Thursday, February 2, 2012

Assignment of permanent counsel

Beirut, 2 February 2012 - The Head of Defence Office assigned permanent counsel to the four accused in the case Prosecutor v. Ayyash et al.
The Trial Chamber decided that the accused will be tried in absentia. Today the Pre-Trial Judge requested the assignment of counsel.
The Head of Defence Office assigned the eight counsel that were previously assigned as duty counsel. He stated that "he is confident that he assigns experienced and competent counsel. They are fully independent and can choose any strategy they see best fit to defend the rights of the accused."
The Prosecutor is now required to disclose the indictment supporting materials to the counsel within 30 working days.
The defence counsel face the difficult task of representing and defending the accused without communicating with him. In order to assist in achieving equality of arms, the Defence Office shall provide counsel with legal advice and practical support.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In absentia proceedings

Leidschendam, 1 February 2012 - The Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has decided to try the four men accused of the 14 Feb 2005 attack in their absence.
The Trial Chamber examined numerous documents from the Tribunal's Prosecutor and the Lebanese Prosecutor-General, which detail the steps taken by the Lebanese authorities to apprehend the accused and inform them about the proceedings.
These efforts included multiple attempts by the Lebanese authorities to find the accused at their last known residences, places of employment, family homes and other locations. The Trial Chamber also took into consideration the fact that the indictment and the identities of the accused received massive publicity in Lebanon.
The Trial Chamber concluded that all reasonable steps have been taken to secure the appearance of the accused and to notify them of the charges against them.
While the STL is the only international Tribunal that can prosecute accused in their absence, it is a measure of last resort to ensure that the pursuit of justice is not paralysed by those who choose to abscond.
For further details on the upcoming steps, please see the media advisory on the upcoming steps.

Media Advisory – Trial Chamber decision on in absentia proceedings: the upcoming steps

Following a decision by the Trial Chamber, there are a number of necessary steps which need to take place before the actual trial can start.

Assignment of Defence Counsel
One of the first actions of the Pre-Trial Judge will be to request the Head of the Defence Office, Fran├žois Roux, to assign counsel to the accused. If the accused are apprehended or decide to participate in the proceedings they may appoint counsel of their choice.

Within 30 days of the Trial Chamber decision, the Prosecutor will disclose to the Defence copies of the supporting material which accompanied the indictment at the confirmation stage. These include copies of the supporting material accompanying the indictment and the statements of all witnesses whom the Prosecutor intends to call to testify at trial. The Prosecution also has the duty to start providing any evidence they may have gathered that could potentially prove the innocence of the accused.

While the Prosecution continue their investigations, the Defence can now review the entire case and start their own investigations. Although the burden of proof is on the Prosecution, the Defence can challenge the Prosecution's allegations and also present different case theories and call its own witnesses and evidence..

Investigations by the Defence may involve interviewing witnesses, visiting crime scenes, and collecting evidence. The Defence may also request information and assistance from the Lebanese authorities or other Sstates.

With the permission of the Pre-Trial Judge, the Defence may also summon witnesses and execute searches and seizures. The Tribunal's Defence Office helps with legal and logistical matters.

At this stage, the rules also allow for preliminary motions challenging the Tribunal's jurisdiction, alleging technical and/or legal defects in the form of the indictment or seeking the severance of some of the counts. These motions can be filed by the parties in writing.

Working plan and trial
The Pre-Trial judge will implement a working plan and set a tentative date for the start of the proceedings, at least four months in advance. He will need to provide the Defence with enough time to review the case and prepare for trial.

The Pre-Trial Judge is also responsible for producing a file for the Trial Chamber containing several items such as:
- all the filings of the parties and of the victims participating in the proceedings;
- all orders and decisions that he has made, as well as a summary of those rulings;
- suggestions about the witnesses to be called by the Prosecutor and the witnesses that the victims participating in the proceedings wish to call; and
- points of agreement and disagreement between the Prosecution and Defence.

Appearance of accused during in absentia proceedings
Lebanon has an ongoing obligation to search for, detain and transfer the accused. If the accused are found in the course of the proceedings in absentia or if they choose to participate in the process, they have the right to be retried in their presence.
If the accused appear after an in absentia conviction, once the trial is completely finalised, the accused can:
• accept the conviction or sentence;
• accept the conviction but request a new hearing in respect of the sentence; or
• request a retrial.

Timeline in the case of Ayyash et al.
17 January 2011– The Prosecutor submitted an indictment for review to the Pre-Trial Judge.
28 June 2011 – The Pre-Trial Judge confirmed the indictment and ordered that it remain confidential.
30 June 2011 – The indictment was served on the Lebanese authorities, who were given 30 days to report on their efforts to search for, arrest and transfer the accused.
29 July 2011 – The Pre-Trial Judge ordered the partial unsealing of the indictment, to reveal the identity of the accused and the charges against them.
17 August 2011 – The Indictment and the decision confirming it were unsealed.
18 August 2011 – The STL President ordered the public advertisement of the indictment and called for an intensification of efforts to detain those accused.
8 September 2011 – The STL President convened the Trial Chamber in the Ayyash et al. case.
17 October 2011 – The Pre-Trial Jjudge requested the Trial Chamber to decide on in absentia proceedings.
20 October 2011 – The Trial Chamber called for submissions on the in absentia proceedings.
11 November 2011 – The Trial Chamber held its first hearing to receive arguments and submissions from the Prosecution and the Defence Office about starting in absentia proceedings.
23 November 2011 – The Trial Chamber decided to await a response from the Lebanese authorities to the Requests for Assistance made by the Prosecution on efforts to arrest the accused before deciding whether to initiate proceedings in absentia.
15 December 2011 - The Trial Chamber received a report from the Office of the Prosecutor with a few hundred pages of material received from the Prosecutor General of Lebanon in response to the Prosecutor's Requests for Assistance.