Friday, February 03, 2012

Lebanon: UN-backed tribunal to try four men accused of Hariri killing in absentia

UN - The United Nations-backed independent tribunal set up to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri announced today that it will try four men accused of carrying out the crime in absentia.

In a statement the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) said its trial chamber had taken the step after examining documents from the STL prosecutor and from Lebanese prosecutors which outline the efforts of Lebanese authorities to apprehend the accused and inform them about the proceedings.

Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra, all Lebanese nationals, have been indicted over the massive car bombing in central Beirut that killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others on 14 February 2005.

The indictment charges all four men with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act. Mr. Ayyash and Mr. Badreddine are also charged with committing a terrorist act by means of an explosive device, intentional homicide with premeditation, and attempted intentional homicide.

Mr. Oneissi and Mr. Sabra also face charges of being accomplices in the crimes. All charges in the indictment are crimes under Lebanese criminal law.

In its statement today the STL noted the multiple attempts by Lebanese authorities to find the accused men at their last known residences, places of employment and other locations.

The court said the trial chamber had also considered “the fact that the indictment and the identities of the accused received massive publicity in Lebanon.”

The trial chamber therefore concluded that all reasonable efforts had been taken to ensure that the accused appeared in court and were notified of the charges they face.

The STL underlined that prosecuting accused persons in their absence was “a measure of last resort to ensure that the pursuit of justice is not paralyzed by those who choose to abscond.”

Today’s statement did not say when the trial will begin, and noted that several necessary steps must occur before the trial can start.

Those steps include the assignment of counsel to the accused, the disclosure by prosecutors to defence lawyers of any supporting materials for the indictment, and allowing defence lawyers to interview witnesses, visit crime scenes, collect evidence and pursue other inquiries as part of their case.

The tribunal is an independent court created at the request of the Lebanese Government, with a mandate issued by the Security Council. It is based in The Hague in the Netherlands.