15 APRIL 2008

At his first press encounter, Daniel Bellemare, new head of the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC), accomplished what his two predecessors failed to manage: striking a delicate balance between appearing transparent while maintaining the required confidentiality of his designated task.

Granted, it was not an acid test. Correspondents at U.N. Headquarters could be a very challenging constituency, especially when their suspicions are raised; they would usually grant a newcomer the benefit of the doubt. The Commissioner's new Press Officer, Ashraf Kamal, who is familiar with the intricacies of the building, helped in conducting what could have been a testy encounter, given the presence of determined, experienced and knowledgeable reporters, at least five of whom are from the region.

In order to make a difference, Daniel Bellemare's initial success should encourage him to strike other forthcoming delicate balances. To mention a few, these would include:

  1. Balance between winning the confidence of the Security Council without being caught into its political crosscurrents.
  2. Gaining stature among member states to impose his position while maintaining his personal integrity.
  3. Consistency in the perception of his work in Lebanon and at U.N. Headquarters.
  4. Friendly relations with local media in Beirut while avoiding a damaging atmosphere of either too much leakage or nothing at all to report.
  5. Maintaining the confidence of governments in the region with potentially helpful information while resisting "friendly" or "threatening" pressure.
  6. Obtaining further evidence confidentially, while maintaining public momentum.
  7. Discipline amongst his working team and its personal social relations in the area of operations (that is left purposely vague; but those who worked with the first Investigator would understand).
  8. Working closely with the Lebanese Government, his main constituency on the ground without seeming to be involved in local politics.
  9. Reassuring the Hariri family, the main human sufferer from the assassination, that serious work is being done to get to the truth not as a favour to any side but to impose the rule of law with no impunity while being guided only by the search for justice.

Such balancing act may sound easy. But as Mr. Mellis and Mr. Brammertz could tell you, they are easier said, or written, than done. But, judging from Daniel Bellemare's initial soundings, he seems fairly attuned to balancing acts. After all, he's a Canadian.