The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) in the Netherlands, which this week rejected allegations of political scheming by its members, has yet to show any concrete progress over a year after its official opening, a Dutch expert said.
“They haven’t made any progress,” said Gerard Strijards, professor of international criminal law at Groningen University and expert of international tribunals.
Strijards’s comment came at the back of a statement by the STL on Wednesday, rejecting allegations of political scheming by Tribunal officials following recent media reports about the Court’s investigations citing ‘court sources’. The STL “dismisses as totally unfounded the claims repeatedly made about leaks and political maneuvering by Tribunal officials.”
The STL – often referred to as the Hariri Tribunal – was established by a UN Security Council resolution to try those alleged responsible for the attack in February 2005 in Beirut that killed the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 other people. The Tribunal officially opened in Leidschendam, near the Hague, in March 2009.
In the wake of the killings, many fingers have been pointed towards Syrian involvement in the attack.
Strijards points out that political maneuvering at this court is nothing new.
“When you’re dealing with a jurisdiction with a political dimension there is always political manipulation. That’s not anything new,” he said. “The Hariri tribunal has always been a considerably political tribunal, from the very beginning. It cannot get more politicised than it already was.”
Strijards sees the Tribunal’s latest statement as an explanation as to why the STL “doesn’t make any progress whatsoever, because that’s the stand of the matter. “
Asked as to which parties might gain from what the STL dubs as “dangerous attempts to manipulate the work of the Tribunal and impede its search for the truth”, Strijards points to “lots of parties, especially Syria.”
Looking ahead, he is pessimistic that the Tribunal could score success: “In my view it’s unsustainable, because Syria would never cooperate.”
He further also refers to “signs of internal problems” at the Tribunal, citing the latest resignation of Registrar David Tolbert in January this year.