Lebanon News

STL examines indictment procedure

BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s prosecution and defense teams convened before the Appeals Chamber for Wednesday’s hearing to respond to questions posed by Pre Trial Judge Daniel Fransen regarding a confidential indictment. Fransen received the indictment on Jul. 21, 2017, and then submitted questions related to the legal procedures related to filing indictments generally. These questions were initially posed in a private session. A redacted document outlining that session’s proceedings was then made public on Sept. 11, 2017.

According to the document, Fransen raised several questions related to Article 335 of the Lebanese Criminal Code.

This legislation dictates punishment for cases in which two or more people “establish an association or enter into a written or oral agreement to commit felonies against person or property, or to undermine the authority of the state.”

At Wednesday’s STL hearing, the exact meaning of Article 335 was expanded upon by Judge Ralph Riachi, STL’s vice president.

Riachi clarified that the use of word “felonies” in the original Arabic referred especially to multiple (ie. more than two) felonies.

“If there are two felonies, then Article 335 does not apply because here, the Lebanese law is using the plural,” Riachi said, noting that the equivalent noun differentiation did not exist in English or French.

Johan Soufi, head of the Defense Office’s legal aid reiterated this point in the defense’s submission.

“There are many errors in the prosecution’s submission and he hasn’t looked at these objectively,” Soufi began.

“Major misunderstandings [of Lebanese law are] polluting the entire submission of the prosecution,” he added.

Soufi went on to allege that the prosecution’s selective and subjective understanding of Lebanese law did not provide an accurate picture of which person could be indicted and under what charges.

Head of Prosecution Norman Farrell made similar arguments about the defense’s submissions, calling certain of their legal interpretations “assumptions” that were “clearly not the law.”

While Wednesday’s hearing involved squabbling over the technicalities of both Lebanese law and STL statute, Francois Roux, the head of the Defense Office, spoke about his office’s larger mission.

“The paradox of human rights is that initially they are rights belonging to the victims, but they take on their substantial meaning in a fair trial.

The Defense Office is here in the courtroom to safeguard the accused’s rights in a fair trial,” Roux said.

“My friends from Lebanon, you can count on me to reach the end.”

The latest indictment has remained confidential, even to the defense. A decision on the indictment by the Appeals Court is expected to be released soon.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 12, 2017, on page 2.




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