To assist with the continuing investigation of the 14 February 2005 attack that killed the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the Security Council adopted UNSCR 1636 (31 October 2005) which imposed a travel ban and assets freeze on all individuals designated by the Commission or the Government of Lebanon as suspected of involvement in the terrorist attack. UNSCR 1636 also established a Sanctions Committee and specified that, unless otherwise decided, all measures would be terminated upon the completion of all investigative and judicial proceedings relating to the attack. No individuals have been designated by the Committee since the authorization of sanctions in 2005.
UNSCR 1664 (29 March 2006) requested Secretary-General to negotiate an agreement with the Government of Lebanon to establish an international tribunal. The agreement between the UN and Lebanese government to create the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was signed on 23 January 2007, but when the agreement was put before the Lebanese Parliament for ratification, the Speaker of Parliament refused to convene the Parliament for a vote. In response, the majority of the members of Parliament signed a petition addressed to the UN Secretary-General requesting that the Security Council forms the tribunal. UNSCR 1757, adopted on 30 May 2007, formally established the STL and specified its statutes, organization, and formation. After the mandate of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission ended on 28 February 2009, jurisdiction was transferred to the STL and the information gathered over the course of its mandate was handed over to the STL's Office of the Prosecutor. The STL is an international tribunal operating under Lebanese criminal law. It has jurisdiction “over persons responsible for the attack of 14 February 2005 resulting in the death of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and in the death or injury of other persons” as well as other connected attacks that took place in Lebanon around the time of the Hariri attack (1 October 2004 – 12 December 2005) or are agreed by the parties to be of similar nature and gravity (Article 1, STL statue). The tribunal is the first international court to deal with terrorism as a distinct crime. Although the STL statue holds that the tribunal shall apply Lebanese Criminal Code, on 16 February 2011 the tribunal’s appeal chamber adopted a definition of terrorism that draws on both Lebanese criminal law and customary international law, thus for the first time defining terrorism as an international crime.
The STL opened on 1 March 2009 near The Hague. In June 2011, the court delivered indictments naming four members of Hezbollah (STL-11-01). Their trial began in absentia in January 2014, based largely on evidence from cellphone records. A fifth suspect was publically indicted in October 2013 and added to the trial, also in absentia, in February 2014. Charges against one of the accused Hezbollah commanders were formally dropped in May 2016, following the confirmation of his death. The ongoing proceedings present the first international trial in absentia since the 1946 Nuremberg trials. In January 2014, the court also charged two Lebanese journalists and their media companies with contempt and obstruction of justice for disclosing the identity of prosecution witnesses (one was found not guilty, another was convicted). The tribunal also investigates three connected attacks (STL-11-02) and a confidential indictment (STL-17-07). The current mandate of the STL expires on 1 March 2021.
The work of the court is highly politically sensitive and the court faces opposition from Hezbollah, whose members stand accused. The domestic situation is further complicated by Hezbollah’s military involvement in the Syrian conflict (heavy fighting along the disputed Syrian-Lebanese border) and a large influx of Syrian refugees (1.2 million registered refugees, equivalent to a quarter of the Lebanese population).
Coerce the government of Syria to cooperate with the Commission’s investigation and cease interference in Lebanon.
Signal support for the criminal investigation of the Hariri assassination and subsequent judicial processes.
Travel ban and assets freeze on individuals designated by the Commission or the Government of Lebanon (upon Sanctions Committee agreement) as suspected of involvement in the terrorist attack on Rafiq Hariri.
Sanctions Committee created, no sanctions monitoring mechanism in place. Designation criteria were specified but targets were not designated. Enforcement authorities not specified.
Syria cooperated with the Commission at the outset regarding access to individuals, sites, and information, but although Syria withdrew its military forces, it did not cease to interfere in Lebanese political life through the support of Hezbollah. Since 2011, the Syrian civil war has caused it to focus primarily on domestic issues.
No individual designations made by UN; UNIIIC investigation and reports and bilateral diplomatic pressure more significant to outcome.
Neither the Commission (whose mandate ended in 2009) nor the Government of Lebanon have ever notified the UNSC to apply the sanctions.
Creation of a special Commission and Court sent a strong signal in support of an international judicial process early in the episode, internationalizing the case. The signal has weakened over time despite the commencement of the trial in January 2014. The court faces significant political opposition from Hezbollah, whose members stand accused.
Although sanctions have been threatened, their lack of use has weakened the signal. Judicial processes under UNIIIC and STL present the most significant sources of signaling.
Decline in the credibility and/or legitimacy of UN Security Council.