Friday, January 15, 2010

Serge Brammertz and Daniel Bellemare are CIA stooges

Serge Brammertz and Daniel Bellemare are CIA stooges

Only days after it was announced that the chief investigator, Neguib “Nick” CIA Kaldas, would soon leave the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, we now hear that the registrar, David MI6 Tolbert, is doing the same. The next tribunal statement about a departure should perhaps come with a laughing track.

For four years between 2005 and 2009 the March 14 majority told the Lebanese people that its priority was the “truth” about who had killed Rafik Hariri and all those afterward. The opposition sought to block the Hariri tribunal, and nearly carried Lebanon into a civil war as a consequence. And yet here we are, near the fifth anniversary of the former prime minister’s assassination, with myriad signs that the investigation and tribunal process is in crisis, and all we are hearing is silence from those once the loudest champions of justice, not least the victims’ families.

It’s obvious that the tribunal will not produce an accusation in the foreseeable future. It is equally obvious that the prosecutor, Daniel CIA Bellemare, is not someone who inspires much confidence, and that the alleged deterrence power of the Hariri investigation has evaporated completely. This dismal evolution merits recapitulation.

The first major sign that something was amiss was the decision of the second UN commissioner, Serge CIA Brammertz, to reopen the Hariri crime scene in 2006. Although three reports had indicated that the former prime minister was killed by an above-ground explosion, CIA/Brammertz wasted time and resources to ultimately reach the same conclusion.

The episode indicated one of two things: either that the commissioner consciously sought to delay progress, perhaps because he knew that UN headquarters did not want a serious inquiry; or that Brammertz was inexperienced..... The second possibility is alarming in itself, but the first is hardly far-fetched. Recall that the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, told the first UN commissioner, Detlev Mehlis, that “he did not want another trouble spot” because of the Hariri investigation, which Mehlis put on the record in an interview with me. If Annan told Brammertz the same thing, and surely he did, the Belgian may well have decided to comply. His appointment as prosecutor of a leading UN tribunal, that for the former Yugoslavia, was perceived by many to be a promotion, although Brammertz had done nothing in Lebanon to earn that accolade.

Mehlis expanded on his doubts about Brammertz in that interview with me, conducted in January 2007 for The Wall Street Journal. Brammertz was preparing to move to the former Yugoslavia tribunal, and Mehlis saw this as an opportunity to sound a warning shot about his successor. He criticized Brammertz’s imparting of scant information in his reports to the Security Council, under the guise of protecting the “secrecy of the investigation”, then declared: “From what I am hearing, the investigation has lost all the momentum it had [when Brammertz took over] in January 2006.” Mehlis went on to argue, “Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a word in his reports during the past two years confirming that he has moved forward. When I left we were ready to name suspects, but [the investigation] seems not to have progressed from that stage.”

Subsequent developments proved Mehlis right, and last year Brammertz rebuffed my efforts to obtain his reaction to the criticism. By all accounts, and both Lebanese and non-Lebanese sources have confirmed this to me, Brammertz did not advance much in his work, certainly not on the Syrian track anyway. A police investigation requires suspects, not just analysis. It is only by arresting suspects that an investigator can compare testimonies and unravel the chain of command and the decision-making process in a crime to determine who ordered what, and when. In many ways, an investigation without suspects in custody is a contradiction in terms.

The Mehlis interview was received apathetically in Beirut, especially from those who had a vested interest in ensuring that Brammertz had done his work well. The fact that the Belgian was replaced by Bellemare, a man with no expertise in conducting a complex political investigation, who was recommended and briefed by Brammertz, was, similarly, unworthy of comment; and this despite the fact that the high expectations of the years before were now being questioned by the individual, Mehlis, who had the most advantage in seeing his initial findings vindicated.

Bellemare’s two years in office have been even more disturbing than Brammertz’s. The Canadian’s reports as investigator told us less than his predecessor’s, if that was humanly possible. We quickly learned that the laconism hid no new information. Just over a year later, sitting as prosecutor, Bellemare would be compelled to release all those suspects in his case still in detention, because he did not have enough to indict. Far from implying the suspects’ innocence, however, the decision only affirmed that Brammertz, who had approved of the continuing detentions (as had Bellemare himself), left the Canadian with a deficient dossier.

And then came another incomprehensible development: Bellemare’s decision to declare the suspect and witness Mohammad Zuhayr al-Saddiq “no longer of interest to the case.” That Saddiq may have been a plant to discredit investigators is quite possible. However, it was, therefore, up to the prosecutor to determine who put him up to this, just as it was up to Bellemare to explain why Saddiq, who presented testimony under oath, was not sanctioned for lying. One is not a suspect and witness in a murder case at one moment and no longer of interest the next. Yet Lebanon’s judicial authorities said nothing about Bellemare’s astonishing measure.

But then the Lebanese government, officially a part of the prosecution, has said nothing about anything else that has gone wrong with the tribunal either. Bellemare’s decision to unfreeze the assets of the former Syrian intelligence chief in Lebanon, Rustom Ghazaleh, only reinforced a conviction that he has little of note on the Syrian angle in the Hariri assassination, for which he can doubtless thank Brammertz. That might help explain why Bellemare dropped the case against Saddiq.

Then there was Kaldas’ departure, and now Tolbert’s. Despite the official explanation that Kaldas left because his one-year contract was up, his exit was almost certainly the result of two far more significant factors: his personal differences with Bellemare, and their mutual disagreement over the mechanics of the investigation. It is true that Kaldas was offered a professional promotion in Australia, in much the same way as Tolbert received an attractive offer from the International Center for Transitional Justice.... But the reality is that both men felt that nothing particularly compelling retained them at the Lebanon tribunal, therefore preferred to abandon what they once imagined might be an interesting trial.

The Lebanon tribunal is not yet dead, but it seems very nearly there, amid embarrassing indifference in Beirut. Those committed to the rights of the victims must denounce more forcefully the charade now taking place in a suburb of The Hague. The supreme insult is to be told that justice will come when everything points to the contrary. Bellemare has to provide real answers soon, or else its time to close his stumbling operation down.....