Monday 3 February had witness Mr. Abd El-Badih El Soussi (PRH-544) testifying through video linkage. Whilst this witness was supposedly called to testify on the different sections of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) that were involved in the investigation of the explosion site, rather than clarifying this structure, this witness’s testimony led to confusion more than an illumination thereof.
Background of the witness and structure of the explosion investigation
At the relevant time, this witness had been an officer with the ISF. On 14 February 2005, the witness was head of the Explosives and Tracking Section of the ISF; his rank was that of a brigadier-general and his role was an administrative one. Besides the Explosives and Tracking Section that the witness worked for, there was also the Explosives Bureau, an administrative unit. The witness states that these two are independent offices, though, confusingly, he also states that the Explosives Bureau was under his authority. The Explosives and Tracking Section had specialized officers and police dogs to track drugs, explosives, people buried in rubble after explosives, et cetera, whilst the Explosives Bureau is specialized in the field of explosives; for instance their task includes inspection and decommission of suspicious devices, inspection of bomb explosion sites. However, in case of an explosion, it is the regional force of the ISF which carries out the investigation, and not the Explosives Bureau.
Meeting military investigating judge – 14 February 2005
On the day of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the witness was on duty. When he heard of the explosion, Mr. El Soussi did not immediately go to the explosion site, as he had not received instructions to do so. Confusingly, he later states that such order, if given, would have come from the Explosives Bureau, though he indicated previously first that that Bureau was completely independent from the witness’s Section, and second, that the Bureau fell under his authority. Instead of going to the crime scene, Mr. El Soussi attended a meeting at the military court that afternoon, called by the military investigating judge.
During this meeting, attended by senior officials, the head of the Explosives Bureau came in and showed two pieces of metal. They were informed they had been found in the crater on the crime scene, and that they believed them to be car parts. In cross-examination, the witness admits that the parts were not protected by any container or plastic bag. A report about those parts was drafted by the head of the Explosives Bureau and sent to the investigating judge. The witness had not been involved in the drafting thereof.
Protection of the crime scene
The regional authority, with the orders of the investigating judge, is the one in charge of protecting and guarding the crime scene. Witness believes only a few days after the explosion, search dogs were requested at the investigation of the scene to search for missing persons.
At the suggestion from defence counsel that the witness may have been aware that parts of evidence were returned to the crime scene to be subsequently photographed, this witness responds negatively.
The evidence this witness presented is not very helpful. It does give an overview of the various government units that were involved in the investigation of the various aspects of the crime scene, but it unfortunately failed to do so in a consistent and detailed manner.