HARIRI, Rafik

Lebanese politician born in Saïda in 1944. He started studies at Beirut university in 1965 but emigrated to Saudi Arabia one year later. He was employed by a Saudi company but set up his own constuction firm in 1970. In 1978 his company « Saudi Oger » became « Oger International ». A few years later he became a Saudi citizen.

In 1983 he created the Hariri foundation which makes grants to Lebanese students for studies in Europe and the United States. In Lebanon the Oger Group specializes in the reconstruction of areas and buildings damaged by the war.

Political life

In 1989, Rafic Hariri played an important role in the organization of the conference which resulted in the Taïf agreement. In 1991 he financed a reconstruction plan for central Beirut. Although Lebanon was badly hit by an economic crisis, many Lebanese polticians were critical of Hariri’s projects. He repeatedly voiced his disappointment about their obstruction. After the success of his sister Bahiya Hariri in the Saida constituency in the 1992 elections, president Hrawi appoints Hariri as Prime Minister on 22 October 1992. Although a businessman unrelated to the traditional political establishment, he had more power than his predecessors due to the implementation of the Taif Agreement.

After the election of Emile Lahoud as president of Lebanon, Hariri resigned as Prime Minister in December 1998.

As the owner of a vast media empire – comprising two television channels (a local and a satellite channel, Future-TV/Al-Mostaqbal), two radio stations (Izaat As-Sharq and Radio Orient, braodcasting from Paris), an influential weekly (Al-Mostaqbal) and a 38% participation in one of the major Lebanese newspaper (An-Nahar) – Hariri continued to play an important role in Lebanese politics.

Prime Minister for the second time from October 23, 2000 until October 20, 2004, he resigned his post in a context of thorny cohabitation with Syria.

Murder and international investigation

He was assassinated on February 14, 2005 in a bombing in Beirut, claimed without evidence by an unknown Islamist group ( « Group for Victory and Jihad in the Levant »). However, each would suggest to a Syrian involvement. He was buried the next day in the heart of Beirut the middle of an immense and emotionally charged crowd.

A month later, on March 14, one million Lebanese demonstrated in the streets to protest against the Syrian presence in Lebanon. This event and those that followed took the name of the Cedar Revolution, after which the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon will take place.

Following Hariri’s murder that took the lives of 22 other people, an International Independent Investigation Commission was set up by the Security Council. It was first headed by the German Detlev Mehlis. He gathered evidence showing Syrian involvement in the attack. But several witnesses were false, and the unpopularity of the Commission to block all progress. Mehlis did not want to renew his mandate when it expired at the end of December 2005.

The Belgian judge Sege Brammertz replaced it. The way he conducted his investigation is more appreciated, and this affected the results. He obtained the cooperation of the Syrian authorities. The Commission is also working with the Lebanese judicial authorities.

On May 30, 2007, the Security Council decided by 10 votes to 15 the creation of a special tribunal to try Hariri’s murderers. In September, Serge Brammertz presents his latest report – he was named Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia – before the Security Council. His successor, the Canadian Daniel Bellemare will serve as the Prosecutor of the Special Court for Lebanon.

To see a summary of the UN Commission’s latest report :

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2007/sc9187.doc.htm