London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Security measures to be provided for the four Lebanese judges affiliated to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon are the main reason that the names of these judges have not yet been revealed, according to Farhan Haq, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General.
The decision to disclose the names of the Tribunal’s eleven judges [four of whom are Lebanese] is left to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon who is yet to give his consent to announce their names “due to security reasons,” Farhan Haq told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Lebanese Minister of Justice Ibrahim Najjar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the decision to release the names of the judges “is completely and exclusively in the hands of the UN Secretary-General.”
Ban Ki Moon’s decision not to reveal the names of the judges “may be due to security or various precautionary reasons,” said Najjar. He stressed that the UN Secretary-General’s office has not notified the Lebanese authorities of the reasons why the names of the judges would not be disclosed.
According to a senior security official, despite that the names of the Lebanese judges have not been revealed, even though they are known, the Lebanese security force responsible for protecting the four judges and helping the prosecutor is ready to carry out its duties. In a parliamentary session last week, the Lebanese cabinet unanimously approved a plan to protect the Lebanese judges. This was called for by the Registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Robin Vincent.
The security official who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak to the media, said that a special security force affiliated to Lebanon’s internal security had been set up at the instruction of the Lebanese cabinet in order to protect the judges. The official added, “We were given the order to set up a unit, and its elements have been subjected to very specialized training. When we receive the names of the five [sic] judges we will protect them, their homes and their families.”
The official further revealed that the security unit is similar to the Fuhoud Special Unit which is known for its high-quality equipment and training. It is also affiliated to the Lebanese internal security forces. It was responsible for providing protection to the International Tribunal’s Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare and his team when he was still in Lebanon. In the summer of 2007, the Fuhoud Special Unit fought against elements of the Fatah al Islam movement in Tripoli, northern Lebanon who took up their positions in people’s homes in the city armed with weapons and sophisticated artillery. It was the only team affiliated to the internal security forces that was capable of carrying out such raids because of the high-quality training it received.
The official stated that the 300-strong unit that had been formed to protect the judges would be of the same standard as the Fuhoud unit.
The source also indicated that this unit was part of the riot forces. “We will subject its elements to training similar to the training that the Fuhoud unit received.”
Until now, this special force unit is the only unit to be assigned the responsibility of protecting the judges in Lebanon.
The security official stated that this special unit was enough at the present time to provide the necessary protection for the judges and that he had confidence in the “expertise” that the internal security forces acquired in Lebanon “to protect political figures that are under threat.” However, he added, “If there are bigger challenges at a later stage, we will resort to [further] expertise for training and preparation.”
“We are awaiting the UN’s instructions so that the force can begin its work…it is ready to begin its mission at any moment,” the source added.
The UN Secretary-General, however, does not express such confidence. Farhan Haq, the UN Secretary-General’s spokesman told Asharq Al-Awsat, “Even though we have confidence in the Lebanese security authorities, owing to the nature and sensitivity of the issue, we are assessing the security requirements of the judges and when we feel that it is the right time to reveal their names we will do so.”
Haq refused to discuss whether the UN would provide the Lebanese security forces with more help. He said, “We cannot reveal the details of the security measures because of the nature of these measures and because we want them to be effective.”
The Lebanese security forces are preparing for another mission that will be carried out in the next few weeks when the Tribunal will ask the Lebanese judicial authorities to hand the Hariri case over to it. The task will be to transfer the four generals in Lebanon suspected of being involved in the Hariri assassination.
The Lebanese Justice Minister, Ibrahim Najjar, stressed that the responsibility of transferring the four generals to The Hague lies with the Lebanese security forces. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon stipulates that after the public prosecutor was appointed at the beginning of March, the Tribunal must ask the security forces to transfer the Hariri case over to it as well as those who have been arrested in suspicion of being involved in the assassination within two months.