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The Historical Commission of Inquiry

United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed on 14 February 2005 by a massive explosion that tore through his motorcade near the St. George Hotel in Beirut. The blast killed 22 others and wounded more than 100. Investigations to date by Lebanese authorities and an independent, international task force established by the United Nations have found that the explosion was most likely a truck bomb consisting of approximately 1,000 kg of TNT. Shortly after the attack, Al Jazerra received a video from the “Nasra and Jihad Group in Greater Syria” claiming responsibility. The man in the video has been identified as Ahmed Abu Adass and is currently Lebanon’s primary suspect. The group was not known before the attack and evidence of any other activity by the group has yet to be uncovered in ongoing investigations. Lebanon’s history and current relationships with neighboring Israel and Syria, and recent resurgent sectarian tensions are widely reported to be the underlying forces leading to Hariri’s assassination. 

Lebanon and Syria are founding Member States of the United Nations. Both nations gained independence in 1943 during World War II. Upon independence, Lebanon established an unwritten National Pact that dictated various heads of state functions would be split amongst members of specified faiths, such that no sect would have complete rule over Lebanon’s government. Within this multi-confessional arrangement, most power was vested in members of the minority Maronite Catholic faith, both in the Presidency and through maintaining a permanent fifty percent of seats in Parliament. 

Sectarian violence in the 1970s, largely born out of minority rule, grew into the Lebanese Civil War in 1975. By 1976, Syria occupied Lebanon ostensibly in support of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), also operating within Lebanon, in a bid to keep Lebanon from disentigrating completely into sectarian factions. In 1982, after clashes between Israel and the PLO in southern Lebanon, Israel invaded. In coordination with local Christian and Druze militias, Israel occupied a southern strip of Lebanon as a “security buffer” throughout the civil war. Hezbollah, funded by Syria and bolstered by the Iranian Repulican Guard, coalesced out of various regional Shia militias to specifically fight Israel and its allies within Lebanon, and soon became a separate entity under Ayatollah Khomeini, distinct from its initial foreign sponsors. 

Upon the conclusion of the Lebanese Civil War, the Taif Agreement of 1989 transformed the permanent Christian majority in Parliament to reflect a 1:1 ratio of sectarian votes, significantly shifted power from the President to the Prime Minister and his ministers and established Lebanon as “a country with an Arab identity.” Rafik Hariri, a former Saudi Ariabian diplomat, was instrumental in brokering the agreement. After the withdrawal of Israeli forces in 2000, Hezbollah remains an armed militia, has near complete control over Southern Lebanon and, now also a recognized political entity, holds seats in Parliament. Even after the conclusion of the civil war, Syria continued to occupy Lebanon, and the intelligence apparatuses of both States remained closely intertwined. Many in Damascus still see Lebanon as part of “Greater Syria.” 

After the civil war, between 1990 and 2004, Rafik Hariri served as Prime Minister for a combined 10 years across five cabinets. In 2004, as President Emile Lahoud’s six year term was drawing to a close, Syria, seeing Lahoud as their key to controlling Lebanon, began to pressure then-Prime Minister Hariri and the Parliament to extend Lahoud’s Presidency through constitutional amendment. The Parliament eventually approved a three year extension on 3 September 2004. Amongst several ministers resigning his cabinet in protest, Hariri resigned on 20 October 2004. Pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami was immediately appointed as his replacement, and Hariri soon became the predominant political figure in opposition to the continued Syrian occupation of Lebanon.

International outcry at Hariri’s assassination on 14 February 2005 was swift, including condemnation by the United Nations Security Council, as well as by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Within twenty-four hours, the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to “follow closely the situation in Lebanon and to report urgently on the circumstances, causes and consequences of this terrorist act.” By 25 February, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan had appointed Peter FitzGerald to lead a fact-finding mission to Lebanon to investigate the assassination of Hariri. FitzGerald conducted his inquiry until 24 March, at which time the Mission’s report was delivered to the Secretary-General. 

