Netherlands Close to Agreeing to Host the Hariri Tribunal

According to press reports the Dutch government is putting the final touches on a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations over hosting the Lebanese Special Tribunal. The only thing that needs to be resolved, says the Dutch government, is an agreement by a second country to imprison people convicted by the tribunal, which will try those responsible for a wave of political assassinations in Lebanon, including the 2005 car bombing that killed Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The tribunal’s precise location in Holland is still being decided. One option may be the facilities of the International Criminal Court, which are being used by the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. (Like the Taylor trial, if the Lebanese Tribunal is held at the ICC the tribunal will operate under its own rules, not those of the ICC.)

It deserves mentioning that both the Hariri tribunal and the Special Court for Sierra Leone were created by the Security Council with strong American backing. The ICC is an independent institution that does not enjoy American support. But by hosting the Taylor trial–and potentially holding the Hariri Tribunal–the ICC may be tacitly showing skeptics that it can, in fact, be a useful institution to support.