Friday, December 20, 2013

Decision on trial in absentia in the Merhi case

Leidschendam, 20 December 2013 – The Trial Chamber decided today to try Hassan Habib Merhi in his absence.
In issuing this decision on trial in absentia, the judges relied on reports from the Lebanese authorities detailing their efforts to apprehend the Accused and to inform him of the charges against him. They also relied on efforts by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to publicise the indictment against Mr. Merhi and on its widespread coverage in the Lebanese media.
An indictment against Mr. Merhi was confirmed in July 2013 and served on the Lebanese authorities to search for, arrest and transfer the accused to the custody of the STL. This is an ongoing obligation.
"The Trial Chamber has concluded that Mr. Merhi has absconded or otherwise cannot be found and all reasonable steps have been taken to secure his appearance before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and to inform him of the charges by the Pre Trial Judge," the decision stated.
The STL is the only international tribunal that allows for trial in absentia, which is permissible under Lebanese law. Trials in absentia are a measure of last resort possible under strict conditions:
If the accused has waived the right to be present;
If the accused has fled or cannot be found;
If the State concerned has not handed the accused over to the tribunal.
The Prosecution has now applied to join Mr. Merhi's case with the four Accused in the Ayyash et al. case. If permitted, Mr. Merhi would then be jointly charged and tried in the Ayyash proceedings.