The FitzGerald Report identified major deficiencies in the Lebanese-led investigation, a lack of cooperation between the inquiry and the government and its investigators, and many loose threads in current investigations that were not being given enough attention.

[I]t is the Mission’s conclusion that there was a distinct lack of commitment to investigating the crime effectively, and that the investigation was not carried out in accordance with acceptable international standards. The Mission is also of the view that the local investigation has neither the capacity nor the commitment to succeed. It also lacks the confidence of the population necessary for its results to be accepted.

It is the lack of “the confidence of the population” that has created the greatest changes in Lebanon in recent months. The assissination of Hariri has sparked a unifying anti-Syrian movement within Lebanon, which has come to be known as the Cedar Revolution or Independence Intifada. On 28 February, facing an impending no confidence vote, Prime Minister Karami resigned. Daily demonstrations—peaceful, non-sectarian and with protestors numbering in the tens of thousands—began to take place immediately after Hariri’s funeral. International pressure for Syrian withdrawal also began to increase, with United States President George W. Bush and French President Jacques Chirac calling for the enforcement of S/RES/1559 (2004). Facing international and regional pressure, Syria agreed to withdraw all forces. The last Syrian troops left on 10 April, and Syria has reported that the last of its intelligence agents has left as of 26 April. 

Lebanon, in a letter to the Secretary-General on 29 March, indicated they would fully cooperate with an international, independent investigation. On 7 April 2005, fourteen days after the FitzGerald Report, the Security Council unanimously passed resolution 1595 (2005) establishing the creation of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission. The Commission has been charged with establishing an independent investigation based in Lebanon to “assist the Lebanese authorities in their investigation of all aspects of this terrorist act, including to help identify its perpetrators, sponsors, organizers and accomplices.” The commission has been given three months since the commencement of full operations to complete its work, and the Secretary-General is authorized to continue to extend operations at intervals of up to three months. The commission is requested to report back to the Security Council at least once every two months. 

The Commission is expected to commence full operations 16 June 2005. 

Questions to Consider:

  • Was there a conspiracy to assassinate Rafik Hariri?
  • Why would someone or some-group want Rafik Hariri killed?
  • Who can you question to find out information about the assassination?

Bibliography Bibliography

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Commission of Inquiry into the facts and circumstances of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Commission of Inquiry into the facts and circumstances of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto

Former Prime Minister Mohtarma (“respected lady” or “madam”) Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on 27 December 2007. In 1999, three years after her second dismissal as Prime Minister of Pakistan, Bhutto, while in London, was charged with corruption by a Punjabi court. Fearing for her life if she returned to Pakistan, Bhutto and her children moved to Dubai, India. With help from the United States and the United Kingdom, Bhutto was able to negotiate with President Musharraf on a plan to let her and her family return home to Pakistan. At Bhutto’s homecoming rally in October 2007, two bombs went off in an assassination attempt. While she was unharmed. more than one hundred people were killed and hundreds more were injured. After the attempt, Bhutto requested that Musharraf increase her security or allow her to hire private security personnel. Musharraf denied her request for foreign security. In the afternoon of 27 December 2007, only hours after a morning meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bhutto was giving a speech at a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) rally in Rawalpindi Liaquat National Bagh. After getting in her bulletproof vehicle when the speech was over, Bhutto opened and stood in the vehicle’s roof escape hatch to wave at her supporters for the upcoming elections on 2 January 2008. Three shots were taken at Bhutto before a man detonated suicide vest packed with ball bearings. 

Bhutto arrived at Rawalpindi General Hospital at 1735 local time. Doctors attempted resuscitation but all attempts failed. Bhutto was declared dead at 1816 local time. No autopsy was conducted due to the request of Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari. Bhutto was buried the following day at her family’s mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh surrounded by family, friends, and hundreds of thousands of supporters. The United Nations Security Council went into an emergency session following the report of Bhutto’s death. They released a Presidential Statement condemning the terrorist suicide attack and underlining the need to bring those responsible for the attack to justice. In Pakistan, President Musharraf announced three days of mourning in Bhutto’s honor and that the elections would be postponed six weeks. 

