Cash-strapped Lebanon tribunal scraps start of new trial

Judges at a UN tribunal scrap a new trial in the 2005 assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri due to funding shortage.

Lebanon al-Hariri tribunal
Last year the tribunal convicted Salim Jamil Ayyash, a former member of Hezbollah, in absentia for the bombing that killed Rafik Hariri and 21 others [File: Anwar Amro/AFP]

Judges at a United Nations tribunal for Lebanon have scrapped a new trial against the man convicted of the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, because they expect the court to run out of money and be forced to shut down before it can finish.

Last year the tribunal, located near The Hague, convicted Salim Jamil Ayyash, a former member of the Shia movement, Hezbollah, in absentia for the bombing that killed veteran Sunni Muslim politician Hariri and 21 others. That ruling is being appealed.

A second case was meant to begin on June 16, prosecuting Ayyash for another assassination and other attacks on Lebanese politicians between 2004 and 2005.

But in a decision published on Thursday on the court’s website, the judges wrote they had cancelled the case, “considering it is futile to start a trial in June which is highly likely to be terminated in July due to lack of funds”.

Earlier this week the tribunal, created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution, announced it was facing a funding shortage.

An exclusive report by Reuters last week revealed the tribunal, which is funded 51 percent by voluntary contributions and 49 percent by the Lebanese government, had run out of money.

Lebanon is experiencing an economic crisis which the World Bank describes as one of the worst depressions recorded anywhere in modern times.

Rafik Hariri’s son, Saad Hariri, is now Lebanon’s prime minister-designate, but he has been unable to agree on a cabinet with President Michel Aoun, leaving the country in a state of political paralysis since last year.

The tribunal’s 2020 budget was 55 million euros ($67m), but its 2021 budget was cut by nearly 40 percent, the tribunal said, adding that it has struggled to get contributions.

Source: Reuters