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Lebanon tribunal confirms jurisdiction over accused Hariri assassins

The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) [official website] on Monday confirmed [order materials] its jurisdiction over the trials of the assassins of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The defense counsel for the four accused, Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra [STL profiles], had challenged the court's jurisdiction and its legality arguing that the establishment of the STL infringed upon Lebanon's sovereignty and its constitution. The STL rejected that argument holding that a review of the sovereignty claim is not necessary because Lebanon never argued that Resolution 1757 [text, PDF] violated its sovereignty but rather complied with it. The court also noted that it does not have the authority to review the decision of the UN Security Council [official website] in passing Resolution 1757 thereby establishing the Tribunal. In its 31-page decision, the STL concluded that the fundamental rights of the accused are being honored by providing them a fair trial under international standards and that there is no concern of any possible violations of such rights:

The Trial Chamber finds that the Tribunal's Statute and Rules guarantee to an accused person all the relevant and necessary rights to a fair trial mandated under international human rights law and take into account the case-law of institutions such as the European Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Committee. No breach of any right guaranteed under international human rights law has been identified. The Trial Chamber is thus satisfied and finds that the Tribunal was "established by law" in that it was established by a body that was competent to establish it, namely the United Nations Security Council, and that its Statute and Rules guarantee to the Accused all fundamental human rights.
Monday's decision is subject to appeal, but it is unclear how the defense counsel will proceed.

Earlier this month, STL upheld [JURIST report] the decision to try four accused in absentia. The tribunal rejected the defense motion [motion, PDF] that challenged the legality and jurisdiction over the case. The STL could not find any error of legal reasoning in the February decision [decision, PDF] that could lead to unjust treatment of the four accused. In February, the STL granted [JURIST report] the prosecution's office permission to proceed with the case against the four accused assassins. The four members of Hezbollah [CFR backgrounder] have been accused of being involved in a February 2005 truck bombing that killed Hariri along with 20 others. The court reasoned that the prosecution and the national authorities have undertaken all reasonable steps to apprehend and inform the accused. Last August, the STL announced [JURIST report] that it would investigate three additional bombings that is believed to be connected to the February 2005 bomb attack. Two days earlier, the UN-backed tribunal unsealed [JURIST report] the indictment [text] against the assassins of Hariri after a pre-trial judge confirmed the indictment and ordered the lift of confidentiality. In June 2011, the STL released [JURIST report] the indictment along with an arrest warrant against the accused to local authorities.

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