Lebanon tribunal says it hopes to start proceedings soon

4th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The tribunal set up to try the killers of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri said Friday it hoped to start "at least pre-trial and some trial proceedings" this year, its third in operation.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon "should endeavour to complete the submission of indictments" in its third year, starting March 1, STL president Antonio Cassese wrote in an annual report.

"The end of investigations with a view to submitting indictments by February 29, 2012, would allow us to begin with maximum alacrity, already in this third year, at least pre-trial and some trial proceedings."

This would enable the tribunal to complete its core mandate within a total of six years, Cassese said.

The STL, the first international court with jurisdiction over the crime of terrorism, opened its doors in Leidschendam, near The Hague, on March 1, 2009.

It was created at Lebanon's request by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution to find and try those behind the massive car bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others on the Beirut seafront six years ago.

Its first indictment, filed by prosecutor Daniel Bellemare on January 17, is widely speculated to name the Hezbollah militant group. The indictment must be confirmed by a pre-trial judge before any arrest warrants can be issued.

"This is a considerable task, requiring a small team to carefully study the indictment and thousands of pages of supporting material," Cassese said.

"The review of the indictment may take a little longer than we had originally hoped, but the pre-trial judge and his staff are working as expeditiously as possible."

Cassese said the office of the prosecutor had made achievements "in spite of the hostile rhetoric against the tribunal which escalated into clear intimidation and physical violence during the reporting period."

The office of the prosecutor has conducted 150 missions and 430 interviews and set 750 request for assistance to Lebanon's prosecutor general.

© 2011 AFP

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