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Lebanon: Chief Judge Makes Controversial Statement on Legality of Special Tribunal for Lebanon

(Nov. 8, 2010) The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is a mixed international/domestic tribunal whose jurisdiction is limited to investigating and prosecuting one specific domestic crime – the bombing of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri – and related offenses. The STL was created by an agreement between the United Nations and the Lebanese government and implemented, without regard to compliance with Lebanese constitutional requirements mandating parliamentary and presidential approval before such an agreement could enter into force. (For a summary review of circumstances surrounding the establishment of the STL and the legal questions it raises, see Issam Michael Saliba, International Tribunals, National Crimes and the Hariri Assassination: A Novel Development in International Criminal Law, Law Library of Congress website (June 6, 2007),

Thus, one of the legal questions that may be raised by the defense in any future proceedings before the STL is the tribunal's own legality, since the underlying agreement of its establishment may be considered unconstitutional. On November 4, 2010, Italian judge Antonio Cassese, President of the STL, expressed an opinion on this very question. He said that in his capacity as a law professor and not as president of the tribunal, he acknowledges that the agreement to establish the STL was not concluded in compliance with the Lebanese Constitution, but that the Lebanese government's subsequent involvement in the staffing of the tribunal confirms that the government is bound by the agreement. (Aide to Bellmare: Israel Is One Source of Our Information [in Arabic], AL-AKHBAR (Nov. 4, 2010),