By Richard Walker, The Hague
The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon(STL) sitting in the Hague on Friday, is tasked with deciding whether trials should go ahead without any arrests being made.
The STL prosecutor’s office maintained today that trials in absentia of the four suspects in the 2005 assassination of Hariri, should not proceed now – another 3 months is needed, according to Prosecutor Ian Morley, for ‘further reasonable steps to be taken to locate and arrest ‘ the men.
What is currently happening in Lebanon, he maintained, are enquiries into whether these men have been seen, followed by notices being pinned to the doors of their last known addresses, saying that proceedings against them are taking place.
‘There is an assumption with an international tribunal such as this, dealing with the assassination of the former head of a sovereign state, that there will he more done than a bit of asking around. There are palpably obvious further steps that can be taken that have not yet been’.
Lebanese police to appear in court?
‘Lebanese authorities seem to be unsure of what powers they have to investigate this case’, said Morley.
The judge told prosecutors, ‘the police have given you all they have, what more do you want?’
‘A lot more’, replied Morley.
Prosecutors contend that the Lebanese authorities need to come before the court to discuss what they can and cannot do. The suggestion is that since Hezbollah has indicated it will protect the 4 suspects – the leadership has said it will cut off the hand of anyone who tried to make an arrest – that they may be untouchable.
Judges will decide in the coming weeks whether trials in absentia will be planned for and whether the prosecution’s request for 3 months extra to ‘pursue investigative leads’ will be granted.