The cause of Bhutto’s death is one of speculation. On the day of her death, the Pakistani Interior Ministry reported the Bhutto was killed by a gunshot wound to the neck. The security advisor for the PPP, Rehman Malik, agreed with this statement in that she was shot in the neck and also the chest before the explosion. On 28 December, the Interior Ministry changed their report and announced that they believe that Bhutto’s death was a result of a neck fracture of when she either ducked or fell into her vehicle and hit the edge of the hatch. The PPP and Bhutto’s lawyer, Farooq Naik, denied their report and believe the cause of death to be two gunshot wounds to the head and abdomen. On 1 January 2008, the Interior Ministry backtracked on its death report again and stated that they would wait for forensic investigations before concluding on Bhutto’s cause of death. 

President Musharraf asked Britain’s Scotland Yard to assist in the investigations on Bhutto’s killing. The forensic team had a difficult time coming to conclusions. The crime scene was cleared before any forensic examination could be completed and no formal autopsy was performed on the body before the burial. Bhutto’s family agreed to an exhumation only if Musharraf would allow the United Nations to lead an inquiry into her assassination. Musharraf rejected the idea, and no autopsy was carried out. On 8 February, Scotland Yard stated that Bhutto died after hitting her head when she was thrown by the force of the bomb-blast. The findings agreed with the Pakistani nation’s explanation of death. Many of Bhutto’s supporters still disbelieve that she was killed by a skull fracture preferring to believe that Bhutto died due to the assassin’s gunshots. 

There is also speculation about who carried out the assassination. Pakistani authorities claimed that it was the Taliban faction in Pakistan that killed Bhutto. This explanation is plausible considering the terrorists group’s effect on the nation and specifically South Waziristan. Furthermore, before Bhutto returned home, there were multiple assassination attempts on President Musharraf by Islamic extremists. Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, denied that he killed Bhutto even if he did have a motive. Al-Qaida leader Mustafa Abu al-Yazid claimed responsibility for killing Bhutto. 

However, the PPP and its supporters do not believe that Bhutto’s assassination was a terrorist attack. Rather, they believe that Al-Qaida taking responsibility for the assassination was a part of a cover-up by the government of Pakistan. Before she died, Bhutto was very pessimistic about her safety and security in Pakistan. On 16 October 2007, Bhutto wrote to President Musharraf naming four people in his government plotting to kill her, and that if he did not provide adequate security for her that she would blame her death on him. Furthermore, weeks before her death, Bhutto emailed United Kingdom Foreign Secretary David Miliband that senior allies of President Musharraf were planning to kill her. It is primarily for these reasons that the PPP and Bhutto’s supporters believe that her assassination was plotted and covered-up by the Pakistani government. 

In August of 2008, Pervez Musharraf resigned as President of Pakistan to avoid impeachment. In the September 2008 elections, Bhutto’s widowed husband, Asif Ali Zardari was elected President. President Zardari called for the United Nations to investigate the death of Benazir Bhutto. On 3 February 2009 the UN Secretary-General presented the request to the Security Council to create an international commission to look into the facts and circumstances of the assassination and not to undertake a criminal investigation, which remained the responsibility of the Pakistani authorities. The commission would have six months from the start of its activities to look into the facts and circumstances and have the full support of the Government of Pakistan to do so. Later, on 3 February, the Security Council confirmed the creation of commission of inquiry into Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.

Questions to Consider:

  • What was the cause of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s death?
  • Who was behind the bombing?
  • Why would someone or some-group want Benazir Bhutto killed?
  • Who can you question to find out information about the assassination?

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Bibliography Bibliography

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United Nations Documents United Nations Documents

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