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All criminals intending to commit a political murder take note. To delay, or even escape, justice, you only need to arrange for the United Nations to investigate your crime.
That at least seems to be the case regarding the drawn-out UN investigation of the February 14, 2005, assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri by a massive bomb in Beirut that killed 22 people. What little credibility the UN had left concerning this investigation was damaged even further by a highly critical piece of investigative journalism by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) released last week.
The CBC report’s main accusation is the UN commission investigating the murder that shook Lebanon to the core failed for three years to examine evidence in the form of cell phone records that would have tied Hezbollah to Hariri’s death. Even worse, it actually possessed such evidence, provided by a Lebanese police investigator, but sat on it for a year and a half without taking any action.
“A months-long CBC investigation…found examples of timidity, bureaucratic inertia and incompetence bordering on gross negligence,” stated CBC journalist Neil Macdonald, the report’s author, of the UN inquiry.
The CBC story made headlines across the Middle East for its detailing of the
commission’s incompetence and for the fact that, after five years and tens of millions of
dollars spent, indictments are only now about to be handed down. This long overdue move, the CBC states, will probably occur at the end of this year or early next year. Almost six years after the sensational murder, the UN special investigators have concluded Syria probably ordered the killing and a team of eight men, supported by others and connected to Hezbollah, carried out the actual hit.
The conclusions the commission, originally titled the UN International Independent Investigation Commission, reached are not surprising. In a report soon after Hariri’s assassination, the UN’s first commission chief, Detlef Mehlis, indicated that Syria was behind the killing. Hariri was a “powerful force for change” in Lebanon and “the hope of the international community.” The well-liked, billionaire politician, known for his philanthropy, wanted Syria’s twenty-five year military occupation of his country ended and also wanted Hezbollah disarmed. Which were sufficient reasons for both terrorist entities to want the five-term Lebanese prime minister dead.
But after Mehlis was replaced by the Belgian Serge Brammertz in January, 2006, the UN investigation began “to plod towards nothing.” The Bush White House, which, along withFrance, had urged the UN to investigate Hariri’s murder, became frustrated with its pace. Brammertz, according to people the CBC said had worked for him, “…seemed to be more interested in avoiding controversy than pursuing any sort of investigation…”
“Under his leadership, the commission spent most of its time chasing what turned out to be false leads and disproving wild conspiracy theories,” stated Macdonald.
The question now arises whether Brammertz’s appointment was meant to deliberately hinder the investigation. This conjecture is not beyond the realm of possibility, as it was later believed that Hezbollah had infiltrated the inquiry early in the investigation. And Hezbollah also has friends at the UN who would lend the terrorist entity a helping hand.
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