Press Conference by Legal Counsel on Special Tribunal for Lebanon

3 March 2009

Press Conference by Legal Counsel on Special Tribunal for Lebanon

3 March 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



The appointment of the judges, Prosecutor, Registrar and Head of Defence for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was now complete, but their identities would remain secret for security reasons, Patricia O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, said at a Headquarters press conference today.

Revealing only that four of the judges were Lebanese and seven were “international judges”, she said one of their first tasks would be drafting the Tribunal’s rules of procedure and evidence.  Once they were sworn in, the Tribunal’s next step would be to appoint a President and adopt the rules of procedure.  The identities of the pre-trial Judge and the Tribunal President would be known sooner than those of the other judges, since they would be the first to take office.  The Secretary-General would consult with the Tribunal President to decide when the remaining judges would take up their duties.

Asked whether the judges would be sworn in on 9 March, Ms. O’Brien stressed she was not in a position to confirm or deny that information.  However, the Prosecutor, who formerly headed the International Independent Investigation Commission, now held a dual mandate to investigate and prosecute.  He would continue his investigation for the time being, with support from an office in Lebanon, until there was sufficient evidence to begin prosecution.

The Legal Counsel described the start of the Tribunal’s operations as “a landmark event in the international community’s common goal of ending impunity” for the crimes that had claimed the life of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and others on 14 February 2005, as well as related attacks.

Queried about the fate of four former generals held in Lebanon for their alleged connection to the Hariri attack, she explained that the Tribunal had up to 60 days, beginning on 1 March, to request their transfer to The Hague.  If such a request were made, the Government of Lebanon was obliged to comply under the Tribunal’s Statute.

Regarding the number of cases the Tribunal would eventually hear, she said it was up to the Tribunal, based on the evidence presented by the Prosecutor, to determine the connection between the Hariri assassination and other crimes.

She recalled that the Special Tribunal was a joint endeavour between the Lebanese Government and the United Nations, which the Organization’s Office for Legal Affairs had worked for two years to establish.  It was a tribunal of international character, designed according to the provisions of Security Council resolution 1757 (2007) and an agreement established by the Government of Lebanon and the United Nations.

The Special Tribunal was different from others established or assisted by the United Nations because it was founded on a blend of common law and “principles of Lebanese criminal procedure”, she said.  In addition, the Special Tribunal’s Statute had institutionalized, for the first time, a Defence Office which the Tribunal itself would finance.  Although its head was an appointee of the Secretary-General, the Office was independent in carrying out its functions.  The Special Tribunal’s office in Lebanon, which was currently supporting the ongoing investigation, would also be available to the Defence Office.

She said the Tribunal would cost $51.4 million in the first year and $10 million had already been secured for its second and third years of operation.  Budgetary requirements for its establishment and first year of operation had been made possible through the voluntary contributions of a group of Member States.

A Management Committee comprising interested States and main donors would help the Registrar obtain adequate funding, she continued.  It would also provide policy direction and advice on administrative aspects of the Tribunal’s operations, including questions of efficiency.  The Management Committee would play no role in judicial activities.

In response to a question, Ms. O’Brien said she was not in a position to give advice on the length of the Special Tribunal’s work.  “A key element for the success of the Tribunal is not only that justice be done, but that also justice must be seen to be done.”  An outreach programme would ensure that the people of Lebanon had access to accurate information on its activities and proceedings.

The International Independent Investigation Commission, created by the Security Council in 2005 following Mr. Hariri’s death with a mandate that ended on 28 February 2008, transferred evidentiary material to the Office of the Prosecutor.  Some staff members of the former Commission relocated to the Tribunal in The Hague.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.