STL Prosecutors: Trial in Absentia should be Last Resort, Not 1st Choiceإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Prosecutors at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon asked the court on Friday to summon Lebanese officials to The Hague to hear from them about their powers in the implementation of arrest warrants against four Hizbullah suspects in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri’s assassination.
During a hearing held at the STL headquarters, Prosecution trial lawyer Iain Morley told three judges and two alternate judges, that “there is an opportunity to assist Lebanese authorities to hearing from them as to what their powers are.”
“Your honors are invited to hear from them,” the lawyer said when he was inquired about a report by Lebanese General Prosecutor Saeed Mirza on the failure of Lebanese authorities to arrest the four Hizbullah members in accordance with an indictment and arrest warrants issued by the STL.
Mirza has said in his report that security forces had delivered arrest warrants to the last known addresses of Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra. But those efforts were deemed “not sufficient” by the STL president.
“It is not for the prosecution to speak on behalf of the Lebanese authorities on this issue,” Morley told the court.
Informed sources told Naharnet on Wednesday that STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare has hinted in a document he delivered to the tribunal about his intention to summon Lebanese officials and maybe party members to the court to question them on whether they are incapable of arresting the four suspects or they are refusing to do so.
Morley’s comments at the court seemed to be a confirmation of such intention.
The prosecution’s representative also asked judges on Friday for more time before starting with in absentia proceedings.
“If there are investigative steps, they should be given more time because we are dealing with four accused,” said Morley.
He noted that the four suspects are of different seniority within the group that perpetrated the attack. So, “it is possible that we would find one of them and somebody is going to get arrested.”
The STL sent arrest warrants for Ayyash, Badreddine, Oneissi and Sabra to Lebanese authorities on June 30, and Interpol issued a "red notice" in July, but so far Beirut has failed to arrest them.
“Just a little bit more time may have done the trick,” Morley told three judges and two alternate judges.
"A trial in absentia should be a last resort and not a first choice," Morley said.
He added that Lebanese authorities should explain to the court's judges "why there are no further reasonable steps which can be taken to locate and effect the arrests."
A five-month period is a very short timeframe to reach a definitive conclusion, Morley said.
He praised Lebanese authorities for "diligently and dutifully" trying to serve the arrest warrants, but he said that was "not the same thing necessarily as locating and arresting" the four Hizbullah members.
The tribunal said on Friday that the Trial Chamber will make a decision on in absentia trials in due course based on the oral submissions at the hearing, the written submissions that were filed by the Prosecution and Defense Office on November 2 and the filings from the Pre Trial judge.
11 November 2011, 13:52
Head of the Defense Office Francois Roux: We should present a fair trial, for the suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty.
11 November 2011, 13:35
Morley: There is an opportunity to assist Lebanese authorities to hearing from them as to what their powers are. Your honors are invited to hear from them.
11 November 2011, 13:34
Morley: The additional info that Lebanese authorities can provide is what is the reasonable step and what is not in the context of the reality in Lebanon. And to clarify what power the prosecutor general has.
11 November 2011, 13:33
Roth to Morley: Do you believe that the chamber would need additional info from Lebanese authorities about the application of the code of criminal procedure?
11 November 2011, 13:25
Prosecution trial lawyer Iain Morley: It’s not for the prosecution to speak for the Lebanese prosecutor general’s meaning on “the delicate security situation in Lebanon.”
11 November 2011, 12:37
STL trial chamber president Judge Robert Roth turned the hearing confidential and ordered the media and the victims’ representatives to leave the court hall.
11 November 2011, 12:28
The prosecution in response to the Trial chamber judge Judge David Re: We are asking for a pursuit of more investigative measures and see if they give fruit or not.
11 November 2011, 12:24
The prosecution: If there are investigative steps, they should be given more time because we are dealing with 4 accused. They are of different seniority within the group that perpetrated the attack. It is possible that we would find one of them and somebody is going to get arrested. Just a little bit more time may have done the trick. It is reasonable to ask for more time.
11 November 2011, 12:21
The prosecution: The arrest warrants were issued in June and just 5 months later we are saying all efforts were exhausted. But this is a very short timeframe to reach a definitive conclusion.
11 November 2011, 12:19
The prosecution: As far as I know the Lebanese prosecutor general works on behalf of Lebanese authorities.
11 November 2011, 12:18
Trial chamber alternate judge - Judge Walid Akoum asked the prosecution who he meant by Lebanese authorities. The prosecutor general?
11 November 2011, 12:06
The prosecution: We are still in the phase that we should actively look for the accused so pinning notices is premature. Is the prosecutor general in the business of pinning a notice or does he have the power of arresting the defendants? We think he does. According to Lebanese law, he has the full power to locate and arrest.
11 November 2011, 12:06
The prosecution: The pre-trial judge gave the instruction to Mirza to locate and arrest but there is a new sea of legal circumstances. So the 1st point is that Mirza has the power to investigate, locate and arrest.
11 November 2011, 12:04
The prosecution: There is a procedure for effective serve of the indictment and that procedure involves among other things for example pinning copies of an indictment on the door of last known addresses. Pinning notices all goes towards the business of serve noting that you are wanted and is not the same as locating and arresting.
11 November 2011, 12:03
The prosecution: The arrest warrants which were issued on June 28 said explicitly that the Lebanese authorities by the pre-trial judge were ordered to locate and arrest the named accused. It is an essential feature of the prosecutor’s understanding is that Lebanese authorities had diligently set about effective service of the warrants which is not the same as necessarily locating and arresting the defendants.
11 November 2011, 11:50
The prosecution: There is a suggestion that there are difficulties which make affecting the location and the arrest of the accused problematic.
11 November 2011, 11:50
The prosecution: There are a number of documents which have been provided by Mirza that the assistance of the prosecutor general has been unwavering, consistent that Bellemare and STL greatly appreciate for the efforts made to arrest the accused.
11 November 2011, 11:47
The prosecution: We ask the pre-trial chamber to postpone the in absentia trials to pave way for further investigations.
11 November 2011, 11:46
Trial chamber president Judge Robert Roth: The chamber refuses to wave confidentiality and the defense office is obliged not to mention any information in the report.
11 November 2011, 11:42
The hearing restarted.
11 November 2011, 11:26
The court took a break.
11 November 2011, 11:25
Head of the Defense Office Francois Roux: Has the OTP contacted Mirza and asked him whether he wants to keep the report confidential? The hearing has been planned for two weeks. So the OTP should have checked whether Mirza wanted the report to remain confidential or not.
11 November 2011, 11:15
Representative of the prosecutor’s office: The Lebanese authorities are not present to give their opinion about the response of Mirza. We hesitate to talk on behalf of Mirza that’s why this part should remain confidential.
11 November 2011, 11:10
Representative of the prosecutor’s office: We believe that the documents on the probe into Hariri’s murder should remain confidential. It’s is our responsibility that they don’t make public because they will be known widely and can’t be effective.
11 November 2011, 11:10
Representative of the prosecutor’s office: There are several documents and warrants that could be considered confidential.