Hariri ex-tribunal president dies

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The former president of the court set up to try former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri's killers, Antonio Cassese, has died of cancer days after stepping down, the tribunal said Saturday.

"He passed away peacefully at home in Florence last night," a statement on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) said.

Bornin in 1937, the Italian Cassese announced his resignation as head of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on October 9 for medical reasons and was replaced by David Baragwanath of New Zealand.

Saturday's statement carried on the tribunal website described Cassese as "one of the most distinguished figures in international justice".

It noted he was the first president of both the STL and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

"Throughout his career Judge Cassese worked to curtail extrajudicial killings, as well as to assert individual responsibility for international crimes in domestic and international jurisdictions," the STL said.

"The tragedy of Nino's departure is beyond words," Saturday's statement quoted Baragwanath as saying.

"For members of the Tribunal he was the Maestro, whose towering ability as a jurist and a statesman was equaled by the immense personal warmth and humanity which made him our dear friend."

Baragwanath said Cassese "created and was the preeminent figure in modern international criminal law.

"His family extended across the globe to wherever there was injustice. His vision, intellect, dynamism and courage changed attitudes, institutions and lives."

The Netherlands-based tribunal, the only international court with jurisdiction to try acts of terror, was created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution, at Lebanon's request, to try those responsible for Hariri's assassination in a suicide car bombing on February 14, 2005.

Twenty-two other people also died.

In August, the court published a full indictment and said it had enough evidence to put four members of Lebanon's influential Hezbollah movement on trial.

Court Registrar Herman von Hebel has said a trial could start around mid-2012, but no arrests have been made as the Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah has ruled out handing over the suspects and Lebanon says they cannot be found.

The court will hold a hearing on November 11 to debate whether to try the accused in absentia.

© 2011 AFP

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