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Lebanon urges UN to explore ‘alternative’ STL funding

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague. (Credit: AFP)

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister on Friday urged the United Nations to urgently consider “alternative means” to fund a UN-backed court for the country that may close over a cash crisis.

“Taking into account the ongoing acute crises that Lebanon suffers from ... [we] would be grateful to Your Excellency for urgently exploring different and alternative means of financing” the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Hassan Diab wrote in a letter to UN Chief Antonio Guterres.

The STL, which was set up to try suspects in the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, said this week it risks closure after the end of July without a cash injection.

The court, based in the Netherlands, on Thursday canceled the opening of a new trial of one of Hariri’s killers that had been set for June 16 “due to lack of funds.”

The STL has cost $600 million–$1 billion since it opened.

It draws 51 percent of its budget from donor countries and the rest from Lebanon, which is grappling with its deepest economic crisis since the 1975–90 Civil War.

The World Bank said this week that Lebanon’s financial downturn is likely to rank among the world’s worst since the mid-19th century.

In his appeal, Diab called on UN member states to keep the court alive.

“The most painful consequences of the cessation of the STL’s work lie in the reflection of a fragmented and incomplete justice,” he said.

Hariri, a billionaire Sunni politician who had stepped down as Lebanon’s prime minister in October 2004, was killed in a February 2005 suicide blast targeting his armored convoy.

The attack killed 22 people and injured 226.

Born from a UN Security Council resolution and inaugurated in 2009, the STL last year sentenced Salim Ayyash, a Hezbollah member, in absentia to life imprisonment over the bombing.

The tribunal was meant to begin next week another trial for Ayyash, who remains on the run, in a separate case over three attacks targeting Lebanese politicians between 2004 and 2005.

Responding to news of the trial’s cancellation, the families of victims who died in the attacks warned against impunity from justice.

“We are killed twice: first, through assassination … and then as a result of the deliberate assassination of the trial,” said a woman speaking on behalf of the Hawi family at a joint news conference.

“If the court closes its doors, the family of martyr George Hawi will sue every official either in the tribunal or in the United Nations who caused delays in our case,” she said.


BEIRUT — Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister on Friday urged the United Nations to urgently consider “alternative means” to fund a UN-backed court for the country that may close over a cash crisis.

“Taking into account the ongoing acute crises that Lebanon suffers from ... [we] would be grateful to Your Excellency for urgently exploring...