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USG’s “Big Investment” in Special Tribunal for Lebanon

 

Reference IDDateClassificationOrigin
08BEIRUT13482008-09-15 02:18SECRET/NOFORNEmbassy Beirut
VZCZCXRO3042
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #1348/01 2591418
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 151418Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3034
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2905
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 001348
NOFORN
SIPDIS
DEPT FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ELA, IO/FO-HOOK, WARLICK,
IO/UNP-AMORRISON, L/FO-JBELLINGER, JTHESSIN,
L/AN-LJACOBSON, L/UNA-TBUCHWALD, INR/GGI-MARGULIES,
CIA/CNC-JFINKEL, JBRODERERICK, CIA/CTC-JBEAN, DOJ-JEVY,
USUN-KHALILZAD, WOLFF, SCHEDLBAUER, NSC FOR
ABRAMS/RAMCHAND/YERGER/MCDERMOTT

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/12/2018
TAGS: PREL, PTER, PGOV, PINR, UNSC, LE, SY
SUBJECT: LEBANON: BELLEMARE ANXIOUS FOR MORE USG ASSISTANCE THAN HE HAS SEEN

REF: THE HAGUE 744

Classified By: Ambassador Michele J. Sison for reasons 1.4 (b), (d)

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SUMMARY
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1. (S/NF) In a September 12 meeting with the Ambassador, Daniel Bellemare, Commissioner of the UN Independent International Investigative Commission (UNIIIC) made three specific requests for USG assistance and additional requests for USG action.  First, he asked that the USG provide intelligence information that UNIIIC has formally requested.  Second, that the USG loan UNIIIC two criminal investigators TDY.  UNIIIC needs “investigators who can question a witness” to interview some 200 persons currently in prison who may have some relevant information.  Third, that the USG urge the UK to do more to help UNIIIC, particularly with intelligence information (the UK has provided loaned personnel).

2. (S/NF) In addition, Bellemare asked for USG support when the Management Committee considers the Tribunal operating budget on September 25 — the same day that Lebanese President Sleiman will meet President Bush in Washington.  He also raised the prospect of consultations among the P-5 on a new resolution to clarify some legal issues.  Finally he repeated earlier requests for a USG reaction to 26 sketches of possible suspects that UNIIIC had given the USG and asked about getting access to alleged Hizballah defectors reportedly in the U.S.

3. (S/NF) On other matters, Bellemare said that the GOL has not asked that UNIIIC investigate the latest political assassination (the September 10 attack on opposition Druze member Saleh Aridi).  He is concerned about a new Telecommunication Ministry directive that may impede his plans for using wiretaps.  End Summary.

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GOL HAS NOT ASKED THAT UNIIIC INVESTIGATE LATEST ASSASSINATION
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4. (S/NF) The Ambassador and DCM met on September 12 with Daniel Bellemare, Commissioner of the UN Independent International Investigative Commission (UNIIIC), in his office in Monteverde.  The Ambassador asked if UNIIIC would investigate the case of Saleh Aridi, a Druze political official assassinated in a car bomb attack near Beirut on September 10.  Bellemare explained that for UNIIIC to take on a case, first the GOL must ask the UN SYG, then the SYG and Security Council must approve.  He said that the GOL had shown no indication that it would request that UNIIIC investigate the Aridi killing.  UNIIIC is interested in finding out more about the Aridi attack, since details are similar to other cases it is investigating.  If it is not invited to investigate but wants information about a case, UNIIIC must submit a request to the Lebanese chief prosecutor.  The criteria the GOL uses to decide on requesting UNIIIC assistance is “a mystery to me” Bellemare said.  (NOTE: The Aridi assassination is the first of a pro-Syrian politician.  END NOTE.)

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WIRETAPPING
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5. (S/NF) Bellemare was concerned about something he had learned the day before that might affect wiretapping.  The Telecommunications Ministry had directed two private telecom companies in Lebanon to inform the Ministry about any requests for wiretapping.  He noted that it is well known that the Internal Security Forces (ISF), the national police, conduct wiretapping even though the legal basis for their authority to do so is weak.  The Telecom Ministry’s move may have been directed against the ISF.  The order, however, also could limit the ability of UNIIIC to conduct wiretaps if the phone companies fear that they will have to report those efforts to the Telecommunications Ministry.

6. (S/NF) The Ambassador asked if Bellemare believed the action was targeted at UNIIIC, noting that the new Telecommunications Minister is from the opposition.  Bellemare replied that he was not in a position to say.  At his meeting with PM Fouad Siniora earlier in the week, on September 8, Siniora told Bellemare to inform him if he runs into any problems with cooperation from government officials.  He said he might discuss this with the PM if it looks as if this new telecom directive will be a problem, but first he will meet with officials of the two telecom companies next week.  The Ambassador offered to support his efforts at resolving this issue.

7. (S/NF) Bellemare noted that at his August 14 meeting in The Hague with the USG Interagency Working Group (IWG), he had asked for USG help with wiretapping capability.  He said that trying to work wiretapping through the Lebanese ISF or military intelligence would be like “putting the names (of targets) in the paper”.  He explained that UN legal experts were currently looking into the possibility that UNIIIC has legal authority to carry out wiretaps.  Beyond legal authority for wiretapping, though, Bellemare said he needs technical capability.

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ASSISTANCE FROM THE USG
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8. (S/NF) Bellemare expressed frustration that USG has not provided more in response to his requests for assistance, and noted that he has discussed this with State Department officials.  He outlined three requests for USG assistance for his investigation.

— One, provide intelligence information that UNIIIC has formally requested, or inform him that it cannot be provided, so that he knows not to pursue the requests.

