Monday, March 11, 2019

STL Publishes Tenth Annual Report

Leidschendam, 11 March 2019 – The Special Tribunal for Lebanon submitted its tenth annual report to the United Nations Secretary-General and to the Government of Lebanon.

The annual report details the activities of the Tribunal from 1 March 2018 to 28 February 2019, its objectives for the coming year and highlights the achievements of the four organs: Chambers, Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), Defence Office and Registry.

Chambers report that the trial proceedings in the Ayyash et al. case constituted their main public judicial activities. During the reporting period, the Oneissi Defence presented their case, the Trial Chamber ordered the attendance of one witness under Rule 165 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence and most notably the Trial hearings concluded with closing arguments being heard by the Trial Chamber between 11 and 21 September 2018. The report stresses that "the closing arguments affirmed the important and incomparable role the Tribunal plays in ensuring the perpetrators of the 14 February 2005 attack are not shielded by impunity". The Trial Chamber is now reviewing the evidence before it and deliberating as to whether the Prosecution had proven its case against the four Accused beyond reasonable doubt. It also mentions that the precise timing of the judgment will depend upon the complexity of the legal and factual issues subject to the Trial Chamber's confidential deliberations.

The Prosecutor highlights the significant achievements by his Office during this period. Following the conclusion of the evidence, the Prosecution filed a Final Trial Brief and presented its closing arguments in the Ayyash et al. case against the individuals accused of criminal responsibility for the attack against former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The report also gives account of the additional achievements and progress in meeting the broader mandate of the Office of the Prosecutor, which continue far beyond the end of closing submissions; it describes the continued investigations and extensive other work, much of it behind the scenes in relation to all cases within the OTP's jurisdiction, the three connected cases, the assessment of potentially related cases as well as the preparations for potential appellate response to the judgement in the Ayyash et al. case. At the same time, the Office of the Prosecutor is prepared to move forward quickly when the updated confidential indictment is refiled.

The Defence Office reports on its continued operational, financial support as well as legal assistance to the Defence teams in the Ayyash et al. case. In line with its mandate, the Defence Office enables the Defence Counsel and their teams to effectively represent the rights and interests of the accused in ongoing proceedings. Further, The Defence Office in all its sections aims to prepare for any difficulties that might arise from the deliberation phase onwards, for the potential sentencing and appeal phases as well as possible opening of potential new cases. The report notes that on On 8 June 2018, Ms Dorothée Le Fraper du Hellen was appointed to the post of Head of Defence Office of the Tribunal by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.  Ms Le Fraper du Hellen thereby succeeded Mr François Roux, who held the post of Head of Defence Office from March 2009 to February 2018.

The Registry reports on its ongoing overarching responsibility to provide effective support to the judicial proceedings through providing efficient and customer-oriented administration of the Tribunal, raising awareness on the Tribunal's work and engaging the public, securing continued political, financial and operational support for its work, as well as ensuring a safe and secure work environment and safeguarding the welfare of staff. 
STL President Judge Ivana Hrdličková concludes that the STL's focus for the next year is on the judicial deliberations and the preparation of the judgement awaited by the victims of the 14 February 2005 attack, the Lebanese public and the wider international community.

The report is now available on the tribunal's website.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Contempt case STL-14-06 against Mr Ibrahim Al Amin closed; enforcement of sentence against Akhbar Beirut S.A.L outstanding

Leidschendam, 17 October 2018 – Mr Ibrahim Al Amin has satisfied the sentence imposed on him by the Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri on 29 August 2016. The fine of €20,000 was received by the Registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on 14 August 2018.

As a result of these developments, Judge Lettieri has decided to lift the confidentiality of the enforcement proceedings against Mr Al Amin. The public documents are now available on the STL website.

The €6,000 fine imposed on Akhbar Beirut S.A.L remains outstanding. The Lebanese authorities have the ongoing obligation to ensure the sentence is enforced.



On 31 January 2014, Mr Ibrahim Mohamed Ali Al Amin and Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. were charged with contempt and obstruction of justice before the STL in relation to media reports containing information about alleged confidential STL witnesses. The charges were brought under Rule 60 bis (A) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, which states that the Tribunal may hold in contempt persons who knowingly and willfully interfere with its administration of justice. Mr Al Amin and Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. were each charged with one count of knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice (STL-14-06).

