In Lebanon contempt cases, absence does not make the court grow fonder

04 May 2015 by Karina Hof, Leidschendam (The Netherlands)

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) last month began hearing one of two contempt cases. Each charges a Lebanese media company [IJT-167] and a senior journalist with having “knowingly and wilfully interfered with the administration of justice” by publicizing information about purported confidential witnesses in the main Ayyash et al. case.

Karma Khayat flanked by defence lawyers at the opening hearing of her contempt trial
Image caption: 
Al Jadeed journalist Karma Khayat flanked by defence lawyers at the opening hearing of her contempt trial (Photo: Flickr/STLebanon)

Compared to the court’s core business – a groundbreaking international terrorism trial that seeks to uncover who a decade ago killed Lebanese ex-premier Rafik Hariri – the contempt cases have short temporal scopes and foreseeably finite trial durations. And unlike the leading litigation against five members of Hezbollah who are all still at large, the contempt cases have locatable defendants who have vociferously pleaded not guilty.

But even if less legally complex, these side suits have aroused more scepticism, and downright anger, within a sectarian society long split in its opinions on the UN-established tribunal. The rallying cry is that the STL is muzzling Lebanon’s press freedom. A Facebook page self-described as an activist-launched campaign in support of the two media organizations facing “smear accusations” at the tribunal has 16,000 likes. Its cover image shows a mouth taped shut by the court’s emblem.

The contempt proceedings, moreover, dramatize what many agree is the thorniest challenge to the STL’s work: trial in absentia [IJT-139].

A first “face-to-face”

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

article
21 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

Being the ICC's Chief Prosecutor is a delicate and politically sensitivejob.ForLuisMorenoOcampo it has been "the best job in the world." Fatou Bensouda will be taking over his office in June. She inhe

article
07 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

December 7, 2011 Ivory Coast is the latest playgroundoftheInternationalCriminal Court. This week the courtroom in The Hague became its theatre of justice. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo proudly p

article
07 December 2011 by Richard Walker

Four Congolese witnesses testifying at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, find themselves caught in a legal wrangle, which could at once set a legal precedent and make them the last

article
07 December 2011 by Lindy Janssen

Brazil is booming. The economy is expanding and the country is getting ready to host the Football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. But the Latin American giant has not even begun dealing wi

article
07 December 2011 by Radosa Milutinovic

The primary purpose of the retrial of Ramush Haradinaj, as proclaimed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in its appeal judgement in July, should have been to hear testimonies of two "key" witnesses who proved unwilling to testify in the original trial in 2007. Almost four months into the retrial which started in mid-August, its stated aim has not yet been achieved.