The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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August 19, 2010

August 19, 2010 - Daily Star - Cabinet tasks Najjar with looking into false witnesses in Hariri probe

By Elias Sakr and Nafez Kawas

BEITEDDINE: The Lebanese Cabinet on Wednesday tasked Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar with following up on the issue of false witnesses in the case of the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

The Cabinet’s decision came as a compromise after Hizbullah-loyal ministers demanded during Wednesday’s session the formation of a Lebanese committee to probe false witnesses, a move parliamentary majority groups continue to reject.

“A number of ministers raised the issue of false witnesses and discussions on the matter were held in a calm atmosphere. And, following deliberations, the government decided to task the justice minister with following up on the issue, particularly at the legal level,” Information Minister Tarek Mitri told reporters.

Mitri added that Najjar would in turn submit the available information on the issue to the government to answer questions raised by a number of ministers.

Prior to the Cabinet session, which was held at President Michel Sleiman’s summer residence in Beiteddine, Sleiman and Premier Saad Hariri held closed-door talks, after which Hariri told reporters that the Cabinet session would witness calm discussions.

Ahead of their participation in the Cabinet meeting, March 14 lawmakers reiterated their objection to the formation of such a committee arguing that such a step would lead to the politicization of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

Hizbullah, which has voiced its doubts about the STL’s credibility and condemned it as an “Israeli project,” has demanded on several occasions the formation of a Lebanese committee to investigate the killing of late Premier Rafik Hariri.

Hizbullah politburo member Mahmmoud Qomati reiterated on Wednesday his party’s refusal to cooperate with the STL, while calling for its scrapping and replacement with a Lebanese committee.

Phalange Party MP Selim Sayegh told reporters that a Cabinet decision to form a committee to investigate false witnesses would signal the interference of a political authority in judicial affairs, a step that would conflict with the principle of the separation of powers.

While the Cabinet refrained from discussing a three-year plan to equip the Lebanese Army after Defense Minister Elias Murr missed Wednesday’s session due to illness, Sleiman urged that efforts to implement the plan, as well as the drive to collect donations and military aid by friendly states, be pursued.

Sleiman stressed that the plan should go hand in hand with a media and political campaign to counter the Israeli diplomatic movement against equipping the Lebanese Army.

“The armament plan will be discussed by the Higher Defense Council,” Sleiman added.

LBC television reported that Murr submitted on Wednesday to the government’s secretariat general a three-year proposal prepared by the Army Command to equip the military.

The report added that the proposal would be discussed during the Cabinet’s upcoming session.

Recent reports have said that the US and Western states could review their military aid program to Lebanon after the August 3 border clash with Israel that killed two Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese journalist and a high-ranking Israeli officer.

Future Movement MP Ziad Qadri said the plan to equip the Lebanese Army should go hand in hand with an agreement over a national defense strategy to protect Lebanon.

The National Dialogue Committee chaired by Sleiman is scheduled to meet on Thursday at Beiteddine to discuss the national defense strategy.

The Cabinet’s session is the first to be held in Beiteddine since late former President Sleiman Franjieh concluded his post in 1976.

On another note, the Cabinet appointed Adnan Merheb as secretary general of the Higher Defense Council effective following the retirement of Major General Saeed Eid on August 23.

The Cabinet also approved an increase in wheat stock and the import of 100,000-tons of wheat in two batches at $60 billion.

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