Special Tribunal for Lebanon Confronts a Challenge to Its Legitimacy
POST WRITTEN BY: Prof. Peter Widulski, Assistant Director of the First Year Legal Skills Program and the Coach of International Criminal Moot Court Team at Pace Law School
On Thursday, May 29, 2014, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) held a hearing on charges that it had issued on April 24, 2014, against two Lebanese journalists and two media organizations for contempt and obstruction of justice. The charges alleged that the journalists contravened the Tribunal’s order by publishing the names of witnesses who might appear for the Prosecution in the major criminal case before it. As reported earlier this year, the STL has indicted five members of Hezbollah for responsibility in connection with a February 14, 2005 bomb attack that killed Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and about twenty other victims.
According to the Daily Star of Lebanon, Ibrahim al-Amin, editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar, one of the journalists charged with contempt, appeared at the May 29 hearing via video-link from a remote room from which he walked out after vehemently denouncing the contempt proceeding as politically biased and illegitimate.
In his prepared statement to the Tribunal, Amin, referring to the fact that the STL was set up by the U.N. Security Council in cooperation with the Lebanese Government, said, “I do not accept the legitimacy of this court which was invented by the Security Council, which has never guaranteed global security.” He added that “[w]e all know that local, regional and international powers which stand behind the creation of the tribunal are the same that instigate enduring wars in my country, against my people, and against its heroic resistance that is standing up to American, European and Israeli terrorism.”
The contempt proceeding has added to the troubling factional political controversies confronted by the STL. The outcome will have significant implications for the effectiveness and credibility of an international criminal tribunal – especially one that seeks to pursue a mandate issued by the Security Council.