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UN Lebanon tribunal hears challenge to jurisdiction

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday held the first hearing on its jurisdiction and the legality of its creation. The defense lawyer for Mustafa Badreddine [STL profile], one of the four men wanted by the court for the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], argued that the UN Security Council [official website] unlawfully established the STL and abused its power by adopting resolution 1757 [text] five years ago. Antoine Korkmaz [STL profile] added that the assassination of the prime minister in 2005 did not pose a threat to international peace and security that would have given the Security Council authority to exercise its powers under Chapter VII of the UN Charter [text]. The prosecution responded by arguing that the defense could only challenge the court's jurisdiction by claiming that the indictment went beyond the Tribunal's mandate. They argued that the STL was lawfully established because the "request to establish a Tribunal with an 'international character' was submitted to the UN following a decision from the Council of Ministers of Lebanon," the president of Lebanon was involved in the negotiations and the Council of Ministers approved the agreement pursuant the country's constitution. The next hearing will be held on Thursday.

In February UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] extended [JURIST report] the mandate for the STL for the next three years. With this extension, Ban's spokesperson said that the UN continues to support Lebanon in pursuing justice from the attacks. Earlier that month the STL announced that it will try the four accused in absentia [JURIST report] without a set date for the trial. The STL has faced great difficulty [JURIST report] trying to arrest the members of Hezbollah in Lebanon where the Shiite militia Hezbollah, backed by Iran, is the country's most powerful political force. In October of last year, pre-trial Judge Daniel Fransen [official profile] asked [JURIST report] the STL to initiate proceedings in absentia against the accused after waiting 30 days since the public announcement of the indictment.

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