Copy of Lebanon_Hariri_Tribunal_64043.jpg-3d6f2-1655390085118
Rescue personnel hose down a burning vehicle after a bomb blast that targeted the convoy of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut Monday, February 14 2005. Image Credit: AP

The Hague: International appeals judges on Thursday sentenced two men in absentia to life imprisonment for their role in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The men remain at large despite being tried and convicted in absentia by the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague.

“The attack terrorised not only the direct victims but more generally the people of Lebanon,” presiding judge Ivana Hrdlickova said as she handed down the maximum sentence on Hassan Habib Merhi and Hussein Hassan Oneissi.

Hariri served as prime minister of Lebanon five times following the 1975-90 civil war. He and 21 others died in a massive truck bomb on Feb. 14, 2005.

In March this year the appeals chamber reversed an earlier acquittal and found Merhi and Oneissi guilty of terrorism and murder.

In 2020, a lower trial chamber convicted a former member of the Shiite movement Hezbollah, Salim Jamil Ayyash, for the bombing that killed veteran Sunni Muslim politician Hariri and 21 others. Ayyash also received a life sentence in the trial which saw a prosecution case based almost entirely on mobile phone records.

The Lebanon tribunal was created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution. It is funded by voluntary contributions and by the Lebanese government.

Thursday’s ruling concludes the court’s main case.

It is expected that the court, which has been plagued by a funding crisis in the past years, will close down with only minimal staffing to handle residual issues.