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Antonio Cassese elected president of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

According to a press release of the UN, Antonio Cassese, the former (and first) president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has been elected president of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). Pursuant to Art. 8(2) of the Statute of the STL (annexed to UN Security Council resolution 1757) this makes judge Cassese the presiding judge of the Appeals Chamber.

The composition of the three different chambers of the tribunal (pre-trial, trial and appeal) is as follows: (I) one international pre-trial judge; (II) three judges shall serve in the trial chamber, of whom one shall be a Lebanese judge and two shall be international judges; (III) five judges who shall serve in the appeals chamber, of whom two shall be Lebanese judges and three shall be international judges; (IV) two alternate judges, one of whom shall be a Lebanese judge and one shall be an international judge.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon (apparently in consultation with Judge Cassese) appointed François Roux of France as the head of the defence office. Daniel Bellemare, a Canadian prosecutor and former head of the commission investigating the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, assumed his office earlier this month as prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

A website for the Tribunal is available here. It already contains some information on the Tribunal, including a Directive on the Assignment of Defence CounselRules of DetentionRules of Procedure and Evidence, a Statement from the President, and a press release of the office of the prosecutor.

According to the statement from the President, the “Rules of Procedure and Evidence are the cornerstone of the proceedings before the STL”. It is especially highlighted that they “take into account the unique features of the crimes of terrorism falling under its jurisdiction” but are at the same time “based on the highest fair trial standards and the Lebanese Code of Criminal Procedure.” The latter sentence already pinpoints to the nature of this tribunal. Much similar to e.g. the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone the STL is a so-called “hybrid” court, meaning that it has both international and national features (cf. e.g. the composition of the chambers mentioned above). The aim to establish such a court, rather than a purely international court (or referring the situation to an existing court such as the International Criminal Court) was made clear by the UN Security Council in its resolution 1664 where it was requested that the Secretary General negotiate an agreement with the Lebanese government on the establishment of a “tribunal of an international character based on the highest international standards of criminal justice”. However, even if the various adjudicatory bodies usually being subsumed under the category of “hybrid courts” are very different from each other, there is one significant detail that makes the STL stand out in particular (and this may also be the underlying reason why the situation was not instead referred to the ICC): pursuant to Art. 2 Statute of the STL the applicable substantive law will be Lebanese criminal law. In other words, the STL is an organ that merely helps the national courts with applying Lebanese criminal law. It may thus be assumed that the creation of this tribunal is not based on any possible deficiency of the applicable municipal criminal law or even the potential inadequacy of the judicative structure of a sovereign State. Instead I would argue that the main explanation for the creation of the tribunal lies in its symbolism. A (hybrid) international court is well suited to guarantee the independence, impartiality and objectivity that could prove crucial to the political stability and atmosphere in the affected country. Of course it must also be taken into account that the crimes that the STL is supposed to judge are of a far smaller magnitude than those committed in e.g. Sierra Leone, East Timor or Cambodia. Hence the desire to institute criminal proceedings in the interest of the international community is far more limited.

The rules of procedure and evidence are to a large extent based on the experiences from other international criminal courts and tribunals. According to judge Cassese there are, however, certain novelties such as the enhanced role of the pre-trial judge, a strengthened set of rights for the defence, the broad participation of victims in the proceedings, a set of measures regarding alternatives to detention for an accused and, the protection of national security interests. For an overview over these particularities, please read the full statement from the President.

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