This blog of the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) aims at granting the public opinion access to all information related to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon : daily press review in english, french and arabic ; UN documents, etc...

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Centre Libanais des droits humains (CLDH) a pour objectif de rendre accessible à l'opinion publique toute l'information relative au Tribunal Spécial pour le Liban : revue de presse quotidienne en anglais, francais et arabe ; documents onusiens ; rapports, etc...


July 13, 2010 - Now Lebanon - Jamil as-Sayyed’s special request

Arthur Blok,

General Jamil as-Sayyed is asking the STL for access to court documents to prove his wrongful imprisonment in the Hariri murder case. (AFP photo/Anwar Amro)
Leidschendam - Brigadier General Jamil as-Sayyed will receive a special hearing at The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) today in Leidschendam.

Sayyed, the former head of Lebanon’s General Security, filed a request in March to the president of the STL, Antonio Cassese, to gain access to certain court investigation files. In April Cassese directed the case to Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen, who, on June 29, issued a scheduling order for the public hearing. Sayyed’s earlier request to the Lebanese courts to obtain these documents had been dismissed, as the ruling judge found that the Lebanese courts have no jurisdiction on the matter.

This case is unique, said Professor Mischa Wladimiroff, one of Holland’s most prominent defense advocates, in that never before has an international criminal court granted the right of a public hearing to a person who was held in custody on suspicion of a crime.

Sayyed was placed in temporary detention by Lebanese authorities on August 30, 2005 for his alleged involvement in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February of that year. Due to a lack of evidence, the STL ordered his release on April 29, 2009 along with three other generals: former head of the presidential guard Mustafa Hamdan, domestic security chief Ali Hajj and military intelligence chief Raymond Azar. No one has ever been formally charged by the STL.

Sayyed began challenging the court the moment he was released, claiming he was the victim of slander and that he was arbitrarily detained for four years. Sayyed’s current demand for access to court documents is part of his quest to prove his innocence and to support his demand for compensation. In 2008 Sayyed’s attorney sued former UN investigator Detlev Mehlis in a French court, blaming Mehlis for “distorting the investigation and calling false witnesses.” Sayyed has also accused the Lebanese judiciary of being corrupt.

According to Wladimiroff– who was the amicus curiae of the court that tried Slobodan Milosevic and the defense counsel of Dusko Tadic, a Bosnian Serb war criminal who was sentenced to 25 years in prison by the Yugoslavia tribunal – Sayyed’s demand for the court files in March forced the STL to face the questions of whether or not it has jurisdiction in this matter, and whether it is more important to grant Sayyed access to the documents than it is for Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare to protect his files.

“Sayyed strongly feels his honor is at stake. His interest lays not in the ongoing investigation; he just wants to know what was said about him, and by whom,” Wladimiroff said. “He needs this in order to be able to file a civil suit or a criminal complaint in Lebanon against those who told lies about him.”

As for the question of whether the tribunal has jurisdiction in the case, “Formally no,” Wladimiroff said. “It is supposed to deal with matters between the prosecutor and the suspects. Additionally, it is not to be forgotten that Sayyed still could be a suspect in a future case.”

Wladimiroff says that Sayyed’s case in Lebanon only stands a chance if he gets access to the documents. At the same time much depends on Bellemare’s overall case. If the prosecutor, for example, only has two or three witnesses against Sayyed, the general’s request might be granted. If, on the contrary, Bellemare can convince Pre-Trial Judge Fransen he has more material against the general, Sayyed will not stand a chance. “The pre-trial judge will never endanger the ongoing investigation,” Wladimiroff said.

STL spokesperson Fatima el-Issawi said that after Pre-Trial Judge Fransen hears both parties he may pronounce that the tribunal has jurisdiction over the issue and that Sayyed has standing before the court. “And if Fransen considers it appropriate, he will be in a position to rule on the merits of the application,” Issawi said.

Fransen, incidentally, decided it was “in the interest of justice” to organize the public hearing, even though Sayyed does not have the “absolute” right, describing the hearing as “an indispensable guarantee of justice and transparency.”

“It will also provide him an opportunity to ask for clarifications on some angles or issues he considers important,” Issawi added.

At today’s hearing, Sayyed and Bellemare will each get 20 minutes, though Bellemare has previously said that the hearing is unnecessary.

Wladimiroff warns not to expect anything spectacular, as both parties will only briefly exchange their views and arguments. “Afterward, I expect it will take Fransen two to three weeks to decide on the matter.”

“Basically it all comes down to how strongly Bellemare will present his case Tuesday, and how strong his future case will be.”

The STL was established by a UN Security Council resolution in 2007 and is the first international tribunal of its kind to deal with terrorism as a distinct crime. The STL applies Lebanese law to acts of terrorism. In its first annual report published in March, president Cassese announced that “significant progress” had been made in putting together a case against Hariri’s killers. He also stated that he was confident the STL would move to prosecution within 12 months.

For his part, Wladimiroff compares the proceedings of the court to the story of the ugly duckling. “When justice will prevail in the end, the duck will grow into a beautiful swan. I am convinced of that,” he said.

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Background - خلفية

On 13 December 2005 the Government of the Lebanese Republic requested the UN to establish a tribunal of an international character to try all those who are alleged responsible for the attack of 14 february 2005 that killed the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others. The United Nations and the Lebanese Republic consequently negotiated an agreement on the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Liens - Links - مواقع ذات صلة

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, David Schenker , March 30, 2010 . Beirut Spring: The Hariri Tribunal Goes Hunting for Hizballah

Frederic Megret, McGill University, 2008. A special tribunal for Lebanon: the UN Security Council and the emancipation of International Criminal Justice

International Center for Transitional Justice Handbook on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, April 10, 2008

United Nations
Conférence de presse de Nicolas Michel, 19 Sept 2007
Conférence de presse de Nicolas Michel, 27 Mars 2008

Département d'Etat américain
* 2009 Human Rights report
* 2008 Human Rights report
* 2007 Human Rights report
* 2006 Human Rights report
* 2005 Human Rights report

ICG - International Crisis Group
The Hariri Tribunal: Separate the Political and the Judicial, 19 July, 2007. [Fr]

HCSS - Hague Centre for strategic studies
Hariri, Homicide and the Hague

Human Rights Watch
* Hariri Tribunal can restore faith in law, 11 may 2006
* Letter to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, april 27, 2006

Amnesty International
* STL insufficient without wider action to combat impunity
* Liban : le Tribunal de tous les dangers, mai 2007
* Jeu de mecano

Courrier de l'ACAT - Wadih Al Asmar
Le Tribunal spécial pour le Liban : entre espoir et inquiétude

Georges Corm
La justice penale internationale pour le Liban : bienfait ou malediction?

Nadim Shedadi and Elizabeth Wilmshurt, Chatham House
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon : the UN on Trial?, July 2007

Issam Michael Saliba, Law Library of Congress
International Tribunals, National Crimes and the Hariri Assassination : a novel development in International Criminal Law, June 2007

Mona Yacoubian, Council on Foreign Relations
Linkages between Special UN Tribunal, Lebanon, and Syria, June 1, 2007