A UN tribunal set up to prosecute those behind the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said on Wednesday it will have to close after July if it is unable to resolve an acute funding shortage.
“The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) regrets to announce that it is facing an unprecedented financial crisis. Without immediate funding, the Tribunal will not be able to operate beyond July 2021,” it said in a statement.
Closing the tribunal would dash the hopes of families of victims in the Hariri murder and other attacks, but also those demanding that a UN tribunal bring to justice those responsible for the Beirut port blast last August that killed 200 and injured 6,500.
Last year the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon, located outside of The Hague, convicted former Hezbollah member Salim Jamil Ayyash for the bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others.
Ayyash was sentenced in absentia to five life terms in prison, while three alleged accomplices were acquitted due to insufficient evidence. Both sides have appealed.
The court’s financial trouble comes as Lebanon faces its worst turmoil since Hariri’s assassination, with the country deeply polarized between supporters of Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah and its allies and supporters of Hariri’s son, prime minister designate Saad Hariri.