution 1559, the Roed-Larsen report is becoming increasingly stale. It may be an issue as to whether to take up this matter at all.

Council Dynamics
Consideration of the Roed-Larsen report will be complicated by the fact that some members are of the view that the problem of the Lebanese militias should probably be left to the Lebanese government at this stage. There will be concerns by some members that the history of Lebanon shows how foreign interference using sectarian divides can be catastrophic for Lebanese stability. They will argue therefore, that the Council should remain cautious, particularly with regard to the disarming of militias.

With respect to the UNIIIC investigation, however, the important fact in terms of Council dynamics is that all three resolutions-1595, 1636 and 1644-have been adopted by consensus.

In January, the absence of Algeria’s voice in the Council may change the dynamics in the Council on how to respond to possible future UNIIIC findings that Syria had hindered the investigation or had still not fully and unconditionally cooperated.  However, Russia can be expected to continue to put proposals through a critical examination.

Expansion of the scope of the investigation to include all assassination attempts since 1 October 2004 will also be controversial.  Much will depend on the Secretary-General’s report.

Underlying Problems
The Lebanese Government does not yet fully exert control over all its territory, especially in the south. There is also a lack of progress on disbanding and disarming the Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias as called for by resolution 1559. However, Hezbollah is an important component of Lebanese political life and still holds legitimacy to the eyes of many Lebanese as a liberation group against the Israeli presence in the Sheb’a farms area. 

The security situation is also affected by regular cross-border incidents in the south. Hezbollah, the Israeli Defence Force and Palestinian armed elements continue to violate the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon.

UN Documents

 Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1644 (15 December 2005) extended UNIIIC’s mandate by six months and requested reports on the progress of the investigation every three months.
  • S/RES/1636 (31 October 2005) urged Syria to cooperate with the investigation and established sanctions against suspects in the assassination.
  • S/RES/1595 (7 April 2005) established UNIIIC.
  • S/RES/1559 (2 September 2004) urged Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon and the disbanding of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.

 Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2005/61 (12 December 2005) condemned the killing of journalist Gebrane Tuéni in Beirut.
  • S/PRST/2005/26 (22 June 2005) welcomed the Lebanese parliamentary elections and supported the call for enhanced assistance and cooperation, in support of a credible governmental programme of political and economic reform.
  • S/PRST/2005/22 (7 June 2005) condemned the 2 June terrorist bombing in Beirut that killed Lebanese journalist Samir Qassir.
  • S/PRST/2005/17 (4 May 2005) reiterated its call for the full implementation of resolution 1559, acknowledged Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon and welcomed the deployment of Lebanese Armed Forces to positions vacated by Syrian forces.
  • S/PRST/2005/4 (15 February 2005) condemned the Hariri assassination.
  • S/PRST/2004/36 (19 October 2004) on the implementation of resolution 1559.

 Reports

  • S/2005/775 (12 December 2005) Second UNIIIC report
  • S/2005/673 (26 October 2005) Second semi-annual report on the implementation of resolution 1559
  • S/2005/662 (20 October 2005) First UNIIIC report
  • S/2005/393 (16 June 2005) Memorandum of Understanding between the government of Lebanon and the UN regarding the modalities of cooperation with the UNIIIC
  • S/2005/272 (29 April 2005) First semi-annual report on the implementation of resolution 1559
  • S/2005/203 (24 March 2005) Report of the Mission of Inquiry into the Circumstances, Causes and Consequences of the 14 February bombing in Beirut that killed Hariri and 22 others
  • S/2004/777 (1 October 2004) Secretary-General’s report on resolution 1559

 Other

  • S/2005/783 (13 December 2005) Letter from Lebanon requesting an international tribunal and the expansion of UNIIIC’s mandate
  • S/2005/762 (6 December 2005) Letter from Lebanon requesting an extension of the UNIIIC’s mandate
  • S/2005/717 (15 November 2005) Letter from Syria regarding its cooperation with UNIIIC
  • S/2005/715 (14 November 2005) Letter from Lebanon
  • S/2005/693 (1 November 2005) Letter from Syria
  • S/2005/627 (4 October 2005) Letter from Syria
  • S/2005/219 (31 March 2005) Joint Statement from the meeting of the Syrian-Lebanese Higher Council
  • S/2004/706 (1 September 2004) Letter from Syria
  • S/2004/699 (31 August 2004) Letter from Lebanon

Historical Background

13 December 2005

Mehlis presented his second report to the Council. On 15 December, the Council adopted resolution 1644.

12 December 2005

The journalist Gebrane Tuéni was killed by a bomb in Beirut.

5 – 7 December 2005

Five Syrian officials were interviewed by UNIIIC in Vienna.

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 40 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 this.

7 April 2005

Passed unanimously, resolution 1595 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 from the Secretary-General to report urgently on the circumstances, causes and consequences of the bombing.

14 February 2005

Rafik Hariri and 22 others were killed by truck bomb in Beirut.

20 October 2004

Rafik Hariri, Prime Minister, resigned under pressure from Syria.

3 September 2004

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

2 September 2004

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

Other Relevant Facts

 UN Special Envoy for Verification of the Implementation of Resolution 1559

Terje Roed-Larsen (Norway)

 UNIIIC Commissioner

To be appointed

 Size and Composition of Commission

To be decided

 Funding

The funding comes from the regular budget and was approved by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions of the General Assembly.

 Appointment process

The task of recruiting the members was entrusted to DPA, in cooperation with DPKO (Office of Mission Support). UNIFIL and ESCWA (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia) in Beirut also provided technical assistance and logistical support.

 Activities

The modalities of cooperation with the Lebanese government are defined in a Memorandum of Understanding between Lebanon and the UN.

Full forecast