A UN tribunal set up to prosecute those behind the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said on Wednesday it will have to close after July if it is unable to resolve an acute funding shortage.
“The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) regrets to announce that it is facing an unprecedented financial crisis. Without immediate funding, the Tribunal will not be able to operate beyond July 2021,” it said in a statement.
The STL stated that they have already notified the UN Secretary General Antonio Guetteres of the financial issues and that if no contributions are made, it might result in the closure of the tribunal by end-July.
“In March 2021, the UN granted a subvention of 15.5 million USD covering 75% of the Lebanese contribution towards the STL’s budget to support the continuation of the STL’s judicial work. While the STL is grateful for the UN’s significant support, other indicated contributions remain outstanding and the STL falls short of funds to carry out its judicial functions.”
A reported released by Reuters last week showed that the UN tribunal, which previously secured 51 percent of its funding from voluntary contributors and 49 percent from the Lebanese government, had run out of funds. The body’s 2020 budget was $67 million.
Closing the tribunal would leave “important cases unfinished, to the detriment of victims”, said STL Registrar David Tolbert, but also those demanding that a UN tribunal bring to justice those responsible for the Beirut port blast last August that killed 200 and injured 6,500.
Closing the tribunal would essentially dash the hopes of families of victims in the 2005 Hariri murder and other attacks, but also those demanding that a UN tribunal bring to justice those responsible for the 2020 Beirut port blast that left 200 dead and 6,500 injured.
Last year the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon, located outside of The Hague, convicted former Hezbollah member Salim Jamil Ayyash for the bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others. Ayyash was sentenced in absentia to five life terms in prison, while three alleged accomplices were acquitted due to insufficient evidence. Both sides have appealed.
The court’s financial trouble comes as Lebanon faces its worst turmoil since Hariri’s assassination, with the country deeply polarized between supporters of Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah and its allies and supporters of Hariri’s son, prime minister designate Saad Hariri.