The United Nations Independent International Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) was established by the UN Security Council in April 2005 and charged with finding the killers of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister who was assassinated on February 14, 2005. The commission was initially given a six-month mandate and was headed by Detlev Mehlis, a German prosecutor with 25 years experience in criminal investigations. Operating out of the Monteverde Hotel in Mkalles, Mehlis headed a team of more than 100 investigators, technicians, scientists and security personnel. The first UNIIIC progress report, which was released at the end of October 2005, concluded that there was “converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act.”

Mehlis stepped down in December 2005, after the mandate was extended for a further six months, and was replaced by Serge Brammertz, a Belgian prosecutor with the International Criminal Court. In June 2006, the UN Security Council gave the UNIIIC a second extension of one year. The quarterly progress reports released by UNIIIC under Brammertz contained far less detail than those of his predecessor.

In December 2005, the UN Security Council agreed to assist Lebanon in the formation of a tribunal of an “international character” to try Hariri’s killers and the perpetrators of other assassinations and bombings since October 2004. On November 10, 2006, the UN Security Council submitted a draft UN resolution on the formation of the tribunal to the Lebanese government for the latter’s approval. Three days later, the government formally approved the draft statutes, despite the resignations a day earlier of six ministers including all five Shia. The political deadlock between the government and the Lebanese opposition has delayed ratification of the draft resolution in parliament, a necessary requirement before it can be sent back to the UN Security Council. Should the parliament fail to ratify the resolution, the UN has indicated it will form the Tribunal under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Syria has said it will not submit any indicted Syrian to an international tribunal, but will try the accused in Syria under Syrian law.