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Special Tribunal for Lebanon Announces New Terrorism Charges Against Ayyash

Special Tribunal for Lebanon – Courtroom
Credit: STL via Flickr

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) announced new charges on September 16, 2019 against Salim Jamil Ayyash relating to his alleged involvement in the 2004 and 2005 attacks targeting Lebanese politicians Marwan Mohammed Hamade, Georges Anis Hawi, and Elias Miche El-Murr. [STL Press Release] The new charges are separate from the pending charges against Ayyash, and three other defendants, in connection with the February 14, 2005 attack that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. [STL Press Release] While Ayyash’s whereabouts are unknown, the Pre-Trial Judge issued both domestic and international warrants to be executed by Lebanese authorities and INTERPOL, respectively, for his arrest and handover to the STL. [STL Press Release] The STL is the first internationalized criminal tribunal to prosecute crimes of terrorism. See STL, Ayyash Case Information Sheet, March 2019. Since opening its doors in 2009, the tribunal has yet to issue any judgments in its pending cases, and none of the defendants are in its custody. [Washington Post; UN Press Release: STL]

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Special Tribunal for Lebanon Acquits Journalist, TV Station of Contempt


Special Tribunal for Lebanon
Credit: Vincent van Zeijst

On March 8, 2016 the appeals panel of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) reversed the contempt conviction of Karma Khayat, the deputy head of news of the television news station Al Jadeed, and upheld the acquittal of the station itself, in connection with the broadcast of information concerning the identity of confidential witnesses. See Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Al Jadeed [Co.] S.A.L./New T.V. S.A.L. (N.T.V.) and Karma Mohamed Tahsin Al Khayat,  Case STL-14-05/A/AP, Appeals Panel Judgment, 8 March 2016, 93. The STL had charged Ms. Khayat and Al Jadeed each with two counts of interfering with the tribunal’s administration of justice, one for the initial broadcast of the episodes in which journalists approached individuals Al Jadeed claimed to be confidential witnesses in the ongoing Ayyash et al. case concerning the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri, and a second count for their failure to remove the videos from the internet pursuant to the STL’s order, communicated by email. See STL, About the Contempt Cases. Because the defendants accused of responsibility for Mr. Hariri’s death are being prosecuted in absentia, Ms. Khayat is the first defendant to testify before the STL. [BBC]

After the appeals panel determined that the STL has jurisdiction to hear charges against “legal persons” (corporations) and sent the case back to the contempt judge, Judge Lettieri convicted Ms. Khayat on the second count and acquitted the news station on September 18, 2015. See STL, Al Jadeed [Co.] S.A.L./ New T.V. S.A.L. (N.T.V.) Karma Mohamed Tahsin Al Khayat, Case STL-14-05/T/CJ, Contempt Judge Judgment, 18 September 2015. The majority of the appeals panel reversed the conviction because there was insufficient evidence that Ms. Khayat had received and read the email ordering the videos be removed. Al Jadeed [Co.] S.A.L./New T.V. S.A.L. (N.T.V.) and Karma Mohamed Tahsin Al Khayat, 8 March 2016, para. 170. While the defense initially argued that the contempt charge places freedom of expression at risk, the STL has maintained that free expression is not an absolute right and it must yield to court orders for the protection of witnesses. [Washington Post] Although the appeals panel adhered to its earlier decision that the STL does have jurisdiction to criminally prosecute legal persons, it nonetheless confirmed Al Jadeed’s acquittal because there was insufficient evidence to prove the objective likelihood of the public’s lack of confidence and Judge Lettieri did not err in relying on and applying Lebanese law on corporate responsibility. Al Jadeed [Co.] S.A.L./New T.V. S.A.L. (N.T.V.) and Karma Mohamed Tahsin Al Khayat, 8 March 2016, paras. 102, 107, 196, 203-205. Read more

Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s Mandate Extended by Three Years

Special Tribunal for Lebanon
Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Special Tribunal for Lebanon
Credit: STL

This month, United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon extended the mandate of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) for an additional three years beginning on March 1, 2015. The STL was established in the aftermath of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s assassination and the deaths of 22 others in 2005. [UN News Centre]

The extension of the STL’s mandate is significant because, as the world’s first international court to treat terrorism as a distinct crime, the STL represents a chance to address impunity for certain violent crimes in Lebanon. [Al Jazeera] However, as the only internationalized criminal court whose defendants are all being prosecuted in absentia – together with the delays, expense, and controversy that have characterized the proceedings – the STL faces real challenges in delivering justice and accountability. Read more