The trial in STL-14-06 opened before the Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri on 24 February 2016, with opening statements by the Amicus Curiae Prosecutor and the Defence. The Amicus presented his case-in-chief from 24 to 26 February and on 29 February and 1 March 2016. The Defence presented their case from 7 to 8 April. Both parties presented their closing arguments on 13 May 2016.

Contempt Judge Lettieri issued a judgment on 15 July 2016 finding both Accused guilty of one count of contempt for knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice by publishing information on purported confidential witnesses in the Ayyash et al. case, thereby undermining public confidence in the Tribunal's ability to protect the confidentiality of information about, or provided by, witnesses or potential witnesses.

On 29 August 2016, Mr Al Amin was sentenced to a €20,000 fine and Akhbar Beirut to a €6,000 fine, which neither appealed. The Contempt Judge also ordered that both fines be paid in full by 30 September 2016. Mr Al Amin failed to pay his fine.

After a number of measures to enforce the sentence had been taken, in furtherance of various orders from the Contempt Judge, the full fine of €20,000 was deposited with the Registry of the Tribunal on 14 August 2018. The €6,000 fine imposed on Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. remains outstanding. The Lebanese authorities remain obligated to enforce this sentence.

For more information, click on the "Questions and Answers on the contempt cases before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon".

Friday, September 28, 2018

STL Registrar meets with Lebanese officials and attends a seminar on victims representation in Beirut

Leidschendam, Friday 28 September  2018 – Special Tribunal for Lebanon's (STL) Registrar Daryl Mundis met with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on a working visit to Beirut this week and discussed various matters relating to the Tribunal's work.
Mr Mundis also met with Minister of Justice Salim Jreissati, Prosecutor General Samir Hammoud and members of the diplomatic community.
On 28 and 28 September, Mr Mundis attended and participated in a seminar "Representing victims before international and internationalized courts" organised by the STL in partnership with the Institute of Human Rights of the Beirut Bar Association.
The Registrar is responsible for all aspects of the Tribunal's administration including the budget, fundraising, human resources and providing security. His responsibilities also include court management, oversight of the Victims' Participation Unit, witness protection and language services.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Prosecution Highlights Hezbollah, Syrian Links to Hariri Assassination

Prosecution Highlights Hezbollah, Syrian Links to Hariri Assassination

Hanin Ghaddar

September 14, 2018

This week's closing arguments laid out the clear connections between the plotters, senior Hezbollah figures, and the Assad regime, so the international community can no longer afford to look the other way.

Thirteen years after former prime minister Rafiq Hariri was assassinated by a car bomb in Beirut, the prosecution finally submitted its closing arguments in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon earlier this week, with two important disclosures. One, there is ample evidence to corroborate the link between Hezbollah's leadership and the perpetrators of the killing, including details on their movements and communications ahead of the attack. Two, the Syrian regime was also at the core of the plot.


The closing arguments (released online as two PDFs, see part 1 and part 2) focused on the group's links to the four accused, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi, Assad Hassan Sabra, and Hussein Hassan Oneissi. According to the prosecutor, Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly acknowledged this connection, including the fact that the covert Green Network used by the defendants was in fact part of the Hezbollah security apparatus.

Telecom data was the main evidence used to prove these links, coupled with the political context of the time and the political affiliation of the accused. In all, the prosecution examined more than 3,000 pieces of evidence and 307 witness testimonies before concluding that the February 2005 attack was executed as part of a sophisticated, multifaceted mission that could only have been the product of a conspiracy.

One of the main advances the prosecution has made is in showing how Hariri's movements were under surveillance during and after his famous December 2004 visit to Nasrallah in the Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik—this despite the fact that neither Hariri nor his security team knew the location of the meeting beforehand. Yet this week's most striking revelation was the reference to Hezbollah security chief Wafiq Safa, who apparently served as the group's link with the Syrian regime. According to the prosecutor, Safa "formed part of a call flow with [senior Hezbollah military official Mustafa] Badreddine and Ayyash that immediately preceded the final preparatory activity in the early hours of the morning of the attack." And on the eve of the assassination, Safa and Badreddine's phones converged in the same area. In addition, Ayyash coordinated with Badreddine on conducting preoperational surveillance of Hariri and purchasing the Mitsubishi Canter van used to perpetrate the bombing.


