Lebanon: Assassination Tribunal Leak Sparks Wave of Witness Lawsuits

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Judge Robert Roth of the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon attends the opening of the public hearing in the assassination case of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, at the court in Leidschendam, near The Hague, on June 13, 2012. (Photo: AFP - Robert Vos / POOL)

By: Radwan Mortada

Published Saturday, December 21, 2013

The scandal involving the leak of the names and pictures of witnesses to former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination did not pass unnoticed. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which threatened to sue the media outlets that picked up the information from the Internet, is getting a taste of its own medicine.

More than 10 witnesses filed claims against the STL Office of the Prosecutor, which carries the main responsibility in protecting the secrecy of the investigation. The chief of the office is thus considered a suspect in the media leak, thus exposing their lives to danger intentionally or unintentionally.

The claim is based on statements by STL official spokesperson Marten Youssef and Judge David Ray. Youssef indicated that due to the leak the witnesses were harmed and their lives exposed to danger. Judge Ray added a "prediction" that "the leaks did happen and could always occur."

Al-Akhbar contacted the plaintiff's lawyer Rashad Salameh, who said that the claims are already in The Hague, where the STL is located. Salameh revealed that he had communicated with the tribunal via email. He informed the STL of the lawsuit, and it replied by requesting to set a date for a visit by a representative of the court's registrar to Lebanon. It also requested a printed copy of the claim and related documents, namely the power of attorney and the statements by Youssef and Ray.

"The claim was based on the tribunal's own law, which indicates that the court's jurisdiction includes those who are legitimately harmed due to the work of the court," Salameh explained. "They have the right to sue the tribunal, which, by virtue of its regulations, can sue and be sued."

According to Salameh, the witnesses who filed claims "are less than 20, but more than 10." He indicated that the claim included a presentation of the facts and mentioned "an article addressing the question of contempt of the court, which could occur in the case of leaking information protected by the confidentiality of investigation, whose perpetrators could face a penalty of seven years in jail and a fine of 100,000 euros."

"The purpose of the claim is to achieve three issues," Salameh continued. "The first is to request that their testimony is removed from court files, then that their names are no longer included in the list of witnesses. … The third issue is a reserve request for compensation, since the victims have the right of redress."

The track for compensation is different and needs to be presented to the pre-trial judge at the STL. Though Salameh filed the claim around two months ago, his communications with the court began a month later.

Follow Radwan Mortada on Twitter.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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