Special Tribunal for Lebanon on the back burner

14 October 2009 by Lynn Maalouf

Six months after the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) opened its doors, a drastically changed political and security environment in Lebanon, coupled with trim concrete output from The Hague, are driving even some of the tribunal’s staunchest advocates to adopt an increasingly cautious stance towards the court. This is visible in both dampened expectations and increasing questions as to whether the very mechanism will prove to be the best model for trying a crime of terrorism.

The STL’s primary mandate is to prosecute those responsible for an attack in Beirut on February 14th 2005 that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others. The court’s mandate also covers other attacks between October 2004 and December 2005 that are found to be connected by method and motive to the 2005 assassination.

The STL came into force on June 10th, 2007 when the United Nations Security Council decided to enact what was a negotiated agreement between the Lebanese government and the UN. A severe political crisis in Lebanon, however, blocked the agreement’s ratification process and led the Council to go ahead with establishing the Tribunal.

Lessons learned
The latest in a series of hybrid model tribunals, the STL is composed of international and Lebanese judges. But it differs in many substantial ways from its predecessors: besides the fact that it will be hearing a limited number of cases (possibly only one), it will also be the first to address crimes of terrorism, and the first where subject-matter jurisdiction will apply domestic law exclusively.

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