Rustum Ghazaleh, the head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon at the time, visited Haret Hreik often and was in regular touch with Safa, and the prosecution argued that this activity began under very specific circumstances: after the February 2005 Lebanese opposition meeting at the Bristol Hotel in Beirut, where participants demanded an end to Syria's military occupation. The report noted that Ghazaleh's visits and Hezbollah contacts formed part of a pattern of behavior immediately following key challenges to Syrian control in Lebanon, and immediately prior to Hariri's assassination that same month.

"When put in context with these events," the prosecution concluded, "the rationale and motivation behind the behavior of the networks becomes evident." Indeed, the motives and actions of Syrian and Hezbollah officials were intimately connected at the time, and the corresponding reaction of covert networks involved in the plot reinforces the conclusion that they were operated by a single entity, coordinated by the accused and overseen by Badreddine.


Although the final verdict is not expected for another five to six months, the revelations in the prosecutor's closing arguments should not be taken lightly by Lebanon or the international community. If found guilty by the tribunal for killing a prime minister, Hezbollah will be regarded as a criminal organization by countries worldwide. This includes European governments, which will find it more difficult to deal with Hezbollah's "political wing" if an international court officially determines that its parent organization carried out the assassination. In fact, such a finding should finally spur them to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization rather than perpetuating the untenable "wings" approach.

Likewise, international relations with Lebanon's state institutions will become highly problematic if Hezbollah remains part of the government. In 2004, UN Security Council Resolution 1559 called on Syria to withdraw its forces and cease interfering in Lebanon's internal politics. Although Damascus largely complied with that requirement, the second part of the resolution—which calls on all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias to disband—has yet to be implemented. Other long-postponed requirements were issued in Resolution 1701, which called for border demarcation between Syria and Lebanon.

Perhaps sensing potential progress on these fronts, Nasrallah warned the tribunal and its backers not to "play with fire" in an August 27 address. Whenever Hezbollah makes such threats, decisionmakers inside and outside Lebanon tend to give the group what it wants for fear of causing local instability. There are numerous examples of this appeasement, such as the electoral law that facilitated the victory of Hezbollah's camp in this year's parliamentary elections, or the events of May 2008, when the group used its weapons against other Lebanese citizens and wound up with a national unity government and the Doha agreement.

This time, however, the charges against Hezbollah will be coming from an international entity, and foreign governments should deal with them forthrightly rather than ducking them. The United States and other countries need not be cowed by the specter of instability—on the contrary, allowing Hezbollah to get away with Hariri's murder would only agitate sectarian tensions, the true driver of instability across the region.

Specifically, Washington and European governments should be prepared to delay their acceptance of any new Lebanese government that includes Hezbollah figures, particularly in the security realm. They should also question Beirut about any perceived Hezbollah influence on these decisions. Prime Minister Saad Hariri needs strong, united international support to resist the group's intimidation. To protect Lebanese state institutions, Hezbollah must be kept at a distance, and this requires close coordination.

Finally, the revelations about Syria's role in the assassination should put an end to the notion that Bashar al-Assad can be part of his country's political future. Even if Western and Arab governments were willing to overlook his brutal actions against his own people, there must be consequences for his regime being legally implicated in the killing of a foreign political leader.

Hanin Ghaddar, a veteran Lebanese journalist and researcher, is the Friedmann Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Trial Chamber reschedules filing of final briefs and oral closing arguments in July and August 2018 in the Ayyash et al. case

Trial Chamber reschedules filing of final briefs and oral closing arguments in July and August 2018 in the Ayyash et al. case

Leidschendam, 13 June 2018 - The Trial Chamber ordered the Prosecutor and the Legal Representatives of Victims in the Ayyash et al. case to file their final trial briefs by Monday 16 July 2018 and the Defence counsel for the four Accused by 13 August 2018.

In a revised scheduling order issued yesterday, the Trial Chamber stated that it will hear oral closing arguments from the parties and participating victims in the weeks of Monday 27 August to Friday 7 September 2018.

Under Rule 147 of the STL Rules of Procedure and Evidence, following the presentation of all the evidence, the Prosecutor, the participating victims and the Defence may file final trial briefs and present closing arguments.

The presentation of the closing arguments concludes the trial in the Ayyash et al. case. The Judges will then withdraw to deliberate and will issue a Judgement in due course. A finding of guilt may be reached only when a majority of the Trial Chamber is satisfied that guilt has been proved beyond reasonable doubt (Rule 148).

Background information:

The Prosecution closed its case against the four Accused on 7 February 2018.

