Leidschendam, 30 July 2012 – The Trial Chamber confirmed the Special Tribunal for Lebanon's jurisdiction to try those accused of committing the 14 February 2005 attack and connected cases, in a decision published today.
The Trial Chamber dismissed all the motions of the Defence Counsel, who argued that the Tribunal was set up illegally, violates Lebanese sovereignty, has selective jurisdiction and does not guarantee the accused a right to fair trial.
The Trial Chamber's decision is subject to an appeal.
The challenge to the Tribunal's jurisdiction is a preliminary motion that must be dealt with before trial begins. The Pre-Trial Judge recently set 25 March 2013 as the tentative date for the start of trial. The Defence Counsel in the Ayyash and others. case filed motions in early May challenging the legality and jurisdiction of the STL. The Trial Chamber later held a hearing on 13 and 14 June to hear oral arguments from the Prosecution, the Defence Counsel and the legal representatives for victim
Legality versus jurisdiction
The Trial Chamber found that the defence motions are not challenges to jurisdiction but rather challenges to legality, or the validity, of the Tribunal. The challenges therefore do not fall within the definition of a preliminary motion.
The Trial Chamber found that the United Nations Security Council established the STL when it passed Resolution 1757 in May 2007.
"Resolution 1757 is the sole basis of establishing the Tribunal," the judges wrote in their decision, and Lebanon, as a member state of the United Nations has complied with its obligations under the Resolution.
Because of this, the Trial Chamber found that it was not necessary to examine any issues in the Defence motions alleging violation of Lebanese domestic law.
Furthermore, the Trial Chamber found that the state of Lebanon has never claimed a violation of its sovereignty. "To the contrary, as a member state of the United Nations, Lebanon has honored its obligations specified in the annex to the resolution by taking all required steps, including; presenting a list of 12 persons to be appointed as judges by the Secretary-General, appointing a Deputy Prosecutor, recognizing the juridical capacity of the Tribunal to enter into agreements with states by concluding the Memoranda of Understanding with the Tribunal, contributing significantly to financing the Tribunal, facilitating establishing the Tribunal's Beirut field office, complying with requests for assistance from the Tribunal, and deferring to the Tribunal's jurisdiction the cases related to the 14 February 2005 attack," the judges said.
"The Trial Chamber thus cannot make a finding of any violation of Lebanese sovereignty."
The power to review the Security Council Resolution
The Trial Chamber found that had it no power to review the actions of the Security Council in establishing the Tribunal and that "No other judicial body possesses such a power of potential judicial review of the Security Council".
Further, the Trial Chamber found that, because the United Nations may establish a court, a Tribunal established by the United Nations or Security council, such as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, has been validly "established by law".
The selective nature of the Tribunal
The Trial Chamber found that the limited jurisdiction of the Tribunal did not infringe any of the Accused's fundamental rights to a fair trial.
"Criminal investigation and prosecution is unavoidably selective in any system" the Trial Chamber held.
And such "selectivity" is a normal part of international criminal jurisdictions such as the STL's "and an inevitable consequence of establishing an international criminal court or tribunal," the Trial Chamber found.
Fundamental rights of the accused
The Trial Chamber found that the Tribunal's procedures under its Statute and Rules and it obligation to strictly apply the principles of international human rights law guarantee the Accused, "all relevant and necessary rights to a fair trial". The establishment of the Tribunal does not violate the rights of the Accused to a fair trial.