March 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 24 February 2006
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Expected Council Action
The first quarterly progress report of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) is due on 15 March, and firm Council action can be expected if it reveals clear non-cooperation by Syria.

The Security Council may also receive the Secretary-General’s conclusions on:

  • the nature and scope of an international tribunal for the trial of the perpetrators of the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri; and
  • a possible wider investigatory role for UNIIIC covering other recent terrorist attacks in Lebanon.

(See our February 2006 Forecast Report for discussions of tribunal options and recent terrorist attacks in Lebanon.)

The Council is likely to take some time to consider the Secretary-General’s reports regarding the tribunal and the wider UNIIIC role. A decision in March is unlikely.

Recent Developments
Serge Brammertz, a Belgian prosecutor, was appointed Commissioner of UNIIIC in December. Also in December, resolution 1644 authorised the Commission to provide technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities in their investigations of other terrorist attacks in Lebanon since 1 October 2004. In order to collect information on these other cases, a separate unit has been created within the structure of UNIIIC. At a later stage, recommendations will be made on the possible expansion of UNIIIC’s mandate.

UNIIIC’s structure and staffing is being reviewed in light of its expanding roles. At press time, Brammertz is still putting together his expanded team.

Consultations with the Lebanese authorities over the international tribunal were undertaken by the Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Nicolas Michel, and during a visit to New York by Lebanese judicial officers. Further consultations are expected on issues such as the choice of law, the location of the tribunal and its financing (financing for UNIIIC itself will be considered in March by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions).

In January, the Council finally adopted a presidential statement on the October 2005 report by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Terje Røed-Larsen, on the implementation of resolution 1559. However, issues highlighted in the report reappeared in February with reports of new weapons transfers from Syria to the south of Lebanon.

Key Issues
Brammertz’s the progress report is likely to tackle the recent restructuring and reinforcing of UNIIIC rather than the substance of the investigation.  Accordingly, major developments in the Council are not expected. However, any comments on Syrian cooperation will be keenly awaited. The key issue for the Council is to assess Syrian cooperation with the investigation. Some disagreement over what constitutes full cooperation is possible.

Wider issues are expected to emerge regarding the options for the tribunal and expanding the UNIIIC mandate, including the cost of a tailor-made tribunal.

If UN investigations confirm that weapons continue to be shipped from Syria, then compliance with resolution 1559 is certain to return as a major issue.

Council Dynamics
Council cohesion on resolution 1644 issues has been strong. However, China and Russia consider Syrian moves towards cooperation as better than nothing. France, the UK and the US on the other hand are ready to sanction Syria for anything less than full cooperation. They believe that Syria’s behaviour is designed to frustrate the Security Council and is only buying time.

With respect to resolution 1559, the Council has been more divided. Negotiations over the January presidential statement on the Røed-Larsen report were lengthier than expected because of disagreements over the language used in the statement and the mention of issues like the flow of arms between Syria and Lebanon and the Lebanese presidential elections. In addition, new Council members may change the dynamic. It remains to be seen whether Qatar, representing the Arab region, will adopt Algeria’s cautious approach toward Syria or whether the departure of Brazil will result in more resolve towards implementing resolution 1559.

In respect to UNIIIC’s progress report, the Council could:

  • adopt a presidential statement welcoming the report and the new structure of UNIIIC, encouraging the investigation and emphasising the need for cooperation with it;
  • adopt a resolution renewing calls on Syria to fully cooperate with UNIIIC;
  • adopt a resolution condemning Syria for a lack of cooperation if this is reported by Brammertz; or
  • trigger individual targeted sanctions if Brammertz reports names to the Sanctions Committee.

If the Secretary-General’s report on the tribunal and the extension of UNIIIC is received, the Council is unlikely to take final decisions in March, but it could consider:

  • a presidential or press statement welcoming the results of the consultations with the Lebanese authorities; or
  • a request to the Secretary-General for additional information on various aspects of the reports regarding the UNIIIC mandate and a possible tribunal.

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 Hariri killing.
  • 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/2006/3 (23 January 2006) welcomed the second report on implementation of resolution 1559, noted with regret that some aspects of the resolution were still not implemented, commended the Lebanese authorities for the inter-Lebanese dialogue that they initiated, called on Syria to take measures to prevent the flow of arms and people into Lebanese territory, and called for free and fair presidential elections in Lebanon.
  • 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/2005/272 (29 April 2005) first semi-annual report on the implementation of resolution 1559
  • S/2006/67 (31 January 2006) EU statement on Lebanon
  • S/2006/17 and S/2006/18 (13 January 2006) letters on the nomination of Serge Brammertz
  • S/2005/783 (13 December 2005) letter from Lebanon requesting an international tribunal and the expansion of UNIIIC’s mandate

Full forecast