An international tribunal to try the suspected killers of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafiq Hariri got under way in The Hague Sunday with pledges to provide justice to the victims of terrorism. The chief prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Daniel Bellemare, said the new tribunal constituted the world's first anti-terrorist court.
Bellemare was speaking at a special ceremony to inaugurate the tribunal, set up four years after Hariri's assassination in Beirut in 2005. "By the very nature of its mandate, the SPL is the first international anti-terrorist tribunal," he was quoted as saying by AFP. According to him, the court was set up not to seek revenge, but "a justice that ensures everybody is treated with dignity and respect."
Under the terms of the tribunal, Bellemare has 60 days to apply to the Lebanese authorities to have four generals held over the killing to be brought to The Hague to face trial. The four include the former head of the presidential guard.
The Canadian prosecutor gave no indication of a date when the tribunal would hold its first trial. "Indictments will be filed when I am satisfied I have enough evidence," he said.
He noted the tribunal's independence, asserting that its workings "must and will be above politics."
The tribunal, located in the suburb of Leidschendam, was created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution and will apply Lebanese law. It has an initial, renewable, three-year mandate. The identities of its 11 judges, four of them Lebanese, are being kept secret.
The opening ceremony, attended by UN officials and diplomats, was held at a former gymnasium at the headquarters of the Dutch intelligence service, where the court will sit. The tribunal's registrar, Robin Vincent, told the opening ceremony: "We're not here for the perpatrators of crimes, but for the victims of crimes."
Lebanon's ambassador to the Netherlands, Zeidan Al-Saghir, said the court was a step towards the Lebanese people's belief "that they can reconstruct and rebuild what has been destroyed by war". "What Lebanon is asking you is to serve justice. Justice is our request," he said.