Factsheet: Special Tribunal for Lebanon

On 13 December 2005, the Government of the Lebanese Republic requested the United Nations to establish a tribunal of an international character to try all those who are alleged responsible for the attack of 14 February 2005 in Beirut that killed the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others. Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1664 (2006), the United Nations and the Lebanese Republic negotiated an agreement on the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Further to Security Council resolution 1757(2007) of 30 May 2007, the provisions of the document annexed to it and the Statute of the Special Tribunal thereto attached, entered into force on 10 June 2007.

The mandate of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is to prosecute persons responsible for the attack of 14 February 2005 resulting in the death of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and in the death or injury of other persons. The Tribunal’s jurisdiction could be extended beyond the 14 February 2005 bombing if the Tribunal finds that other attacks that occurred in Lebanon between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005 are connected in accordance with the principles of criminal justice and are of a nature and gravity similar to the attack of 14 February 2005. This connection includes but is not limited to a combination of the following elements: criminal intent (motive), the purpose behind the attacks, the nature of the victims targeted, the pattern of the attacks (modus operandi), and the perpetrators. Crimes that occurred after 12 December 2005 can be eligible to be included in the Tribunal’s jurisdiction under the same criteria if it is so decided by the Government of the Lebanese Republic and the United Nations and with the consent of the Security Council.

Back to Top

Main Features

Applicable Law:

The applicable law for the Special Tribunal is national in character, as the Statute stipulates that the Special Tribunal shall apply provisions of the Lebanese Criminal Code relating to the prosecution and punishment of acts of terrorism and crimes and offences against life and personal integrity, among others.

Exclusion of Death Penalty and Forced Labor:

Lebanese criminal law will be applied by the Tribunal subject to the exclusion of penalties such as death penalty and forced labor, which are otherwise applicable under the Lebanese law. The Special Tribunal has the power to impose penalties leading up to and including life imprisonment. Sentences will be served in a State designated by the President of the Special Tribunal from a list of States that would have expressed their willingness to accept persons convicted by the Tribunal.

International Character:

The international character of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was explicitly stipulated in the request submitted by the Government of Lebanon to the Secretary-General of the United Nations to establish a Tribunal to try all those responsible for the attack of 14 February 2005. It was also explicitly set out in the mandate provided to the Secretary-General by the Security Council in resolution 1664 (2006) to negotiate an agreement with the Lebanese Government aimed at establishing a tribunal of an international character. The UN and the Lebanese Government agreed that the Tribunal would have a mixed composition with the participation of Lebanese and international judges, as well as an international Prosecutor. The Tribunal’s standards of justice, including principles of due process of law, will be based on the highest international standards of criminal justice as applied in other international tribunals.

Independence-Fairness-Efficiency:

To ensure the independence of the Special Tribunal, its Statute includes various safeguards. It provides for a transparent and thorough process for the appointment of the Tribunal’s officials, in particular the judges and the Prosecutor, and it stipulates that the Chambers shall be composed of Lebanese judges as well as international judges. The establishment of the Special Tribunal with a majority of international judges, an international Prosecutor, and a Registrar is aimed at ensuring the independence, objectivity and impartially of the trial process. In addition, and in fairness to the accused, the Statute includes provisions on protection of the rights of the accused, including the establishment of a Defense Office that carries out its functions independently. The Statute also includes provisions on the rights of the victims to present their views and concerns as deemed appropriate by the Tribunal. Furthermore, and in order to ensure the efficiency of the Tribunal, the Statute includes provisions on enhanced powers of the Tribunal to take measures to ensure expeditious hearing and prevent any action that may cause unreasonable delay. For considerations of justice and fairness, as well as security and administrative efficiency, the seat of the Special Tribunal will be located outside Lebanon, in the urban area of The Hague (Netherlands).

Combined Funding Mechanism:

Fifty-one per cent of the costs of the Special Tribunal are borne by voluntary contributions from States, while the Government of the Lebanese Republic finances forty-nine per cent of the costs.

Commencement of Operation:

The Tribunal will commence functioning on a date to be determined by the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Government of Lebanon, taking into account the progress of the work of the Investigation Commission. The Secretary-General would also wish to have sufficient contributions in hand to finance the establishment of the Tribunal and 12 months of its operations, plus pledges equal to the anticipated expenses of the following 24 months of the Tribunal’s operation.

Back to Top

Organization of the Special Tribunal

The Special Tribunal will consist of four organs: the Chambers, the Prosecutor, the Registry and the Defense Office.

The Chambers:

The Chambers are composed of one international Pre-Trial Judge, a Trial Chamber (three judges: one Lebanese and two international), an Appeals Chamber (five judges: two Lebanese and three international), and two alternate judges (one Lebanese and one international). A single international judge serves as a Pre-Trial Judge. The Pre-Trial Judge reviews and confirms indictments and may also issue arrest warrants, transfer requests, and any other orders required for the conduct of the investigation and for the preparation of a fair and expeditious trial. All judges must be persons of high moral character, impartiality and integrity, with extensive judicial experience. The Secretary-General appoints the judges in consultation with the Lebanese Government and upon the recommendation of a selection panel, made up of two judges currently sitting on or retired from an international tribunal, and a representative of the Secretary-General. The Lebanese Judges (four ) are appointed by the Secretary-General, from a list of 12 nominees presented by the Government of the Lebanese Republic upon the proposal of the Lebanese Supreme Council of the Judiciary. The International Judges (seven*) are appointed by the Secretary-General, from nominations received from Member States, or competent persons. The Judges serve for a period of three years and are eligible for reappointment.

The Prosecutor:

The Prosecutor is appointed by the Secretary-General, after consultation with the Government and upon the recommendation of a selection panel, made up of two judges currently sitting on or retired from an international tribunal, and a representative of the Secretary-General. The Prosecutor serves for a three-year term and eligible for reappointment. A Lebanese Deputy Prosecutor, who assists the Prosecutor in the performance of his functions, is appointed by the Government of the Lebanese Republic in consultation with the Secretary-General and the Prosecutor. The Prosecutor and the Deputy Prosecutor must be of high moral character and possess the highest level of professional competence and extensive experience in the conduct of investigations and prosecutions of criminal cases. The Prosecutor is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for the crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the Special Tribunal.

The Registry:

The Registry consists of the Registrar and such staff as required. The Registrar is appointed by the Secretary-General and is a staff member of the United Nations. The Registrar serves for a three-year term and may be eligible for reappointment. Under the authority of the President of the Special Tribunal, the Registry is responsible for the administration and servicing of the Tribunal.

Defense Office:

An independent Defense Office acts to protect the rights of the defense, draws up the list of possible defense counsel and provides support and assistance to defense counsel and persons entitled to legal assistance. The Head of the Defense Office is appointed by the Secretary-General, in consultation with the President of the Special Tribunal.

Besides the organs above, a Management Committee is established based on consultations between the UN and the Government of Lebanon. The tasks of the Management Committee include, inter alia, provision of advice and policy direction on all non-judicial aspects of the operations of the Special Tribunal and review and approval its annual budget.

Back to Top