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Cablegate: Lebanon: Rizk On Special Tribunal "Homework,"

VZCZCXRO5056
OO RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #1005/01 1871320
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 061320Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8698
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 1309

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 001005

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/MARCHESE/HARDING

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/06/2027
TAGS: PREL PTER KCRM LE SY
SUBJECT: LEBANON: RIZK ON SPECIAL TRIBUNAL "HOMEWORK,"
WORRIED ABOUT HARIRI JUDGE

REF: BEIRUT 963

Classified By: Jeffrey Feltman, Ambassador, per 1.4 (b) and (d).

SUMMARY
-------

1. (S) Minister of Justice Charles Rizk told the Ambassador
in a 7/5 meeting that he and PM Siniora had agreed that, at
the beginning of next week, Siniora will send to the UN the
candidates for judges and deputy prosecutor for the Special
Tribunal for Lebanon. Rizk would like us to whisper quietly
to UN officials which four are Lebanon's preferred choices
out of the twelve judicial nominations. Rizk also expressed
deep concern about Hariri investigative judge Elias Eido. He
fears Eido, appointed during the Syrian occupation, may order
the release of the four Lebanese general incarcerated without
charges since summer 2005. Given the devastating political
impact their release would have on March 14 morale, Rizk is
trying to use some legal sleights of hand to delay the
possibility. But he urged that the UN appoint the Special
Tribunal general prosecutor as quickly as possible, so that
the fate of the four generals falls clearly within the
tribunal's authority. End summary.

SINIORA AGREES NOT TO REQUEST CABINET APPROVAL
OF NOMINEES FOR SPECIAL TRIBUNAL FOR LEBANON
---------------------------------

2. (S) Receiving the Ambassador on 7/5, Minister of Justice
Charles Rizk described a lengthy go-around with PM Siniora
the previous day regarding just how Lebanon should submit its
Special Tribunal homework assignment to the UN. Siniora at
first proposed that the list, provided reftel, of twelve
judicial nominees (from which the UN will pick four) and two
deputy prosecutor nominees (for one position) should receive
cabinet blessing. Rizk pushed back with three points:
first, a cabinet decree will delay matters, as the cabinets
waits the requisite two weeks to overcome President Emile
Lahoud's inevitable refusal to sign. Second, unless the
cabinet takes special care, the decree could end up joining
the other decrees for publication in the Official Gazette,
thus revealing the candidates' names and increasing their
security risks. Third, the cabinet decree route would
guarantee that Lahoud -- and thus the Syrians -- would know
the names of the nominees, also increasing the security risks
against them.

3. (S) Siniora accepted Rizk's arguments but still wanted
some kind of cabinet action, so that he could be seen as
acting not individually but on behalf of a collective
decision. Eventually, he and Rizk agreed that he would
inform the cabinet on Saturday (7/7) that he is sending the
names to New York at the beginning of next week. The cabinet
will bless the idea but will not see the names, in an effort
to help protect those listed. Rizk showed the Ambassador a
copy of the packet to be sent to New York that includes
extensive c.v.s on the candidates. Describing enormous
differences in competence and quality, Rizk expressed hope
that, once the letter is passed, that "your people in New
York" will make sure that Legal Advisor Nicolas Michel and
UN/OLA staff take into account Lebanon's wishes for which of
the four judges to select. (Reftel notes the names,
including those preferred by Rizk.) The Ambassador urged
Rizk to let the Embassy know when the GOL has delivered its
nominations to the UN, which Rizk promised to do.

ACCELERATING SPECIAL TRIBUNAL IMPLEMENTATION
IN ORDER TO AVOID RELEASE OF FOUR GENERALS
---------------------------------

4. (S) Rizk also asked the Ambassador to enlist USG help in
getting the UN to move extremely swiftly in completing its
own homework regarding the Special Tribunal. Specifically,
he said, the UN needs to appoint the prosecutor, so that
Lebanon is relieved of the burden of the four former security
chiefs who were arrested in 2005 at the request of
then-UNIIIC Commissioner Detlev Mehlis. Officially, Rizk
said, the four generals now fall under the jurisdiction of
Investigative Judge Elias Eid, who was assigned to the Rafiq
Hariri murder case when the notorious Syria-aligned judge
Adnan Addoum was still Lebanon's Prosecutor-General. Syrian
troops still occupied Lebanon at the time. That means, Rizk
said, that Syria must have had a say in Eid's appointment.

