BEIRUT: The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has closed a tribunal that was formed to probe the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, said the UN chief’s spokesperson on Sunday.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon during its proceedings found three members of Hezbollah guilty in connection with Hariri’s death in a February 14, 2005 truck bombing.
The Hague, based tribunal sentenced the three, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi and Hussein Hassan Oneissi to five concurrent sentences of life imprisonment in absentia.
Hezbollah officials have denied that its members were involved in the suicide attack and refused to appear before the tribunal. The bombing killed Hariri and 21 others, and injured 226.
UN chief @antonioguterres hails Lebanon's Special Tribunal, which closes today after trying those responsible for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. ⤵️https://t.co/7hYLroytFh pic.twitter.com/NEuAUZpLO4
— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) December 31, 2023
The trial judges observed that there was no evidence Hezbollah’s leadership or Syria were involved in the suicide attack. The panel however, noted the assassination occurred as Hariri and his political allies were discussing whether to call for Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric in a statement on Sunday said that the Special Tribunal was created to try those responsible for the attack following the adoption of a 2007 Security Council resolution. The jurisdiction of the tribunal was also extended to other attacks that were connected to Hariri’s assassination.
Guterres had extended the panel’s mandate until December 31 for the limited purpose. The secretary-general noted that the tasks had been accomplished and the tribunal is being shut down.
Dujarric added that Guterres also praised the support provided by the Lebanese government, the government of the Netherlands as the host state, and member states that participated in the tribunal’s committee.