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Bolton On Brammertz Report Somalia & Other Matters

Briefing on the Latest Brammertz Report, Somalia, and Other Matters

Ambassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Remarks to the media following a Security Council Stakeout
New York City
September 25, 2006

PRESS RELEASE #242


Ambassador Bolton: I just wanted to say a few words on the latest Brammertz report which we've only just received so obviously it requires a more thorough reading. But two things struck me as particularly important. First, is the repeated reference to the linkages that the Commission is establishing between it investigation in the Hariri assassination and the other 14 assassinations. As you know in earlier Resolutions, the Security Council authorized the Commission to provide assistance to the government of Lebanon, not just in the Hariri investigation but in connection with 14 other terrorist assassinations. I found it noteworthy in the report that the stress about the evidence coming out in the investigation about the linkages among these 15 assassinations is significant. This is something that Mr. Brammertz himself has seen to be important and we think its important too because the evidence that one can uncover about all 15 of these investigations can actually have a cumulative effect in showing the pattern, the activity and perhaps the direction and control of who actually ordered the assassinations as well as how they were carried out and who carried them out.

So this is, I think one of the themes under Mr. Brammertz that we have seen increased emphasis by the commission on the linkages among the 15 assassinations and I would just say from an investigative point of view I find that quite significant. Second, the report, I think makes it plain that the investigation is getting closer to being ready for trial in a number of respects when the report speaks of raising evidence to an evidential level that's a clear indication for example in terms of the crime scene investigation that they are close to or perhaps at the point with respect to that aspect of what a prosecution would look like of actually presenting evidence.

So I think that's a sign of real progress. And then I guess the final thing I'd say is that while there are a number of different theories being investigated that's obviously appropriate to show not only the order of proof that a prosecutor would put on but also the necessary steps to eliminate other theories. In other words, to eliminate the possibility of a defense raising reasonable doubt. That's what a prosecutor has to do. He simply can't put on a case. In effect, he has to eliminate in his own mind certainly, but potentially also at trial, reasonable doubt that the defense might try to put in. Then in that connection I thought that paragraph 56 of the report was very significant where it says the commision is for example establishing to an evidential standard, that is to say preparation for use at trial, establishing to an evidential standard information on the political environment that surrounded Rafik Hariri at the time of and prior to his assassination, so on and so on, relations with other states in the region, and so on. So, I think that that aspect of the investigation that is reflected in the report is potentially significant as well in connection with the Syrian involvement that we've also been interested in. Now obviously the report is written carefully as it says at the outset because he's trying to prepare a case to put onto trial and defense attorney's or potential defense attorney's are all reading this with great interest so obviously there is a lot more under the surface that the Commission is not going to reveal to us but I thought those points were particularly significant on a quick reading. I'm sure we'll have more as time goes on.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador in the previous reports by Detlev Mehlis he was quite explicit about the role of the Syrian government he also provided a lot more detail about exactly (inaudible) he was looking at (inaudible). Are you still confidant, or do you still believe that this is heading in the direction of implicating leading Syrian officials and also there was a big dispute about the level of cooperation between the Syrians and Mehlis and they seem to be at least generally satisfied, I think is the language they use.

Ambassador Bolton: Well I think number one, there have been several previous reports and you don't have to repeat in each report everything that's been said in previous reports and I think everything in this report is consistent both in terms of the evidence and the theory of the investigation that Brammertz is pursuing remains consistent with what Mehlis had said earlier. And so in that sense I think what Brammertz has said repeatedly is that he's building on the Mehlis investigation. It's a different stage of the prosecutorial process and Brammertz is simply at a different level he is getting closer and closer to trial and I think closer and closer to the point where he would be ready for a trial. And I think that's reflected in the report.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, could you put us in the picture about the state of plague concerning the international tribunal if you have any information? And secondly, do you know why many of Brammertz employees have headed to Cyprus after this report? And thirdly, would you like to see a trial conducted by the end of this year?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think a number of the people from the commission left for Cyprus before the report because of the hostilities in Lebanon. But the report itself makes it clear to the best of their ability they continued their work and were not materially impeded by the hostility. There have been some work arounds that they have undertaken and obviously Brammertz had to be concerned about the security situation for his employees. My feeling -- and maybe I am just reflecting my bias as a lawyer -- but my feeling is we have to leave the timing decision to Brammertz. When he is prepared to recommend to the government of Lebanon that the prosecution is right for trial then it will be right for trial. And in anything this significant, which obviously we have extraordinarily high visibility, any prudent prosecutor is going to make sure that he is absolutely ready before he gets to that point.

