Hariri Tribunal Defense Office Chief: We are Not in Contact with ‘Hezbollah’

Hariri Tribunal Defense Office Chief: We are Not in Contact with ‘Hezbollah’

Saturday, 10 February, 2018 - 08:15
A statue of Lebanon's late Premier Rafik Hariri stands in central Beirut in this picture taken on January 16, 2014. (AFP).
Leidschendam – Thaer Abbas
Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) Defense Office chief Francois Roux said that Lebanon has made progress in international criminal justice through the establishment of the court, highlighting the role of his office and the defense team.

Roux sat for an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat in which he explained that the Defense counsel at the STL have not communicated with the “Hezbollah” group or any of the accused.

The STL is investigating the 2005 assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others in a massive bombing Beirut. Four “Hezbollah” members have been accused of the crime.

Roux explained that the Defense counsel do not have the jurisdiction to directly or indirectly contact the accused because they are being tried in absentia. The accused themselves are also not entitled to contact the counsel because that would negate the in absentia proceedings of the trial.

Any contact would eliminate their right to a retrial, he revealed.

The four suspects remain at large and “Hezbollah” has never recognized the STL or its authority.

Roux highlighted the major challenge of having to defend suspects, who do not acknowledge the tribunal.

This is why counsel do not defend the accused, but their rights, he explained. This concept is included in the main principles of the STL.

Head of the Defense Office noted that the STL is based on the Anglo-Saxon law that does not speak of the innocence of the accused, but rather the main focus is whether the prosecution has enough evidence to prove without doubt the guilt of the suspects.

The case therefore revolves around an indictment and whether the prosecution can prove it, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

On cooperation with the Lebanese authorities, Roux said that initially, coordination between them and the Defense Office was not an easy process.

According to Lebanese law, a lawyer does not have the right to carry out an investigation himself. This role is restricted to the investigating judge, he explained. A similar system is adopted in France.

This therefore hindered the Defense counsel’s information gathering mission, he revealed.

Once the complications were overcome however, the process became smooth and cooperation between the Defense Office and Lebanese authorities is now sound, he stressed.

Other difficulties encountered included the gathering of evidence, which Roux said is a long and ongoing process.

The Defense counsel had complained about receiving reports shortly before an appointed deadline. Reports and evidence can be disregarded by the STL Chambers if they are submitted after an expired deadline.

So far, said Roux, this has not happened yet.

Asked if he believed that justice will truly take its course in the tribunal, he replied that the rights of the accused are completely protected.

The world is not perfect however, and the path to justice is still long, he remarked.

The Defense Office is responsible for compiling the counsel for the defendants if they are present. In case of in absentia trials, the counsel is responsible for defending the rights of the accused. It also ensures that the suspects have the right to a fair trial.

The Office does not interfere in the work of the Defense counsel, which it appoints, but it offers logistic backing in the investigations, through legal and financial support.

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