BEIRUT: The Appeals Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon rejected Wednesday defense motions challenging the court’s legality and jurisdiction.
The five judges of the chamber unanimously dismissed the motions filed by defense attorneys representing the members of Hezbollah indicted in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, bringing the court one step closer to the trial tentatively set to begin on March 25.
In its ruling, the Appeals Chamber confirmed that the court was solely established by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1757 under Chapter VII, and that the council has wide discretion to determine what constitutes a threat to peace and security.
“We affirm the Trial Chamber’s decision that this tribunal was legally established by Security Council Resolution 1757 (2007),” the chamber said.
“The tribunal cannot judicially review the Security Council’s actions.
“This finding is also supported by the difficulty of establishing any meaningful standard of such review in the absence of legal criteria to that effect.”
In a public hearing earlier this month, the defense attorneys argued that the attack that killed Hariri did not constitute a threat to international peace and that the STL has the authority to review the legality of its own establishment.
They also maintained that Resolution 1757 was a violation of Lebanese sovereignty, arguing that it forced on Lebanon an agreement to establish the court that had not been signed by the president or ratified by Parliament.
But the Appeals Chamber argued that the approach had been used in other cases, including Resolution 687 on the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait when “the Security Council brought into force the provisions of a non-binding minute, agreed to by the parties, but not ratified by Iraq.”
Although the motions were unanimously rejected, STL President David Baragwanath, a member of the Appeals Chamber, wrote a dissenting opinion on the ruling that the court could not review Security Council resolutions.
Baragwanath argued that the tribunal must exercise a limited authority to review certain aspects of Security Council resolutions.
“The argument that the tribunal cannot pretend to possess authority to supervise any of the organs of the United Nations overlooks the fact that the Security Council chose to create an independent international tribunal, which may be expected to apply the rule of law to all,” Baragwanath wrote. “The Security Council would not expect its own work to be immune from the law.”
He found, however, that the defense had failed to establish that the Security Council acted beyond its authority and joined the other judges in dismissing the appeals.