Reporter: Ambassador, about the timing: are you concerned that -- you know at the UN system, the Milosevic will always die before the verdict is in. Are you concerned that -- you know, the political situation in Lebanon is changing -- are you concerned that by the time they get their act together, it might be a totally different ballgame?

Ambassador Bolton: Well there is always a risk of that and I think that earlier evidence of Syrian obstructionism and lack of cooperation, as well as steps that were taken in the immediate aftermath of the assassination itself have obviously made this investigation more difficult. But I think it's significant that, particularly that Brammertz says with respect to scene of crime facts that he feels that he has reached an evidential standard. If you'll recall, even the bombsite was filled in within days after the assassination. One can only guess how much evidence was lost when the street was paved over again by the authorities. But I think Mehlis and now Brammertz have obviously gotten to the point where they feel that they've got what they need on the scene of crime evidence so that that does indicate real progress. And I think in -- I know I've had enough conversations with Brammertz to know he's -- how shall I put this -- impatient with bureaucratic obstacles, and he's pushing ahead as far as he can. And we have encouraged him to do that and tried to assist in overcoming some of the difficulties he's faced. So I don't view the progress of this investigation as problematic at all.

Reporter: You had referred to silencing of reasonable doubt that could be raised. What other tracks, other than the Syrian track, were looked at as possible culprits behind the crime?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, it's not a question, so much, of other possible culprits. As you understand when you present a theory of a case in a prosecution, the defense will try and present other theories: "Well, it could have been X committing the assassination for these reasons, or it could have been Y doing it for these reasons."

Now, if you can disprove those hypotheses, you can eliminate the prospect the defense can instill reasonable doubt in a jury. That's what the other aspects of the investigation are, as I read this.

Reporter: The fact that, from what you know, that this report, the new report, notes, in a way or another, the cooperation of the Syrian government all along, does this change anything towards you? Would you be inclined to say, probably, there's less skepticism now of any involvement from the Syrian government?

Ambassador Bolton: No, I wouldn't draw that conclusion. And I would note that my reading of the report indicates he's only talking about cooperation during this period, and has said that it's been generally satisfactory during this period. Although he also says there are many tracks that he's still pursuing with the Syrian government. So it is simply an interim -- it's a report about this interim of the investigation.

Reporter: How satisfied are you with the speed of the process of choosing the new Secretary General? Do you think it's on time, it's behind the schedule, or anything else?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, we have been saying for some time -- and, indeed, there was agreement in the Security Council that we wanted to try and make this decision at the end of September, the first part of October. It being the end of September, we're not yet behind schedule, so I'll keep my fingers crossed. But we have felt, for quite some time, that the new Secretary General had to have an adequate transition period. And that remains our view.

Reporter: This theory that you have that Brammertz is, sort of, simply following these investigative threats, essentially to dispute them in a court of law, has he said anything to indicate that to you? Or are you just, sort of, reading this from -- deducing this from your reading?

Ambassador Bolton: No, no, I didn't mean to imply that exclusively. But you don't pursue all theories with equal force. In other words, there's, I think, a principle theory that's been elaborated in earlier reports about where the order for this assassination came from and how it was carried out. And that, I think, is continuing. That's why I stressed to you Paragraph 56, dealing with things like establishing through an evidential standard information on the political environment that surrounded Rafik Hariri at the time of the -- and prior to his assassination, relations with other states in the region and the like. But a prosecutor will be alert to other possibilities and prepared to pursue them, not simply to eliminate reasonable doubt, but because that's where the evidence may take him.

