BEIRUT: In an exclusive interview with The Daily Star, Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) spokesperson Marten Youssef said that the STL hopes to complete its mission within the next three years.
“International justice takes time . . . our hope is that we can complete our mandate in the second round of renewal [of the court's mandate]. Assuming we get three years [for the court’s second mandate], we’re hoping that we’ll be able to finish trial and appeal in those three years,” Marten Youssef told The Daily Star in an interview Monday.
The court’s first mandate ends on Feb. 29. It has requested an additional three year extension, a decision to be made by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon after consultations with the Lebanese government.
However, Youssef noted that the pace of the trial comes second to the fairness of the proceedings.
“If, for example, the accused is apprehended toward the end of the trial, he has the right to ask for a retrial. The most important thing, the pillar for us, is fairness of trial. And then, after that, it’s timing. Timing comes after fairness of trial.”
Last week, the STL decided to go ahead with in-absentia trials against four members of Hezbollah, who were indicted in June of 2011 for the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
On reservations concerning the U.N.-backed court, which Hezbollah describes as part of a conspiracy against the resistance group, Youssef urged the public to wait for the defense to present its case.
“Now is the actual time to start hearing from the defense. The defense have an opportunity to not only challenge ... the evidence submitted by the prosecution, but they have the opportunity to ask witnesses, examine crime scenes,” he said.
“They have the opportunity to even completely present new scenarios,” Youssef added.
Hezbollah, which rejects the accusations against its members, has claimed Israeli involvement in the assassination of the five-time prime minister.