The briefing Wednesday left the journalists with the clear impression that the Houssam news conference, and the recent press stories that seem to discredit another important witness, the Syrian national Mohammad Zuheir al-Siddiq, have not hurt the investigation. This is mainly because the work to date has relied on a wide range of leads and information gleaned from material evidence and human testimony, and does not rest on the testimony of one or two main witnesses.The briefing also validates another one of my conclusions, which is that "in view of the stark
The experienced investigators on the case from a dozen countries, who have dealt with such issues in previous probes, tend to place more credence in signed statements which carry legal ramifications for perjury than in televised news conferences. They do not necessarily plan to re-evaluate Houssam's testimony as of now in view of his televised news conference, but they routinely question witnesses again to seek clarifications on their statements in the light of new information that regularly flows from the investigation.
They indicate that while they always have doubts about any statements by witnesses, they have no basis to believe that what Houssam said in Syria is true, and rather have the impression that his public statement was fabricated, for reasons they would not speculate on. The Mehlis team has no indication, and does not believe that Houssam was planted or acted as a double agent. They also seem perplexed that the Syrian commission has not questioned him yet.
The ultimate veracity of Siddiq's and Houssam's various sworn and public statements will be determined by a judge or judges in a court of law when the investigation is completed and the trials of the accused are held. The UN investigators also indicate they have no information that Siddiq has withdrawn any of his sworn statements or information.
contradictions between houssam's news conference and his sworn and signed statement under oath to the UN investigators, is that the testimony he gave to the UN team is the more reliable and accurate of the two."
On what this says about the method by which Syria says it is cooperating:
The impression one gets from discussions here and with UN officials in New York is that the Syrian government is pursuing a two-track strategy of making statements and accusations in public that aim to discredit the Mehlis effort, while being somewhat more cooperative in private interactions with the probe. This was also the tone of Syrian President Bashar Assad's speech at Damascus University last month, when he strongly attacked the UN investigation, the U.S., Lebanon and others, but also said that Syria would cooperate with the investigation as required by the UN Security Council.Read it in full here.
Meanwhile, here's Michael Young on why Mehlis should be given six more months:
Six more months would make Russia and China more amenable to sanctions in the event Syria repeatedly fails to meet or contests Mehlis' conditions. This might also isolate Assad further in the Arab world, where it is already difficult enough to cover for the Syrian president's transparent bad faith in cooperating with the UN. At the end of the day, grotesque episodes like the Houssam news conference show the Syrians have much to hide. It may be comical, but the last laugh will probably be on them.
Finally, with everybody spelling Husam "Houssam", I suppose it's my turn to bow to the majority and use that spelling from now on.