Russia opposes UN action on Syria
The UN Report has to be read. Nothing beats the 9/11 Commission Report in terms of readability (it really reads like a tragic thriller) but nevertheless the UN Report reads well and I am persuaded that a prima facie case has been sufficiently established (not withstanding that most of the evidence is circumstantial, note, it is NOT fatal to the case in terms of a criminal prosecution contrary to popular belief) that the Syrians (High Command) really should answer the charges laid against them and cooperate with the UN. Failing which, targetted sanctions ought to be levered against them.
Just a quick point of procedure and the different system/tradition of Law that Syria operates in before we move onto the 'case' and report proper. Syria operates under a Civil Law tradition and one of the major hallmarks of that tradition (which is basically everyone except the commonwealth countries excepting those who decided to take up a Civilian jurisdiction after independence from Britian) is that the judges fulfill a huge investigative function. As can be seen from the report and chronology of events, within the hour, the Investigative Judge was appointment and at the scene 'directing investigations'. The quotation marks was because despite his orders to the preserve the crime scene to the fullest extent possible while rendering humanitarian aid. It looks like certain agencies and personnel acting on the behalf of the Syrians tempered with evidence. So flawed was the crime scene preservation that the both the General, Chief of Judicial Police and General, Chief of Beruit Police were suggested for dismissal as noted by the Rifi Report (page 26 of the PDF Document). Point (d) of the Rifi report at the same page is particularly damning in that it states very clearly that major evidence was removed from the crime scene and this despite the fact that the humantarian aspect was not even well carried out (point a to c).
This stands in direct contrast to the original reports which claims that the evidence was preserved to the fullest capacity given the scenario. In particular, the convoy of cars following the assasinated PM was removed to a 'safe barrack' at Helou ostensibly for reason of preserving them. But as the report notes, "what was left of the cars did not justify their preservation except for their value as criminal evidence because they were the target of the explosion." It goes on to list the other aspects of evidence tempering including the removal of a BMW at the scene with a bulldozer introduced into the area immediately after. Not to mention filling in the explosion crater so that the road would be available for use by 10 a.m. the next day.
The best paragraph that sums up this state of affairs is para. 65 of the UN Report which reads, "The decision to fill the crater at the crime scene, to remove the motorcade vehicles and to re-open the street on the day after the blast, is confusing, assuming that there was a collective will to perform a professional crime scene examination in order to track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice. The confusion, reflected in the variety of statements from the officials most closely involved, speaks for itself."
At any rate, the BBC article basically summerizes the key UN Report Findings, but they did leave out one important aspect which was that they fatally undermined the theory being pushed by the Syrians, which is that of a suicide bombing. Do read the UN report from Part V onwards (pdf page 32) which details the report and substantiates those key findings. In particular the planning of the assasination makes for a chilling read. In particular for a sense of the pervasiveness of the Syrian and Lebanese Intelligence on everyday life, read paragraph 95 and the attached conversational extract. The next paragraph onwards details the testimony of a witness who worked for Syrian Intelligence and assuming that it remains unrebutted, lays the entire assasination at the Syrian's feet and how the purported 'suicide bomber' was simply nothing more than a decoy forced to make the video before being killed (para. 100). Also worth noting is the section titled ,"Other elements to be considered" at page 38 which details the surveillance measures by the ISF on Mr. Hariri.
And it ends with this rather affirmative conclusion, "There is probable cause to believe that the decision to assassinate former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, could not have been taken without the approval of top-ranked Syrian security official and could not have been further organized without the collusion of their counterparts in the Lebanese security services."
The remaining sections talks about how the assassination was carried out and at nearly each instance (with the exception of some excavation work carried out near the site) states very clearly that it could not have been done without at the very least the knowledge of the Syrians.
So all that remains is to talk a little about the main actors regarding the investigation. The UN Commission that wrote this report was led by a German. The crime scene was investigated by the Dutch, German, British, Japanese as well as Northern Irish and French experts on the Dutch team. And the conclusion I think speaks for itself. "The explosion that killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others took place above ground. For this purpose, an amount of no less than 1000 kilgrams of military explosives was used." The Australians were also involved upon the request of the Lebanese Authories through Interpol with regards to their pet theory of a suicide bombing by an existing terrorist group. Investigations which followed dismissed the allegations agains the six suspects that the Lebanese fingered. This the UN Report also accepts.
So as it stands, on the UN Security Council, the US, British and French are JOINTLY introducing a resolution to force Syria to answer the charges. From the looks of it, the whole of Europe is behind them as well, so it's a pretty strong transatlantic alliance that we have here in stark contrast to the Iraqi situation.
In conclusion, it is a pretty thorough report and well worth the read (in fact with a little work, it could become a political thriller). Also worth a read through is Mr Jonathan Eyal's article in the ST today which talks about the political liability that the new President Assad of Syria is. He's not his father to sum up the prevailing sentiment and it looks like the Arab world might be quietly turning their backs on him. But with Russia as an ally, it looks that this situation might turn out to be a lot more protracted than hope.