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US, France, and Britian expect ratification of Lebanon tribunal at UN today.

US, France, and Britian expect ratification of Lebanon tribunal at UN today.The United Nations Security Council is to vote on the creation of an international tribunal to prosecute individuals suspected of involvement in the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik al-Hariri. The US, France, and Britain expect to get the 9 votes needed to pass the resolution despite apprehension by Russia and China, who are expected to abstain from the vote. The draft resolution gives Lebanon a June 10 deadline to ratify UN statutes and create a domestic tribunal.

The UN was petitioned by the Lebanese government in the face of sectarian conflict between pro-Syrian and pro-Lebanese factions. The Lebanese prime minister, Fuad Saniora, requested UN assistance due to the refusal of the Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to assemble parliament to investigate the Hariri assassination. Syria has been implicated in the assassination and its allies, including Hezbollah, are opposing the resolution, which they see as meddlesome to Lebanese sovereignty.

Lebanese sovereignty also remains a contentious issue among UN member states. Russia and South Africa have expressed reservations regarding what they see as Security Council intervention into Lebanese affairs. Russia, China, South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar are expected to abstain from the vote at the UN today, still leaving a majority in favor of the resolution. Pro-Syrian factions in Lebanon have also warned that the invocation of the UN tribunal will result in an escalation of the violence that has plagued Lebanon recently.

Also of concern is the Chapter VII reference of the resolution. A UN resolution with a Chapter VII reference backs the use of force as an enforcement measure. According to the Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, “We do not believe that we should use Chapter 7 in situations where we do not absolutely have to do that, and we believe this is not that kind of a case.” The US, however, argues that only a Chapter VII resolution is legally enforceable. A Chapter VIII resolution was used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003.


Lebanon has been embroiled in conflict once again. Militants from Fatah al-Islam have been battling Lebanese forces in a Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli. The conflict is seen as an attempt to rally opposition in Lebanon against the tribunal. Lebanese forces raided Fatah al-Islam interests after a series of bank robberies and have recently arrested key figures of the organization, as well as confiscating forged passports.

Lebanon has been entangled in civil conflict for decades, with a brief reprieve following the end of the civil war there in 1990. International tribunals may reflect a desire for national reconciliation, which Lebanon may not be ready to face.

Update; BBC News: The UN Security Council has approved the creation of an international court to try suspects in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  The resolution was adopted by 10 votes to zero, with five abstentions from Russia, China, South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar.

BBC News/Reuters/AP



Daniel Graeber

Daniel Graeber is a writer for United Press International covering Iraq, Afghanistan and the broader Levant. He has published works on international and constitutional law pertaining to US terrorism cases and on child soldiers. His first major work, entitled The United States and Israel: The Implications of Alignment, is featured in the text, Strategic Interests in the Middle East: Opposition or Support for US Foreign Policy. He holds a MA in Diplomacy and International Conflict Management from Norwich University, where his focus was international relations theory, international law, and the role of non-state actors.

Areas of Focus:International law; Middle East; Government and Politics; non-state actors