On 7 March 2018, the Trial Chamber dismissed an application for a judgement of acquittal, under Rule 167, made by the Defence of Mr Hussein Hassan Oneissi. No other Defence counsel made applications under this Rule.

Further, of the four Accused, only counsel for Mr Oneissi elected to present a Defence case.

In April, the Trial Chamber had initially scheduled the filing of final briefs and closing arguments for June and July, respectively, but the order was later suspended due to procedural developments.

UN Secretary-General appoints Dorothée Le Fraper du Hellen as Head of the Defence Office at the STL

Leidschendam, 18 June 2018 – The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has appointed on 8 June Ms Dorothée Le Fraper du Hellen to the post of Head of the Defence Office at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

Dorothée Le Fraper du Hellen, a French national, will assume her new functions in a few weeks, following a transitional period succeeding Maître François Roux who served as the Head of the Defence Office from March 2009 until February 2018.

Ms Le Fraper du Hellen has 25 years of experience in the fields of international and criminal law. From 2013 until her appointment, she was assigned to protect the interests and rights of the accused Hassan Habib Merhi at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, where she was admitted on the list of Counsel since 2012.

Ms Dorothée Le Fraper du Hellen has been registered at the Montpellier Bar, France, since 1993. She first worked at the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva, before joining a Montpellier law firm. She has acquired an extensive experience in international criminal law namely at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), has developed expertise in the field of human rights, and has undertaken a number of assessment missions on the state of human rights and the administration of justice in various countries throughout Europe and Africa. She has also been responsible for a number of applications before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Ms Dorothée Le Fraper du Hellen thanked the UN Secretary General for her nomination and quoted Silvio Pellico as an inspiration for her upcoming mission: "Whenever accusations are preferred, do not you disdain to hear a defence."

The STL President congratulated Ms Le Fraper du Hellen and said "one of the 'firsts' at the STL is the establishment of an independent Defence office. The equality of arms is an essential principal in criminal law in general and of course in international criminal law. I wish Ms Le Fraper all the best in performing her functions as the new Head of the Defence Office".

In accordance with Article 13 of the STL Statute, the United Nations Secretary-General, in consultation with the President of the Special Tribunal, appoints an independent Head of the Defence Office, who shall be responsible for the appointment of the Office staff and the drawing up of a list of Defence counsel. The Defence Office shall protect the rights of the Defence, provide support and assistance to Defence counsel and to the persons entitled to legal assistance, including, where appropriate, legal research, collection of evidence and advice.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

STL Media Advisory- Trial Chamber schedules public hearing on 7 March 2018 for the delivery of the decision on Defence application for a judgement of acquittal

Leidschendam, 5 March 2018 - A public hearing will take place on Wednesday 7 March 2018 at 10:00 am C.E.T, and the STL Trial Chamber Judges will render a decision on an application submitted by the Oneissi Defence seeking a judgement of acquittal under Rule 167 of the STL's Rule of Procedure and Evidence. The Defence for Mr Ayyash, Mr Merhi and Mr Sabra did not make submissions under Rule 167.

In accordance with this Rule entitled "Judgement of Acquittal at the Close of the Prosecution Case", the Trial Chamber, after hearing submissions of the Parties, will issue a judgement of acquittal on any count if they find that there is no evidence capable of supporting a conviction on that count. The Prosecutor may appeal any judgement of acquittal under this Rule.

On Tuesday and Wednesday 20 and 21 February 2018, lead counsel for the Accused Mr Hussein Hassan Oneissi made oral submissions seeking a judgement of acquittal under Rule 167 in respect of all charges against Mr Oneissi in the amended consolidated indictment. The Prosecution responded on Wednesday 21 February 2018, followed by a reply from the Oneissi Defence. The Prosecution and the Oneissi Defence also filed written submissions in accordance with an oral order of the Trial Chamber on the sufficiency of evidence on each count Mr Oneissi is charged with and on the elements of complicity in Article 129 of the Lebanese Criminal Law.

Background information: The Ayyash et al. case relates to the 14 February 2005 attack which killed 22 individuals, including the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and injured 226 others. The Accused Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra remain at large. The proceedings against them are being held in absentia. On 11 July 2016, the Appeals Chamber ordered the termination of the proceedings against Mustafa Badreddine, without prejudice to the right to resume the proceedings, should evidence that he is alive emerge in the future.