Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Newest tribunal on the international block

Among the anniversaries just marked was that of the February 14, 2005, assassination of Rafiq Hariri, former Prime Minister of Lebanon (flag at right). Hariri died in Beirut, along with more than a dozen others, when a bomb exploded near his motorcade. Suspicions that some other state -- Syria, for example -- might be behind the incident made the incident a political hot potato. After much wrangling, last May the U.N. Security Council , by Resolution 1757 (2007), established the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. It joined a host of other ad hoc tribunals charged with adjudicating crimes in places like Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia. (A Burundi tribunal also appears to be forthcoming.)
Thus it was fitting that members of ASIL-West, the regional pilot project of the American Society of International Law, met in San Francisco last week to hear about the new Lebanon Tribunal from the State Department's Assistant Legal Adviser for African and Near Eastern Affairs, Linda Jacobson. That session prompts this review of the progress of that Tribunal in these months since the Security Council's action last spring.
The jurisdiction of the Tribunal has the potential to encompass a number of incidents. Article 1 of its Statute refers not only to "the attack of 14 February 2005, but also to "other attacks that occurred in Lebanon between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005, or any later date decided by the Parties and with the consent of the Security Council, are connected" to the 1st attack. "Connection" is defined broadly, to include linkage by "criminal intent (motive), the purpose behind the attacks, the nature of the victims targeted, the pattern of the attacks (modus operandi) and the perpetrators."
Unlike in other hybrid tribunals, in Article 2 the applicable law is not international but rather, exclusively, national law:
► provisions of the Lebanese Criminal Code relating to the prosecution and punishment of acts of terrorism, crimes and offences against life and personal integrity, illicit associations and failure to report crimes and offences, including the rules regarding the maerial elements of a crime, criminal participation and conspiracy; and ...
► ... Lebanese law ... on 'Increasing the penalties for sedition, civil war and interfaith struggle.

Like many hybrid tribunals, this one will be situated at The Hague. And as in other hybrids, in this Tribunal positions will be divided between Lebanese and "internationals," both appointed by the U.N. Secretary-General from selection lists provided by states. To date a Chief Prosecutor's been named -- Daniel Bellemare of Canada, a founder and vice president of the International Association of Prosecutors. Bellemare's also serving as Commissioner of the U.N. International Independent Investigation Commission that's setting up the Tribunal. Judges too have been appointed, according to a a recent Los Angeles Times editorial.
But that same editorial reports that Syria (flag at right) is trying to thwart full implementation of the Tribunal. Last Thursday's anniversary thus was marked not by the gaveling to order of a new Tribunal, but rather by promises, from U.S. officials like President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as well as the U.N. Secretary-General's office, to keep on pushing toward that end.

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