STL: Defense Lawyer Searches for his Defendants

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He defends his theory about the independence of the judiciary in Lebanon based on three decrees he knows of which he claims went against the wishes of politicians, including a ruling to outlaw torture. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

By: Hassan Illeik

Published Saturday, October 6, 2012

François Roux, head of defence office at the STL, is in Lebanon to deliver his message to the Lebanese. His speeches about international justice garner little faith as the difference in support for the prosecution office and the defence office is increasingly apparent.

François Roux, the head of the defense office at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) happily switches from defending the accused to defending the STL itself.

He repeats the same spiel heard from the tribunal’s sponsors from before its creation and launch in The Hague. “Maybe politics had a role to play in establishing the court, but justice is not politicized,” he contends.

Roux says that politics intervenes in appointing judges, but those who will carry the sword of justice will prove their independence through their actions.

He defends his theory about the independence of the judiciary in Lebanon based on three decrees he knows of which he claims went against the wishes of politicians, including a ruling to outlaw torture.

Roux wants us to believe that the United Nations General Secretary (UNSG) picked the judges for the tribunal without political pressure. In reality, STL judges were nominated by their respective countries.

He believes it to be a coincidence that the majority of those controlling the court’s proceedings come from six countries that consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organisation.

The president of STL is from New Zealand. Its current and former prosecutors are from Canada. The head of the investigation division at the prosecutor’s office is British, while his predecessor was Australian. The registrar is Dutch, who follows a US citizen and a British citizen before that.

The headquarters of STL is in the only European country which classifies Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Roux, a Frenchman, does not think these facts are important. He believes that those working in international courts are not affected by politics. A crime was committed and the court will find the perpetrators and punish them.

So does the head of the defense office actually believe in the innocence of the four defendants, aside from the formal “presumption of innocence?”

He does not reply to the question directly.

Roux does not advise the defendants to turn themselves in, nor does he advise them not to do so. His only advice is that they should consult with a lawyer.

“There are 15 thousand lawyers in Lebanon. The only thing that could be beneficial to [the four defendants] is to consult a lawyer,” he suggests.

Did the indictment convince Monsieur Roux? He replies that the indictment decision is not everything. The prosecutor has to reveal the evidence he has.

The lawyers defending the four suspects requested the investigation files. “But the prosecutor’s offices have not responded fully to all their requests yet,” Roux says.

Moreover, the prosecutor’s office has refused to provide other documents, not related to the investigation files. Defense had requested some documents from Lebanese authorities and were informed that they are at the prosecutor’s office.

In addition, the defense team had challenged the legality of the appointment of former prosecutor Daniel Bellemare. They requested the document related to his appointment, but the prosecutor’s office rejected their request.

Roux admits these facts, saying they are part of several requests that are still stuck between the defense and the prosecutor.

The prosecutor’s office is the tie that binds the court. In the statutes, internal regulations, and rules of procedures and evidence establishing the STL, there is a lot of talk about equality between the offices of the prosecutor and the defense, in terms of authority, time, and resources.

The prosecuting team, embraced politically in Lebanon and elsewhere, began its work in 2005. Seven years of investigations passed before the formal separation of the staff of the investigating team and the prosecutor’s office.

The defense team, meanwhile, has not been able to begin its investigations as it has not yet received all the related documents. But when it does start, “it will take all the time needed to finish its investigations,” Roux maintains.

In terms of equality in human resources between the defense and the prosecution, Roux says he only knows the numbers of the former. For the latter, “you need to direct your question to the prosecutor,” he replies.

What about the budget? Is there equality there? Roux smiles and says the budget is public and available to everyone.

On Friday Roux met with lawyers from the Beirut and Tripoli bar associations, in addition to Lebanese officials Beirut. He will urge them, as a “facilitator,” to cooperate on the requests sent by the defense team. Some of them are not answered in the requested time.

This is all that Roux has to say about the obstructions. If it was the prosecutor’s office that was denied such requests, we can assume that the UN Security Council will meet and issue a decision under Chapter VII, forcing the Lebanese government to provide the information.

We can also assume that the Association of Bankers in Lebanon would hold an emergency meeting and threaten the government to stop financing the state if the prosecutor’s office requests were not met.

This is Roux’s notion of equality.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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