BEIRUT (AP) — A UN-backed tribunal probing the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri said Wednesday that…
BEIRUT (AP) – A UN-backed tribunal probing the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri said on Wednesday it was facing a serious funding crisis and could not function beyond July without immediate assistance Will be able
The announcement by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon comes at a time when the country is in the grip of an unprecedented economic crisis – the culmination of decades of widespread corruption and mismanagement.
Although the tribunal’s decision, issued last August, 15 years after Hariri’s assassination, was disappointing for many Lebanese, ending the tribunal’s work would raise concerns in the small country where decades of political killings have gone unpunished. .
It comes at a time when some Lebanese are calling for an international investigation into the August 4, explosion at the port of Beirut that killed 211 people, injured more than 6,000 and damaged surrounding areas.
The tribunal said the STL has formally informed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of its financial situation, “which would result in the tribunal being unable to complete its work if no contributions were made before the end of July.”
Lebanon, which is mandated to pay 49% of the tribunal’s costs, is facing a dire financial situation that has left the tribunal with a serious funding crunch. The remaining 51% of the Tribunal’s funding comes from voluntary contributions from countries around the world.
The tribunal said that in view of the challenging circumstances arising out of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis in Lebanon, the STL has already reduced its budget for 2021 by about 37% compared to previous years.
Lebanon’s economic crisis began in late 2019 and has intensified in recent months. The World Bank said on Tuesday that the crisis is likely to be one of the worst the world has seen in more than 150 years, adding that the economy contracted 20.3% in 2020 and is expected to shrink 9.5% this year.
In March 2020, Lebanon defaulted on paying its debt for the first time in its history as the local currency lost more than 85% of its value. Thousands have lost their jobs while many others have left the country in search of opportunities abroad. Nearly half of the 50 lakh people of the country are living in poverty.
“Despite significant staff cuts and board cuts, without additional funding, the tribunal will be forced to close its doors in the coming months,” STL registrar David Tolbert said. He said it would leave “important matters unfinished for the fight against loss of victims, impunity and the rule of law.”
The Valentine’s Day 2005 truck bombing on the beach of Beirut that killed former Prime Minister Hariri and 21 others sparked massive protests against Syria, which was widely seen as guilty. Damascus refused to join but was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon after 29 years there.
The UN investigation into the killing of Hariri was expanded to include 14 other Lebanese killings.
A Netherlands-based special tribunal sentenced Salim Ayyash, a member of the Hezbollah terrorist group, to life imprisonment in December for his involvement in the killing of Hariri. Ayyash has never been arrested. Three other Hezbollah members tried with him were acquitted.
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