The newly-appointed President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Judge Sir David Baragwanath stated that the STL does not have jurisdiction in tackling the “so-called false witnesses file.”
He said in his first public statements since assuming his position: “We don’t have jurisdiction to tackle the false witnesses file until the Lebanese government, U.N., and Security Council agree to it.”
He made his statements in a series of videos posted on the tribunal website.
Baragwanath defined “witness as someone who says something before a court or a tribunal” or “someone who saw something and is able to talk about that.”
Regarding the case of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, it seems that the word witness is referring to “people who supposedly saw or knew about something gave to the International Independent Investigation Commission an account that was untrue that led to the arrest and detention of four generals,” he explained.
Jamil Sayyed, Mustafa Hamdan, Ali al-Hajj, and Raymond Azar were held by Lebanese authorities for nearly four years without charge over Hariri’s assassination.
They were released in April 2009 following a ruling from the STL.
In the ruling, the tribunal's first since opening its doors, Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen granted a request by Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare who said the available evidence was "not sufficiently credible" to hold the generals.
On whether the STL can try political assassinations in Lebanon that occurred after 2005, Baragwanath replied: “Our primary jurisdiction is to deal with the assassination that occurred on February 14, 2005, which was a major event by which our other jurisdiction is assessed.”
“We have a further jurisdiction in relation to the periods between October1, 2004 and December 12, 2005. And, if crimes during that period are connected, in accordance with the principles of criminal justice, and are of a nature and gravity similar to the attack of February 14, 2005, we have jurisdiction over them,” he explained.
So far three cases have been found to be connected to Hariri’s February 2005 assassination; they include the attempted assassination of former ministers Marwan Hamadeh and Elias al-Murr and the assassination of former Communist Party leader George Hawi.
The STL can tackle the crimes that have taken place after December 12, 2005 if an agreement between the Lebanese government, U.N., and Security Council to do so is reached, revealed Baragwanath.
Asked about how the STL can contribute to the rule of law in Lebanon, the tribunal president responded: “Contributing to the rule of law in Lebanon is the very reason that the STL was established.”
“Our primary task is, of course, to deal justly with the cases that are before us,” he said.
“We hope to contribute to the rule of law in Lebanon by both objectively being able to deal with these cases properly and being seen to do so,” he continued.
“And when the people in Lebanon see that happening, in relation to cases from their country applying their law, that will we hope be such contribution,” he stressed.
Baragwanath hoped that the tribunal would ultimately help end impunity in Lebanon.
He concluded: “Our existence is a temporary one; we look forward to doing ourselves out of a job.”
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