— Two, provide two loaned criminal analysts on TDY.  UNIIIC needs “investigators who can question a witness” to interview some 200 persons currently in prison who may have some relevant informtion.

— Three, using USG influence, urge the U government to provide more to UNIIIC, particulaly regarding intelligence information.  Bellemare said he has requests in to MI-6, but has not received much.  On personnel, Scotland Yard has provided a loaned investigator.

9. (S/NF) Bellemare showed a good understanding of the problems associated with complying with the first two requests from his several meetings with USG officials, but his frustration was nonetheless evident.  “You are the key player.  If the U.S. doesn’t help me, who will?”  The USG has “a big investment in the Tribunal” and being more forthcoming on UNIIIC’s requests is a way of making that investment pay off, he said.

10. (S/NF) During the meeting, Bellemare made several other requests for USG action:

— USG support when the Committee considers the Tribunal operating budget, scheduled for September 25, the same day that Lebanese President Sleiman will meet President Bush in Washington.  He warned that the budget includes high travel costs, but that these are necessary because of the need for frequent travel between the Hague and Lebanon.  Bellemare thanked the USG for what he said was a much improved attitude on the part of the Tribunal Management Committee.  His requests have been more favorably received than was the case previously.

— He raised the prospect of consultations among the P-5 on a new resolution to clarify some legal issues.  He mused about the possibility of getting Chapter VII authority for the Tribunal via such a new resolution, but seemed to think that was not doable in the Council.

— He asked for a reaction to the 26 sketches of possible suspects that UNIIIC had given the USG.

— Finally, he asked about getting access to alleged Hizballah defectors reportedly in the U.S., or a definitive negative response to the request.  The answers the USG has given him so far on this subject, he said, have been not sufficiently definitive.

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INTERVIEWS IN SYRIA
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11. (S/NF) On this issue, Bellemare repeated what he said in the IWG meeting (reftel): that he did not want to go to Syria until the USG or other sources had provided names of leads he should ask to interview and other information.  If Syria denied his request to interview these people, then he would have evidence of Syrian non-cooperation.  Just asking would give some indication to others in Syria where his investigation might be headed, which could provoke more cooperation “if I hit the right person.”

12. (S/NF) Bellemare emphasized the urgency for responding to his request related to Syria, first, because UNIIIC’s mandate and with it Chapter VII authority expires at the end of the year, and second, the importance of conducting the interviews before the interviewees disappear by being killed or other means.

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OTHER ISSUES: NEW MINISTER OF JUSTICE, UNIIIC PRESS SPOKESPERSON
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13. (C ) Bellemare said he had a very positive impression of new GOL Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar, who had told Bellemare he wanted to be helpful.  Najjar’s predecessor, Charles Rizk, was a vocal supporter of the Tribunal but also known for public criticisms of Bellemare and the previous Commissioner, Serge Brammertz.  Bellemare, a Canadian, noted that Najjar had taught at McGill University in Montreal and they had some mutual acquaintances.

14. (SBU) UNIIIC now has a press spokesperson who started work the week before, Bellemare reported.  The official had good relevant experience as the spokesperson for the Yugoslavia Tribunal and most recently for the UN Legal Affairs office.  The new spokesperson is currently working up a strategy for UNIIIC’s press interaction.

15. (C) Bellemare said he had been advised by several persons to not make statements in public that might be seen as disrupting the current relative calm in Lebanon.  He planned to follow that advice, (NOTE: Bellemare traveled to Saudi Arabia September 15, we understand.  We will seek further information from UNIIIC contacts.  END NOTE.)
SISON

* * *

“In an October 3 meeting with the Ambassador, Daniel Bellemare, Commissioner of the UN Independent Investigative Commission (UNIIIC), was generally pleased with USG assistance to date, and repeated a single request: that the USG loan two criminal analysts who would work out of The Hague (reftel).  He expressed his flexibility to make this work, stressing that these analysts were his priority.  Noting that UNIIIC’s mandate will expire at the end of the year, he said the investigation component will not stop.  He was feeling the deadline pressure, but remarked that the investigation was moving aggressively.  The Special Tribunal budget is awaiting approval by the Management Committee in New York, he reported.  He did not yet foresee a problem with approval, but he informed the Ambassador that the UNIIIC budget was short two to three million dollars and he had requested approval for a supplementary budget.  The FBI would continue to pay the analysts’ salaries, which would be considered a USG contribution, and UNIIIC would cover travel and per diem expenses, he suggested” (08BEIRUT1451, 2008-10-07 05:21, SECRET/NOFORN, Embassy Beirut).

* * *

“Noting that he would return to Syria in February for the last time under Chapter VII authority, Bellemare stressed the urgency of receiving information from the U.S. to use during interrogations.  ‘If there is assistance to provide,’ he pleaded, ‘Please provide it now.’  Specifically, he requested information on ‘human vulnerabilities, suggestions on questions to ask, people who do not fit into our charts, partial answers we can use to test the subjects'” (09BEIRUT109, 2009-01-27 04:16, SECRET/NOFORN, Embassy Beirut).


The US embassy cables 08BEIRUT1348, 08BEIRUT1451, and 09BEIRUT109, made available by WikiLeaks, were first published by Al-Akhbar.  After Al-Akhbar‘s publication of a number of US embassy cables via WikiLeaks, the Web site of Al-Akhbar was hacked, which forced its publisher to take it down temporarily.  (The site was briefly back online today, but it appears to be offline again.)  See, also, “Wikileaks Cable Proves US Controlling STL” (Al-Manar, 3 December 2010); and “Hezbollah Declares Solidarity with Al-Akhbar Daily” (Al-Manar, 10 December 2010).




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