STL Gives Details of in Absentia Trials, Rights of Accused

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon Trial Chamber will make a decision in due course on whether in absentia proceedings should begin in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri’s Feb. 2005 assassination case, the STL said on Friday.

The Trial Chamber’s decision would be based on the oral submissions at a hearing held on Friday, the written submissions that were filed by the Prosecution and Defense Office earlier this month and the filings from the Pre Trial judge.

“A trial in absentia is a trial that takes place without the accused being present or in the custody of the tribunal,” the STL said.

Stressing that in absentia trials haven’t happened in other contemporary international courts, the tribunal said: “The rationale is clear. Justice must not be stopped by an accused or a state which refuses to hand an accused over.”

The STL can conduct proceedings in the absence of the accused if they have waived their right to be present at trial, if they have not been handed over to the tribunal and if they have escaped or cannot be found.

“If the accused are being tried in absentia, all of the rules to ensure a fair trial will still apply,” the STL said.

The accused have the right to designate a defense counsel of their own choosing. “The legal fees will be paid for by the accused or by the STL if the accused is found to have insufficient funds,” it added.

The court stressed that if the accused appear after an in absentia conviction, once the trial is completely finalized, the accused can accept the conviction or sentence, request a retrial and accept the conviction but request a new hearing in respect of the sentence.

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