5. (S) Rizk said that, based on a three-hour meeting with
Eid the previous day, he is convinced that "it's not just
March 14 propaganda" that indicated that Eid is considering
releasing the four generals for lack of evidence. The
Ambassador asked why, when Eid had let the four generals in
jail for nearly two years, his pro-Syria sympathies would
prompt him to make the releases now. Admitting that he did
not know, Rizk speculated that Syria may have calculated that
now is the time "to really mix things up," to weaken March 14
and discredit the Siniora cabinet even further. The four
generals, once freed, will be played up as victims and
martyrs. Their release will have a "chilling effect" on
March 14, Rizk said, since everyone will assume that,
especially, Jamil al-Sayyed will work with Syria to regain
his once omnipotent role.

6. (S) To combat this, Rizk said that he is taking two
steps. First, he has announced that the Ministry of Justice
will consider an appeal from lawyer Mohamad Mattar,
representing the families of other victims of the Hariri
assassination, to remove Eid from the case. During the
one-month appeal, Eid cannot change the status of the case.
Second, Rizk is encouraging Eid, who was recently
hospitalized briefly for stress-related issues, to take six
weeks or two months to leave Lebanon to unwind. "I'll pay
for his vacation myself to get him out of here," Rizk said.
All in all, Rizk estimated that he can use bureaucratic means
to ensure that the four generals are not released by the
Lebanese for at least two months. But after that, they need
to be under UN custody. Therefore, Rizk hopes the UN is
moving rapidly to set up the tribunal infrastructure,
particularly the naming of the prosecutor.

7. (S) The Ambassador noted that an international
prosecutor could very well order the release of one or more
of the judges for lack of evidence. After all, all of us
have heard from UNIIIC Commissioner Brammertz that the
detention of some if not all is "awkward," given the dearth
of credible evidence. The four were arrested because of the
testimony of witnesses who later recanted, their testimony
now thoroughly discredited. Yes, Rizk said, but a release
from the UN would be different than a release from the GOL.
If the GOL releases them now, "it will be a scandal." People
will say, "why did you hold them for two years?" If the UN
releases them, however, the situation is different: The GOL
picked them up at the request of the UNIIIC and then held
them until they could be transferred to the Special Tribunal.
So, in this case, the GOL merely acted on behalf of the UN.
If Eid releases them, by contrast, it appears as though the
GOL had authority all along and chose to ignore it.

8. (S) The Ambassador noted that it is now clear that there
will be a tribunal with a prosecutor. Couldn't a case be
made, therefore, that, regardless of the start-up time, the
GOL is merely at this point a custodian of all evidence,
witnesses, suspects, etc. until the tribunal is operational?
Couldn't Judge Eid and others be persuaded that it would be
morally wrong and perhaps even legally suspect for them to do
more than the bare minimum of caretaker duties as everyone
awaits the Special Tribunal to take over? Rizk agreed to
consider this possibility.

COMMENT
-------

9. (S) We have heard from UNIIIC Commissioner Brammertz
that appointing the Special Tribunal's prosecutor in advance
of the rest of the Special Tribunal's implementation is not a
sensible approach. But, whatever the merits of their initial
arrests and however awkward the continued detention of one or
all is, we agree with Rizk that Syria's Lebanese allies would
score an enormous victory, should the four generals be
released now. We will explore with UN Special Coordinator
for Lebanon Geir Pedersen whether the UN could pass a message
to the Lebanese that would ask that no dramatic steps
regarding the Hariri case be made in advance of the
commencement of the Special Tribunal. If the Lebanese would
see themselves as just temporary custodians responsible for
only caretaker functions. then we can be much more confident
that, when the case of the generals is reviewed, the
decisions regarding release or indictment will be made by
credible figures operating under normal international
standards. Judge Eid does not seem to be in that category.
If he would release any of the four generals, March 14
leaders would suspect Syria's hand at play, further deepening
the distrust and divisions in this country. But if an
international prosecutor makes the same decision, it will be
viewed as one based on the legal merits of the case.
FELTMAN

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