S E C R E T SECTION
SUBJECT: LEBANON: UNIIIC COMMISSIONER ON THE FOUR GENERALS...
REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL SYRIA-LINKED INFORMATION
2. (S/NF) The Ambassador, accompanied by LegAtt and PolOff, met with UNIIIC Commissioner Daniel Bellemare in Monteverde on January 26. Bellemare explained that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has 60 days starting March 1 to request the GOL to transfer the four generals, currently held in Lebanese custody in connection with the assassination of former PM Rafiq Hariri, to the STL in The Hague. Bellemare, carefullyasserting that he had "no comment" on whether or not he has a case against the generals, added that there is no time frame from the date of request by which they must actually be transferred.
3. (S/NF) Bellemare said he suspected that Lebanese Public Prosecutor Saiid Mirza wants the generals transferred to the STL. Bellemare explained that, while it has been pointed out to him that no one can dictate to the STL how long the STL can detain the generals, implying that Bellemare could detain them indefinitely in The Hague, he disagreed with this approach in part because he feared that he might face legal pressure (by the STL itself)... 4. (S/NF) Bellemare noted that one concern held by the Dutch government is that the generals would seek asylum if released by the STL. Another worry is that one of the four, former
Surete Generale DG General Jamil Sayyad, would run in theparliamentary elections, an idea evidently supported byopposition leader Suleiman Franjieh and Hizballah.
5. (S/NF) Bellemare further expressed concern thattransferring the generals could be a dangerous operation, noting that Hizballah does not want the generals to leave Lebanon. A transfer would need to be coordinated with Lebanese authorities, making the operation even more vulnerable because of possible Hizballah penetration of those authorities, in his view. If the GOL decides to release the four, it should put as much distance between the generals' release and the parliamentary elections on June 7, Bellemare recommended. (Note: We agree. End note.)
6. (S/NF) Noting that he would return to Syria in February for the last time under Chapter VII authority, Bellemare stressed the urgency of receiving information from the U.S. to use during interrogations. "If there is assistance to provide," he pleaded, "Please provide it now." Specifically, he requested information on "human vulnerabilities, suggestions on questions to ask, people who do not fit into our charts, partial answers we can use to test the subjects." Bellemare explained that the level of interrogation his consultants would employ during this trip to Syria would be "very different from previous visits, but I need the ammunition to conduct these interrogations."
7. (S/NF) Bellemare complained that the Syrians treat UNIIIC as "school kids in short pants." He explained, "They provide us with 40,000 pages in Arabic. After we translate them and find nothing of interest, they feign surprise and hand us another 40,000 pages in Arabic." He assessed that the Syrians are nervous because they do not know what information UNIIIC has collected to date.
8. (S/NF) Bellemare said that the four of the eleven STL judges who are Lebanese have chosen to move back and forth between The Hague and Lebanon. Acknowledging the security concern, Bellemare said he suspected the judges conditioned their acceptance to the position on retaining freedom of movement. (Comment: One of our Embassy LES members suggested that he knew the identity of one of the judges because the Internal Security Forces had recently beefed up security outside of the judge's residence. End comment.)
9. (C) According to Bellemare, appointing a Lebanese Deputy Prosecutor has become problematic. He reported that during January 2008, he interviewed candidates and the UN Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) will submit his confidential recommendation to the cabinet, which will appoint the individual. He expected that the cabinet would discuss the appointment in time for the March 1 deadline (reftel). However, he relayed that he heard majority leader Saad Hariri was displeased with his recommendation, believing the candidate is "too independent", and may request his Future Movement ministers to block the appointment.
10. (C) Bellemare noted that Public Prosecutor Saiid Mirza, close to Saad, supported Bellemare's recommendation. Acknowledging that he could start work without a deputy, making an appointment without delay is nonetheless important for symbolic purposes because the deputy position is a Lebanese national.
11. (C) The power of the veto also worried Bellemare as he considered the potential composition of the next cabinet. Bellemare wondered whether a cabinet dominated by what is currently the opposition would attempt to stop GOL funding to the STL, despite its obligations under an international agreement....