May 30, 2007
Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos are urging the head of the Lebanese Parliament to call that body into session “at the earliest possible time” in order to consider proposals for an international tribunal to try suspects for the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri and other recent attempted assassinations of Lebanese political figures.
In a letter last week to Parliament President Nabih Berri, Pelosi and Lantos charged him with “thwarting the democratic will of the Lebanese people as well as the will of the international community.”
Under Lebanese law, the President of the parliament determines when it convenes. The parliament last met in December. It is widely believed that the Syrian-backed Berri is refusing to convene the body again because he fears parliament will pass a law establishing the international tribunal, which is strongly opposed by Damascus. The United Nations Security Council has endorsed the idea of a tribunal, and the Lebanese cabinet supported the proposal pending parliamentary approval. Berri has kept parliament on the sidelines ever since that cabinet decision.
In their letter, Pelosi and Lantos emphasized that “the U.S. Congress believe(s) it of great importance for the future of Lebanon that the Lebanese people have the opportunity to learn the facts behind these assassinations so perpetrators can be punished, doubts be put to rest, and lessons learned for the sake of the future stability of Lebanon.”
Pelosi and Lantos expressed serious concern for the democratic process in Lebanon, observing that “this [tribunal] proposal has already been passed by the Lebanese cabinet and has been endorsed [in a petition] by 70 parliamentarians, a bloc which constitutes a strong majority of the Lebanese parliament. As a result, your refusal to convene the parliament is in fact thwarting the democratic will of the Lebanese people as well as the will of the international community. Moreover, this refusal is contributing to a sense of governmental paralysis and political instability inside Lebanon.”
Pelosi and Lantos encouraged Berri to alter his course. They suggested that “by the simple gesture of convening parliament, you would be hailed as a statesman by the Lebanese people and the international community.”
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