Special Tribunal for Lebanon Opens Trial of 4 Accused in Rafiq Hariri Assassination, in Abstentia

Last week, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) opened the trial proceedings against Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, and Assad Hassan Sabra for the Beirut bombing that killed 22 individuals, including the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, on February 14, 2005. See STL, Prosecutor v. Ayyash et al. (Case STL-11-01), Indictment (Public Redacted Version), 10 June 2011, STL-11-01/I/PTJ/F0007/A01/PRV/20110816/R091733-R091779/EN/pvk, preamble. [STL] The STL is conducting the trial in absentia, meaning that the accused are not physically present at the court’s seat in The Hague. Id. The STL’s proceedings are also garnering significant attention due to allegations that they are politically motivated, and because they mark the first instance of an international court prosecuting individuals on terrorism charges. [BBC]

Special Tribunal Lebanon

Credit: Special Tribunal for Lebanon

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Internationalized Criminal Tribunals

The principal international criminal tribunals that have operated to prosecute individuals for serious violations of international criminal law or international humanitarian law – such as war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity – are those established by the United Nations.  Click the following links to learn more about the mandates of these bodies, which include the:

The international community has also cooperated with national governments to establish “internationalized” tribunals to prosecute international crimes.   These courts may operate exclusively within a national judicial system or may have been established by an agreement between the United Nations and the national government, and as such, their staffing and judicial composition may be national or international in nature.

Such bodies have been specially created as part of an international effort to try individuals for crimes under international law, and their jurisdiction is generally limited to specific periods of time corresponding to particularly intense periods of conflict or unrest involving widespread human rights abuses.  Former and existing internationalized criminal tribunals and domestic courts prosecuting war crimes, include:

After Contested Election, UK Withdraws ICJ Candidate

The Peace Palace in the Hague, Netherlands
Credit: UN Photo/ICJ/Capital Photos/Gerald van Daalen

The United Kingdom announced yesterday its withdrawal of its candidate for a spot on the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, allowing Judge Dalveer Bhandari of India to be elected as the sole candidate. [UN News Centre] After ten rounds of voting, another round was due to take place yesterday but was canceled following the announcement. [Guardian] Previous rounds of voting had elected four candidates to take four of the five empty seats on the Court, but as of Monday morning the final open seat remained undecided between Judge Dalveer Bhandari of India and Judge Christopher Greenwood of the United Kingdom. [Washington Post] A candidate must secure a majority of votes in both the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly to win a seat; Judge Bhandari had a majority of votes in the General Assembly, and Judge Greenwood had a majority in the Security Council. [Washington Post] This will be the first time that the United Kingdom is not represented in the composition of the Court. See ICJ, All Members.

The conversation surrounding this election is part of a broader debate on the composition of international courts and whether they are representative of the populations they serve. The GQUAL Campaign has focused on whether courts are representative by gender, and there is increased debate over whether the developing world and Asia are adequately represented on international courts and tribunals. [GQUAL Campaign] One consideration in the election is the tension between the General Assembly and the Security Council, where some members of the General Assembly feel that their voice is not being heard or is being downplayed by the permanent members of the Security Council – China, Russia, United States, United Kingdom, and France. [Times of India; Guardian] Additionally, with Judge Bhandari remaining on the Court, there will be four judges from Asia on the Court, one more than prior to the elections, and one fewer judge representing the western European and other States on the Court. [EJIL: Talk!] See ICJ, All Members. Read more

Extraordinary African Chambers: Hybrid Court to Try Former Chad Dictator Hissène Habré

Hissene Habre
Author: Rama

The Extraordinary African Chambers, a special criminal court, opened on February 8, 2013 in the West African nation of Senegal to prepare a case against former Chadian president Hissène Habré. [NY Times]  Habré has been accused of responsibility for the deaths of more than 40,000 people and the torture of more than 20,000 during his eight-year rule of Chad, from 1982 to 1990.

Habré has yet to be indicted by the Extraordinary African Chambers. However, his prosecution has been sought in connection with the serious human rights abuses committed by his government, which included politically- and ethnically-motivated extrajudicial killings and torture. [HRDAG]  In particular, analysts have concluded that Habré was, at minimum, aware that Read more

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