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Home  >  Resources  >  Tribunals  >  Hybrid tribunals  >  Special Court for Lebanon
Last modified on: 19.03.2014

Introduction

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was created on 30th May 2007 by resolution 1757 of the United Nations Security Council that mandated the Secretary General for taking all the necessary measures for the establishment of the Special Tribunal.

On 13 December 2005, Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, asked to Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the creation of a tribunal with an international character to try those charged with the terrorist attacks perpetrated in Lebanon since 1 October 2004, and especially the massive car bombing perpetrated in Beirut on 14 February 2005 which killed twenty-one people, including the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Once the nature and the scope of the international assistance needed by the Lebanese government identified, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution, on 29th march 2006, creating an International Tribunal. It requested Secretary-General Kofi Annan to negotiate an agreement with the Lebanese Government «aimed at establishing a tribunal of an international character based on the highest international standards of criminal justice» (Resolution 1664).

On 15 November 2006, Kofi Annan presented his report on the establishment of an international tribunal to try the suspected killers of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to the Security Council.

On 21 November 2006, the Security Council approved the agreement reached by the UN Secretary General with the Lebanese Government on the Tribunal’s form and structure and gave its go-ahead to its setting up.

On 6 February 2007, the United Nations and Lebanon signed an agreement establishing a Special Tribunal.

After almost a four-month deadlock period during which no agreement was found within the Lebanon’s parliamentary forces to vote the agreement signed on 6 February 2007 between Lebanon and the UN, western countries decided to impose the creation of the Tribunal which had been in discussion for a year and a half. Thus, on 30 May 2007, the UN Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter, adopted resolution 1757 authorizing the creation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, by a vote of 10 in favour to none against, with 5 abstentions, including China and Russia. This legally binding resolution provided for the automatic entry into force on 10th June 2007 of the Convention signed the year before between the UN and Lebanon and creating this «Special Tribunal», unless Lebanese factions agreed to ratify it before that date. Indeed, after a four month political crisis and the international community’s willingness to remedy to this instability climate in Lebanon, the Security Council overrode the opposition of a large part of the Lebanon community and thus imposed the establishment of the Special Tribunal.

The tribunal opened on 1 March 2009 in The Hague, the Netherlands. One of the first acts of the STL was to order the release of four Lebanese generals who had been detained by the Lebanese authorities in connection with the Hariri investigation. This decision was made after the STL's pre-trial judge ruled that on the basis of the information available to the tribunal there was no cause to hold them.

In 2011, the Pre-Trial Judge confirmed the indictment in the Ayyash et al. case. He thus indicated that he was satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to bring the accused to trial. The indictment charges the four following accused persons for their individual criminal responsibility in the attack against Rafiq Hariri: Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra.

On 8 July 2011, international warrants have been delivered. The question is now to determine whether the conditions to open the trial in absentia are met

Historical Benchmarks

In the framework of the Middle East peace process, the United Nations Envoy appointed to support the implementation of the Security Council resolution 1559 (2004) seeking the withdrawal of all remaining foreign troops from Lebanon declared he was extremely encouraged by the behaviour of both Lebanese and Syrian governments. Indeed, they demonstrated a clear commitment towards cooperation, and indicated their readiness to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and to work actively on the deployment of the Syrian troops without however providing a clear schedule for such action.

Notwithstanding these positive signs, on 14th February 2005 former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was murdered. The bomb attack, which occurred in the city center of Beirut, took aim at Hariri’s convoy. A score of twenty others also died in this bombing.

Facing an exquisite reaction from the international community, the Security Council voted the resolution 1595 (7 April 2005), setting up an International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) into this assassination.

Since, a score of fifteen other bombing took aim at Lebanese figures opposed to Syria, like ministers, deputies, journalist…

The first report of the international investigation Commission, headed by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, presented on 20th October 2005, concluded that “there was converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri” and that the terror attack had been carried out by a group with an extensive organization and considerable resources.

In his second report presented to the Security Council on 12th December 2005, Detlev Mehlis stated that if Syria made efforts to improve its cooperation with the investigation Commission, authorizing the questioning of five Syrian officials suspected to be involved in Hariri assassination, it should do more to remove all doubt as to its will to reveal the truth.

In its resolution 1644 adopted on 15th December 2005, the Security Council extended the mandate of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) and authorized it to provide technical assistance to Lebanese authorities to investigate into other terrorist attacks in Lebanon since the 1st October 2004.

After Detlev Mehlis resigned, Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Serge Brammertz, a former Belgian prosecutor and Deputy Prosecutor with the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2003, as the new head of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC). Despite the destructive conflict between Israel and the Hizbollah during the 2006 summer in Lebanon, Serge Brammertz submitted on 25th September 2006 his third report to the Security Council which confirmed the theory of a suicide bombing to assassinate former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. After the presentation of his sixth report to the Security Council, he underlined the fact that the inquiry only made sense if it leads to a judicial process and that it is committed to a Special Tribunal.

That is how, pursuant to resolution 1757 adopted by the Security Council on 30th May 2007, the “legally binding” provisions of the agreement reached between the UN and Lebanon on the setting up of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon and its statute entered into force on 10th June 2007, even if the Lebanese Parliament did not ratified them.

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