STL Witnessing 'Tug of Rope War' between Cassese, Bellemare


Naharnet Special Report – Leidschendam:

Special Tribunal for Lebanon President Antonio Cassese succeeded in conveying an "indirect message" of hope to Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare, even at the expense of the credibility of Lebanese journalists who heard Cassese repeatedly saying, in three different ways, that he hoped an indictment would be issued in the 2005 assassination of ex-Pm Rafik Hariri.

Cassese, during the opening on Wednesday of the 2nd International Media Forum hosted by the STL and the Foreign Press Association in the Netherlands, "hoped" that Bellemare will issue an indictment in the Hariri murder "when he becomes ready for such a step.

Cassese reiterated that he "hopes" the indictment would be issued before the end of this year, but he noted that he does not know whether Bellemare would issue it in December or not.

Despite the "strong denial" by the STL's Outreach Office regarding Cassese's statement, about 20 Lebanese journalists agreed that Cassese's remarks reflect his wish that an indictment would be issued in December.

High-level STL staff, however, believe that Lebanese journalists paid the price of an undeclared "tug of rope war" that has been going on for weeks in the corridors of the International Tribunal between Cassese and Bellemare.

While Cassese seeks to expedite the launch of the trial, which can be achieved without issuance of an indictment by Bellemare, the Prosecutor wants to buy time so that the indictment issued would be based on solid ground of evidence.

It seems from Cassese's hopes that an indictment would be issued in December that the STL President wants to impose a "fait accompli" on Bellemare in an attempt to embarrass him without engaging in a public confrontation with him to push him into expediting issuance of the indictment.

In the mid-nineties, Cassese summoned the judges of the International Court of the Former Yugoslavia to a meeting that came out with a statement declaring their adherence to the need to charge senior officials for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and bring them to trial, and not just be satisfied with accusing some of those who took orders of lower degrees of responsibility.

Well-informed officials inside the STL confirmed, however, that things between Cassese and Bellemare will not be a replica of what happened between Cassese and Goldstone, stressing that "throwing a stone in stagnant water is necessary from time to time to push things forward!"