Special Tribunal for Lebanon rules on terrorism and hopes to begin pre-trial proceedings this year. 05 Mar 2011
The STL issues a landmark ruling on the definition of the crime of terrorism and President Antoine Cassese presents the Tribunal's Annual Report.

On 30 May 2007, the UN Security Council established the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to investigate the murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others on 14 February 2005, and to prosecute the perpetrators. The Tribunal was created by Security Council resolution 1757 (2007) and officially opened in Leidschendam, near The Hague, on 1 March 2009.

The first indictment by the Tribunal was filed on 17 January 2011 and believed to name the Hezbollah militant group. This indictment must be confirmed by a pre-trial judge before the issuing of any arrest warrants. In January this process was estimated to take 10 weeks, but given the complexity of the case and the amount of evidence to be examined, it could be longer.

On 16 February 2011 the Tribunal’s Appeal Chamber took the first step towards arriving at a single definition of the crime of terrorism as part a 152-page ruling on the applicable law for future trials. The Prosecutor, Daniel Fransen, had submitted 15 legal questions for clarification by the appeals chamber in relation to his 17 January indictment filing. Mr Fransen asked the judges to decide how the crimes of terrorism, conspiracy and premeditated murder should be defined and in accordance with which law - Lebanese or international, or a combination of the two.

The Tribunal’s legal basis is the Lebanese Criminal Code and the Lebanese substantive law already defines the crime of terrorism as acts which are intended to cause a state of alarm and are committed by means such as explosive devices, liable to pose a public threat. However Judge Antonio Cassese said that the Tribunal should use a "more extensive" definition. The appeal judges therefore agreed to use this definition of terrorism but also to give consideration to international interpretations of the 'means' of an attack - whether the weapons used were intended to endanger members of the public.

The Tribunal’s second Annual Report was published on 4 March 2011 and states that the Tribunal hopes to start "at least pre-trial and some trial proceedings" during this, its third year, and to complete the submission of indictments by the end of February 2012. This would allow the tribunal to complete its mandate within six years.

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