Fresh appeal expected after UN backs STL

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Monday, July 30, 2012

A UN-backed international court in The Hague ruled on Monday that it has the right to try the alleged killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, but the decision is expected to be appealed.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was set up to investigate the 2005 seafront bombing that killed billionaire businessman Hariri and 21 others, and try the alleged killers.

Defense lawyers for the four suspects argued that the tribunal violated Lebanese sovereignty and could not guarantee them a fair trial.

The tribunal's judges on Monday rejected those claims and ruled they had jurisdiction over the case, saying that because the Lebanese government backed the tribunal it was legitimate.

But there was controversy over that judgement, with a source in the Lebanese ministry of finance telling Al-Akhbar that the way the Lebanese government had paid for the tribunal, without a cabinet vote, meant it could be illegal.

Antoine Korkmaz, a defense lawyer appointed to represent one of the suspects, said the tribunal had been created illegally by the United Nations Security Council and was interfering with Lebanon's domestic affairs.

The decision was expected to be appealed, with the defense likely to highlight the case of the Bosnian Serb Dusko Tadic, who was accused of crimes against humanity.

While Tadic was convicted in that case, the court ruled that UN tribunals could declare themselves illegitimate, an argument the defense are expected to make in the STL case.

The international court is controversial in Lebanon. Although it was set up with the support of the Lebanese government five years ago, it is opposed by Hezbollah.

As the suspects have not been found, the court plans to try the four in absentia and has set a provisional trial start date of March 25, 2013.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)


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