[JURIST] President of the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) [official website; JURIST news archive] Judge David Baragwanath [official website] on Monday issued a statement [text] defending his program following a visit to Lebanon. Tribunal Vice President Judge Ralph Riachi [official website] accompanied Baragwanath on the visit, where they saw a spirit of compliance that made them optimistic about their chances for success:
I was particularly heartened by the determination of the representatives of the Lebanese people to work for the rule of law and long-term stability. … I am convinced that the strength of the legal and academic communities of Lebanon will allow the administration of justice in the country to attain new heights. The support we are receiving will allow the STL to contribute to securing the stability that everybody, the killers aside, so earnestly desires, which will open new opportunities for Lebanon.
The Tribunal is composed of professional judges selected internationally and includes senior members of the Lebanese judiciary. Baragwanath promised to conclude their job “as swiftly as fairness allows.”
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. Hezbollah has denied involvement in the suicide bombing on February 14, 2005, which killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] in addition to 22 other people. If the trial commences, this would be the first trial in absentia at an international court since the prosecution of Nazis during the Nuremberg trials. In 2007, the UN Security Council approved a resolution to establish an ad hoc international tribunal to investigate and try suspects in the assassination of Hariri.