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John R. Bolton: Remarks on the Brammertz Report

Remarks on the Brammertz Report

Ambassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Remarks at a Security Council Stakeout
New York City
June 14, 2006

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I just have a minute here because I have to go meet with the G-77 on UN Reform, but I wanted to say we were very pleased by Serge Brammertz's report. I think it shows the continuing progress and professionalism of the investigation. I think he has obviously made a lot of progress since the last report and shows encouraging signs of moving ahead in a variety of areas. And we will be especially supportive of his request for expanding and clarifying the ability of the Commission to provide assistance to the government of Lebanon in connection to the other 14 terrorist assassinations that he documents at some length in the report. I will take just a couple of questions.

REPORTER: Expansion of Brammertz's authority, it's not clear in the Security Council draft resolution at least, why isn't it there? And secondly, the Syrians are saying that they cooperated fully, we've heard the Syrian representative is saying that. What happened to that list of names that Mehlis was supposed to have given to the Security Council about the suspects? Did you ever ask Brammertz if it exists? Are these names, these people, are they still suspects?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: On the first point, the language in the draft that is currently circulating, we think does clearly authorize the additional cooperation that Mr. Brammertz has requested so I think that point is clear. And the sorts of things that he suggests in the report will be of assistance not only to the other 14 cases but to the Hariri assassination investigation as well. That is the nexus, obviously, and that's the reason why we think that this will be entirely justified. Second, it's very clear that Brammertz does not say in the report that Syria is fully cooperating, he says that during this reporting period their cooperation has been, and I'm quoting now form the report, "generally satisfactory." Maybe in a pass/fail system, that says "pass" for this reporting period, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement. And he says, interestingly, "in some instances comprehensive responses were provided to the Commission's inquiries" which obviously implies that in some other instances, maybe a majority of instances, comprehensive responses were not provided. And he says, indeed further, that there will be additional requests to the Syrian government. I take this to mean, I take the report at its worth, that there has been satisfactory cooperation at this period, but far from the full and active cooperation that the Security Council has required. In terms of your last question, you know I have to say, if I were doing this over again from scratch, I am not sure that I would ask and investigator in position of Mr. Brammertz to submit written reports to the Security Council. I think it's hard for any prosecutor to do that. I think he doesn't like to disclose information to the potential defendants, that's certainly not the case in most justice systems up until the time the indictments are handed down and actual trial preparation begins; prosecutors do not and should not be publishing reports about the progress of that investigation. And I think, if I may say so, with all due respect to the press, and others who have read earlier reports compared to these reports and have said that there is some difficulty with the prosecution, that's just not consistent with the way that I read the reports and I think consistent with the investigation and preparation for trial that any experienced prosecutor would carry out. You know, in the first reports, when pieces of information are contained that are new for the first time they sound dramatic and important, and they are to an extent, but what is really important here is the systematic progression toward the preparation of trial, toward the selection of defendants and the presentation of cases. All of that is going on, so what this says to me, added to Mr. Brammertz's request to extend the mandate of the Commission for a year, and his personal willingness to stay on the case shows to me that preparations are proceeding in a very methodical fashion. So to the extent that people whether in the press or elsewhere, read this report somehow is lessening the significance the progress of the investigation, I think that's a mistake. And as I say if I was thinking about this again, I'm not sure that I wouldn't structure the reporting requirements differently so that this somewhat misleading impression wouldn't get around.

REPORTER: How does the United States look at the possible plans to set up protection force for witnesses?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think this is something that we want to take very seriously. And I think that's a further demonstration of the progress of the case, when witness begin to be identified if they're at risk, that shows the potential defendants realize the jeopardy that they are in. Again I think that Brammertz's requests and that his whole conduct of this investigation has been entirely professional and we are going to try and support him.

REPORTER: Now that we have had a little time for tempers to cool somewhat on the Mark Malloch Brown statements, I wanted to follow up on it. A couple of things you said then, one was that this was the single worst mistake by a UN official since 1989 and the other being that this would have consequences for the organization as a whole, reform aside. Do you still believe, even after events such as Rwanda that this is the single worst mistake by an official since 1989? And if you could put aside the issue of reform and say what consequences this could have for the organization as a whole?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think the others that you mentioned were examples of incompetence and lack of political will. I think this was just a flat mistake. And given what Malloch Brown said about how deliberately he chose his words, it shows just how clear a mistake it was. The concern that I expressed before was two-fold, first the unfortunate impact that this can have on the sensitive negotiations that we are now engaged in on the reform process. And I will leave you in a minute to go meet with the G-77 a meeting I requested last week. And I have a meeting later this afternoon with the head of the UN Staff Union. I'm told that that's first time in American Perm Rep has met with the head of the UN Staff Union ever, but it's a significant step. I think it's important that we reach out to the staff union. And I just don't see in those kinds of consultations it's appropriate for an international civil servant to opine. The second and potentially more grievous impact is inside the United States. And I'm not going to characterize the reaction that is already taking place and is continuing to take place, but I do know that in Congress and elsewhere there's been quite a strong reaction. And I think appropriately so given the illegitimacy, fundamental illegitimacy, the challenge to democratic theory of an international civil servant critiquing a democratically elected government and the relationship of that democratically elected government to its own people. Not to mention the patronizing and condescending attitude about Middle America, which apparently lacks electricity and the other things it needs in the heartland to see anything other than the occasional broadcast of FOX News. You know that is saying the American people don't have the wit to look at competing sources of information and make their own judgments. I think that was a real mistake.

REPORTER: Are you working to get consensus from the SC on the Lebanon resolution? Are you meeting resistances from ambassadors?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: We just circulated a text I think yesterday afternoon. We will have an experts meeting later today and we are hoping for consensus on it. We will see at the experts meeting. Obviously time is short to extend the mandate. I think on the broad questions of the year's extension and so on, I don't see any difficulty at this point, at least any that I'm aware of.

REPORTER: Are the discussions on Somalia accomplishing anything or is that just the start of more dialogue while warlords and Islamic regimes are running things in Somalia?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, obviously, we are hopefully that progress can be made, but the purpose of having the meeting is to get an assessment of the situation and have discussions on might come next. Just one more.

REPORTER: (inaudible) when you speak of protection, only later and physical protection?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think the questions of witness intimidation are obviously very serious and they go directly to the question of whether the Syrian government continues to obstruct the investigation on a sub-rosa basis. Okay, see y'all later.

Released on June 14, 2006


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