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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN to Prosecute Hariri Suspects

UNITED NATIONS -- The UN Security Council voted to establish unilaterally an international tribunal to prosecute suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, sending a message that there will be no impunity for political murders.

The slain leader's supporters danced in the streets Wednesday and his son, Saad Hariri, holding back tears, said the resolution was a turning point in Lebanon that would protect the country from further assassinations. He called it a "victory the world has given to oppressed Lebanon and a victory for an oppressed Lebanon in the world."

The resolution was passed in a reading with one more than the nine votes needed. The vote was 10-0 with five abstentions -- Russia, China, South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar.

The five that abstained objected to establishing the tribunal without the approval of Lebanon's parliament and to putting the resolution under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, which deals with threats to international peace and allows militarily enforcement. But none opposed the tribunal itself.

As Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said, Moscow "has been consistently advocating" that Hariri's killers "need to be brought to justice." But "given the deep rift in Lebanese society ... that should not lead to negative consequences," he said.

The resolution, Churkin said, "essentially is an encroachment upon the sovereignty of Lebanon."

A massive suicide truck bomb in Beirut killed Hariri and 22 others in February 2005. The first UN chief investigator, Germany's Detlev Mehlis, said the complexity of the assassination suggested Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services played a role.

Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals have been under arrest for 20 months, accused of involvement.

The tribunal is at the core of a deep political crisis between the Western-backed government led by Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and the Syrian-backed opposition led by Hezbollah.