BEIRUT: Special Tribunal for Lebanon President David Baragwanath reportedly urged Lebanese authorities Monday to cooperate in handing over Hezbollah suspects for trial. Judicial sources, speaking to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, said Baragwanath carries one message to Lebanese officials: the need for cooperation. “The STL president has only one request of Lebanon: the need to cooperate. The principle of cooperation stipulates the need to hand over the suspects to the STL,” one source said.
Baragwanath briefed President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati on the progress of the U.N.-backed court in separate meetings in Beirut Monday.
Baragwanath did not make statements following the two meetings.
Baragwanath, who arrived in the country Sunday, updated the Lebanese leaders on recent decisions of the STL, which is responsible for investigating and trying those responsible for the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The court moved in February to begin in absentia proceedings against the four men accused in the attack.
It is Baragwanath’s second visit to Lebanon. Last November, the judge met with Sleiman and Mikati, as well as Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi and Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour. At the time, the government was embroiled in a dispute centered on payment of Lebanon’s share of funding to court.
Baragwanath, who serves in the STL’s Appeal Chamber, was first elected as the court’s president after the late Judge Antonio Cassese resigned last October. In March, he was re-elected for a term of 18 months.
Later Monday, the New Zealand jurist delivered a lecture at La Sagesse University on international law and Lebanese law, explaining how diverse legal traditions have played a role in the court.
The talk, which was attended by the vice president of the STL, Judge Ralph Riachi, the chancellor of La Sagesse University, Maronite Archbishop of Beirut Paul Matar, and faculty and students, also focused on the common heritage of Lebanese and international law.
“The interface among Lebanon, the wider world and the law is nothing new. It began nearly 2000 years ago with the great law school in Beirut,” he said, explaining how the city played a pioneering role in Roman law, which formed the basis of the civil law tradition of Europe.
Baragwanath said that legal practitioners continue to turn to Roman law “to discern principles to solve the real life disputes that are a result of our humanity,” and cited the court’s statute as evidence of the continued influence of Roman law.
“In Article 16, there are the basic principles, fundamental to human rights like, the presumption of innocence. What could be more fundamental than that?” he said. “The right to a public hearing, equally fundamental ... that you can’t be prosecuted a second time and the right to examine witnesses.”
The STL also turned to Roman law last year when discussing what ‘terrorism’ means in the law of Lebanon and international criminal law, a topic Baragwanath called “very difficult.”
“We discovered that various themes of our judgment were assisted in consideration by the Roman law. The principle, in dubio mitius – in case of doubt – you take the position that is more advantageous to the accused,” he said, explaining that in particular instances, when international and Lebanese law differed, the court took the version more favorable to the defendants.
Baragwanath went on to discuss the application of Lebanese criminal code in the court, which is required by the court’s statute, giving the example of a decision made in the Appeals Chamber. The judges decided, based on two fundamental Lebanese principles, that former general Jamil al-Sayyed, who was held for four years for the 2005 attack, was entitled to view the documents used to detain him.