Special Tribunal for Lebanon issues another controversial decision

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STL’s Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

Published Monday, October 6, 2014

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) decided on October 3 that it does have jurisdiction to hear cases against legal persons. However, member of tribunal Judge Walid Akoum objected to the decision because it allows for the prosecution of Lebanese political parties.

Old habits die hard and the STL was unable to change its old ways or deviate from the path that the rulers of the United Nations Security Council designed for it. An appeals panel issued a decision so dangerous that it prompted one of the members of the panel, Judge Akoum, to dissent (then sign it). But he did register his reservations, warning: “The present proceedings are already delicate. To this we now add a decision that potentially permits contempt charges to be brought against political parties, Lebanese institutions, associations or any other actors that are recognized as legal persons. In my view, there is no reason to do so.”

Akoum’s statement and the panel’s decision yesterday are in relation to the prosecution of Al-Akhbar newspaper and Al-Jadeed TV as well as the two colleagues, Ibrahim al-Amin and Karma al-Khayat on charges of contempt of court. The charges were brought against them for publishing information about secret witnesses on whose testimonies the prosecution relied to issue indictments.

The STL’s Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri had issued a decision on July 24 stating that the Tribunal prosecutes individuals, not legal persons (corporations, institutions, political parties, states, entities...), therefore concluding that the STL has no personal jurisdiction to prosecute Al-Jadeed TV. He decided to proceed with the prosecution against Khayat, but not the company for which she works.

Lettieri’s decision constituted a positive development in the Tribunal’s track record of problematic and politicized decisions. However, the appeals panel consisting of the presiding judge, Janet Nosworthy, and members Judge Akoum and Judge Ivana Hrdlickova - Judge Rapporteur - reversed this decision. It expanded, once again, the jurisdiction of the tribunal, reiterating that it is not restricted to the prosecution of individuals accused with assassinating former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, but includes the prosecution of legal persons as well.

What Akoum talked about goes beyond the prosecution of Al-Jadeed TV now and Al-Akhbar in the coming weeks and months. It also goes beyond talks of freedom of opinion and expression and of violating Lebanese sovereignty. It primarily has to do with the process of promoting the Tribunal even before the decision to establish it was issued in 2007 by claiming that it will not accuse states, political parties or institutions, rather its authority is restricted to the prosecution of individuals.

The political translation of yesterday’s decision is that the Tribunal can now prosecute Hezbollah and not just certain members within the party.

(Al-Akhbar)

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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