by Isa Bello, Nigeria
Today, the Symposium spent the day at the Special Tribunal For Lebanon (STL). The Special Court is indeed unique. It is borne out of an agreement between the Lebanese government and the United Nations, even-though that agreement was never ratified by
Lebanese lawmakers. The court is set out as one of the courts that encourages active victim participation in trials and has an incorporated standing defence team within the court structure. It is also the only International court that has included trials of absentia rules into its modus operandi, remaining both independent from the UN and Lebanon.
Although International courts are often children of necessity borne out of goodwill, the visit to the STL has made me question the legality of the court and other tribunals of its kind. It is pertinent that a legal order is not produced by an illegal or somewhat murky legal arrangement, a potential abuse of power by the Security Council in order to fulfil political objectives, or to create a mirage of effectiveness. Although the court has ruled on its legal legitimacy, (which in my opinion, it should not have had the authority to do) the Lebanese parliament has not ratified the agreement, building up a tension with the Vienna Convention. The tribunal has not managed to secure the arrest of the accused so far, a setback that does not seem to deter the court from its will to prosecute.
I was largely impressed by the STL staff, they seemed to be passionate about what they were doing, with utmost faith in the work of the court that may well have set the ball rolling for an international terrorism court. One of the speakers confirmed the disenfranchisement towards the court by some of the Lebanese populace, who have argued that crimes like the Sabra and Shatila massacre should be the main concern of the court, a crime the international community have conferred a genocide status.