The Trial Chamber will make a decision in due course based on the following:
• The oral submissions at the hearing on 11th November
• The written submissions that were filed by the Prosecution and defence Office on 2 November
• The filings from the Pre Trial judge
What are trials in absentia?
A trial in absentia is a trial that takes place without the accused being present or in the custody of the tribunal. This has not happened in other contemporary international courts. The rationale is clear. Justice must not be stopped by an accused or a state which refuses to hand an accused over.
The STL can conduct proceedings in the absence of the accused in these circumstances:
• If they have waived their right to be present at trial
• If they have not been handed over to the tribunal by the State authorities concerned within a reasonable time
• If they escaped or cannot be found and all reasonable steps have been taken to secure their appearance before the tribunal and to inform them of the charges.
What steps have to be taken before trials in absentia?
The Pre-Trial Judge asked the Trial Chamber on 17 October 2011 to determine whether proceedings in absentia should be initiated in the case of Ayyash et al.
The Trial Chamber will now determine whether there is an intention on the part of the accused to avoid trial.
The Trial Chamber will also assess if the accused have been served with the indictment or if they have been given notice of the charges against them through publication in the media or by the communication of the charges to the State where they are residents/nationals.
If these requirements have been met and after considering the arguments of the Prosecutor and the Defence Office, the Trial Chamber will decide whether or not to initiate in absentia proceedings.
How are the rights of the accused safeguarded in proceedings in absentia?
If the accused are being tried in absentia, all of the rules to ensure a fair trial will still apply. An accused has the right to designate a defence counsel of their own choosing. The legal fees will be paid for by the accused or by the STL if the accused is found to have insufficient funds.
The accused have the right to request a new trial at any stage during an in absentia trial.
If the accused appear after an in absentia conviction, once the trial is completely finalised the accused can:
• Accept the conviction or sentence,
• Request a retrial,
• Accept the conviction but request a new hearing in respect of the sentence.
Timeline of judicial events at the STL
17 January – The Prosecutor submits an indictment for review to the Pre-Trial Judge.
28 June – The Pre-Trial Judge confirms the indictment and orders that it remain confidential.
30 June – The indictment is served on the Lebanese authorities, who are given 30 days to report on their efforts to search for, arrest and transfer the accused.
29 July – The Pre-Trial Judge ordered the partial unsealing the indictment revealing the identity of the accused and the charges against them.
17 August – Indictment and the decision confirming it unsealed.
18 August – STL President orders public advertisement of the indictment and calls for intensification of efforts to detain those accused
19 August – The Tribunal establishes jurisdiction over three connected cases including the attacks against Marwan Hamadeh, George Hawi and Elias El-Murr.
8 September – STL President Convenes Trial Chamber in Ayyash et al. case
17 October – Pre-Trial judge requests Trial Chamber to decide on proceedings in absentia
20 October – Trial Chamber calls for submissions on in absentia proceedings