BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon rejected all defense motions challenging the jurisdiction of the court in a decision published Monday, clearing another hurdle in the runup to trial, tentatively set to begin in March.
The defense counsel for the four men indicted in the attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others had argued before the court that it had been established illegally, violates Lebanese sovereignty, has selective jurisdiction and does not guarantee the accused a right to fair trial.
But the Trial Chamber of the United Nations-backed court dismissed the motions, confirming that it had jurisdiction to try the men accused of the 2005 attack.
The decision can be appealed.
On arguments that the court violates Lebanese sovereignty because it was not approved by the president or Parliament, the judges said that “[U.N. Security Council] Resolution 1757 is the sole basis of establishing the tribunal,” and Lebanon, as a member state of the U.N., had complied with its obligations under the resolution.
Because of this, the Trial Chamber said it was not necessary to examine any issues in the defense motions alleging that Lebanese law was violated.
Furthermore, the judges found that Lebanon has never claimed that its sovereignty had been violated.
“To the contrary, as a member state of the United Nations, Lebanon has honored its obligations specified in the annex to the resolution by taking all required steps,” the decision said, citing evidence of this cooperation including a list of potential judges Lebanon presented to the court, memoranda of understanding it made with the court and Lebanon’s substantial contribution to the court’s budget and its compliance with requests for assistance.
The Trial Chamber also said it had no power to review the actions of the Security Council and that “no other judicial body possesses such a power of potential judicial review of the Security Council.”The judges rejected that the court was illegal – rather than without jurisdiction – because the challenges didn’t fit under the definition of a preliminary motion.
The court earlier dismissed a pretrial motion asking it to reconsider a February decision to proceed to trial in absentia. It has yet to rule on defense motions filed in late June on alleged defects in the form of the indictment.