Reporter: Tomorrow North Korea speaks with the UN General Assembly. Can you give us an update on the effectiveness of the resolution that was passed a couple of months ago regarding technology and missile production and transfers that are supposed to be blocked? I mean, has anyone checked into how much business was curtailed; the effectiveness of it?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I note that a number of states -- Japan and Australia, in particular -- have established significant new regulatory regimes to implement the financial sanctions part of that resolution. I do think that's significant. We've been talking with a number of other countries. Our efforts under the Proliferation Security Initiative remain. Obviously, we don't talk about those, though.

But I think states are coming into compliance. In the case of Japan and Australia, two important states where North Korea has engaged in illegal gambling activities, illegal sales of weapons and counterfeiting, so for those states to tighten up their regulations is significant. I'll just take a couple of more here.

Reporter: Ambassador Bolton, you just had a briefing from the Kenyan foreign minister regarding Somalia. What is the U.S. position on lifting the arms embargo to have IGAD enter the country?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, we've listened to the foreign minister's briefing, which was quite informative, and it's something we would consider. But we're still considering it.

Reporter: Yesterday, President Assad stated in an interview with a German paper, that he's willing to make peace with Israel. Do you believe there's anything serious?

Ambassador Bolton: Sorry, he's willing?.

Reporter: To make peace with Israel. Is there any seriousness in this statement?

Ambassador Bolton: I'm sure if he's serious about it, he can demonstrate it by following through with a number of things, like compliance with a lot of relevant Security Council resolutions involving both Iraq and Lebanon and Israel that he's not complying with now, so I'll wait for the actions.

Reporter: I want to ask you how will you assess the work of the Secretary General in the last 10 years?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, that's a question that would require a long answer. Let me just say, we're looking forward and actively involved in finding the next secretary general.

Reporter: Just for the record, other than paragraph 56 that you explained to us from your point of view, is there any other new element, really, in this new report that we should be really looking at in the media?

Ambassador Bolton: Yes, there are two new elements. Number one, that he has said with respect, for example, to scene of crime evidence and others, that he feels that his order of proof is now at an evidential level, which I read to mean he is prepared for trial. Now, that's not to say he's completely prepared for trial. But the crime scene evidence was particularly important from a forensic point of view and for what it may show as to who carried out the assassination and where their orders and direction came from.

And second, this report, I think more than any other issued by either Brammertz or Mehlis, stresses the importance of linkages between the investigation of the Hariri assassination and the other 14 assassinations. So that when the Security Council gave leave to the Brammertz commission to explore these other assassinations, that was a significant step. And I think Brammertz as a prosecutor is saying that the ability to look at all 15 assassinations helps establish patterns, with evidence cutting back and forth, that actually helps produce synergistically more progress in coming to a conclusion about who perpetrated all of the assassinations, not just Hariri.

Reporter: Would you say at this stage that Syria is becoming a winner here, because...

Ambassador Bolton: I wouldn't say that at all. I would say this investigation continues and is proceeding in a very professional, systematic fashion. And as I said earlier, there's nothing in this report or Brammertz's earlier reports that in any way contradicts or diminishes some of the comments made by Mehlis in his first reports, which I think were pretty clear on that point.

Reporter: Can you give us an update on how you feel that your nomination has been held up? It's still a significant story. I realize you're leery about commenting that a Rhode Island senator has put a hold because of U.S. Mideast policies (inaudible) Israel's strongest defender here. Is that right? What are your thoughts on being in limbo here at this stage?

Ambassador Bolton: As I've said to you before, I'm not going to comment on the nomination. I'm just doing my job up here and keeping my fingers crossed. OK? Thanks a lot.

Released on September 26, 2006

ENDS


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