Agreement near on Hariri trial

17th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

17 August 2007, THE HAGUE (AP) - The Dutch government is setting conditions before agreeing to host the trial of suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

17 August 2007

THE HAGUE (AP) - The Dutch government is setting conditions before agreeing to host the trial of suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

A key condition is that another country volunteer in advance to imprison anyone convicted in the suicide truck bombing that killed Hariri in February 2005, said spokesman Bart Rijs.

Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen told Dutch radio he expects the government to agree to a request by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month that the Netherlands host the court.

But Verhagen "expects some practical matters to be arranged first," Rijs said. "We insist that people ... convicted by the tribunal would not be detained after their conviction in the Netherlands but in another country."

Dutch authorities set the same condition when they agreed to stage the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes in Sierra Leone. Arrangements were delayed for months until Britain agreed to find a cell for Taylor if he is convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

The Taylor trial is being held in a courtroom at the International Criminal Court on the outskirts of The Hague.

A second question concerned the financing of the Hariri tribunal, which could operate for years and cost millions, including security and salaries for staff and a panel of international judges.

"Of course, the tribunal does not need to be paid (for) by the Dutch government, it is paid for by Lebanon and the member states of the United Nations," Rijs said.

Negotiations are under way to satisfy the Dutch conditions, he said.

The exact venue in the Netherlands of the Hariri tribunal has not been chosen.

As well as the Charles Taylor trial, The Hague already hosts the U.N.'s highest judicial organ, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and Yugoslav war crimes tribunal. The country also staged the trial of two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing.

The first U.N. chief investigator, Detlev Mehlis, said the complexity of the assassination suggested Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services played a role in the bombing, which killed Hariri and 22 others. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals have been under arrest for 20 months in the case.

Syria has denied any involvement.

Wrangling over the tribunal has fueled a political crisis between Lebanon's Western-backed government and the Syrian-backed opposition led by Hezbollah. The tensions have erupted into street battles in recent months, killing 11 people.

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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