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Key Developments (Case Timeline)

  • On 14 February 2005, Mr Rafik Hariri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, was assassinated in a large explosion that killed 21 others and injured 226 more people near the St. George Hotel in downtown Beirut.  The blast, allegedly from a powerful suicide bomb hidden in a large van, left a crater ten metres wide and two metres deep in the street.  This attack and others eventually led to the creation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).
  • On 17 January 2011, the STL Prosecutor filed a confidential indictment related to the 14 February 2005 attack in Beirut.  Amendments on 11 March, 6 May, and 10 June 2011 added new information and Accused.  Messrs Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, and Assad Hassan Sabra were named in the indictment confirmed by the Pre-Trial Judge.
  • On 16 February 2011, less than a month after the original indictment was filed, the Appeals Chamber issued its Interlocutory Decision on the Applicable Law.  This was the first time an international tribunal had defined the crime of terrorism under customary international law.
  • On 28 June 2011, the Pre-Trial Judge confirmed the indictment against the Accused in Ayyash et al. and ordered the arrest of Messrs Ayyash, Badreddine, Oneissi, and Sabra the same day.  (Note: these orders were updated on 11 October 2016 following the amendment of the indictment upon the death of Mustafa Amine Badreddine.)  The indictment and arrest warrants were submitted to Lebanese authorities on 30 June 2011; international arrest warrants were issued on 8 July 2011.
  • On 12 July 2011, the STL’s Victims’ Participation Unit opened applications for victims to participate in proceedings before the STL.  The Pre-Trial Judge subsequently set a deadline of 31 October 2011 for such applications.
  • The indictment was partially unsealed on 28 July 2011 (revealing the identity of the Accused and the charges against them) and fully unsealed (along with the confirmation decision) on 16 August 2011.
  • The composition of the Trial Chamber was announced on 8 September 2011.
  • On 1 February 2012, following investigations and attempts to locate and arrest the Accused in the Ayyash et al. case, the Trial Chamber determined that the Accused had absconded and did not wish to participate in the trial.  As a result, it decided to hold the trial in absentia, as provided for in the STL’s Statute and Rules of Procedure and Evidence.
  • The Head of Defence Office assigned counsel to the four Accused on 2 February 2012, and they were sworn in on 15 February 2012.
  • Three Legal Representatives of Victims were appointed on 16 May 2012 and sworn in on 5 June 2012.
  • On 27 July 2012, following jurisdictional challenges by Defence Counsel for Messrs Ayyash, Badreddine, Oneissi, and Sabra, the Trial Chamber ruled that the Tribunal had been legally established under UN Security Council Resolution 1757 (2007), which integrated the provisions of a draft Agreement between the UN and Lebanon.  This was confirmed by the Appeals Chamber on 24 October 2012.
  • On 15 November 2012, the Prosecution filed its Pre-Trial Brief in the Ayyash et al. case.  It was subsequently updated following an order from the Pre-Trial Judge.
  • By 9 January 2013, Defence Counsel for each of the Accused (Messrs Ayyash, Badreddine, Oneissi, and Sabra) filed their Pre-Trial Briefs; they were subsequently updated following an order from the Pre-Trial Judge.
  • On 10 April 2013, following an appeal by the Legal Representative of Victims, the Appeals Chamber held that the total anonymity of victims would be prejudicial to, and inconsistent with, the rights of the accused and the fairness of the trial, and was not a valid form of victim participation within the meaning of Article 17 of the STL Statute.  It noted that extensive protective measures (such as the use of pseudonyms and distortion of voice and images) were available to victims under the Statute.
  • On 5 June 2013, the Prosecutor filed an indictment against the Accused Hassan Habib Merhi alleging his involvement in the 14 February 2005 attack in Beirut.
  • On 31 July 2013, the Pre-Trial Judge confirmed the indictment against Mr Merhi.
  • On 11 December 2013, the Pre-Trial Judge submitted the Ayyash et al. case file to the Trial Chamber.  Along with the submission, he filed a detailed report setting out the parties’ and participating victims’ arguments, recommendations regarding witnesses, his assessment of the contentious issues of fact and law and other information.
  • On 20 December 2013, following investigations and attempts to locate and arrest the Accused Merhi, the Trial Chamber determined he had absconded.  At that time, Merhi’s case was proceeding separately from the Ayyash et al. case.  As a result, the Trial Chamber decided to try Mr Merhi in absentia, pursuant to the STL’s Statute and Rules of Procedure and Evidence.  Lead Counsel for Mr Merhi was appointed the same day, with two Co-Counsel appointed on 30 December.
  • The Head of the Defence Office appointed second Co-Counsel for Messrs Ayyash, Badreddine, Sabra and Oneissi on 31 December 2013.
  • On 8 January 2014, the Prosecution filed its Pre-Trial Brief in the Merhi case.
  • On 16 January 2014, the trial began in the Ayyash et al. case with an opening statement from the Prosecution, followed by the Legal Representative of Victims, and Defence counsel for Messrs Badreddine and Oneissi. 
  • On 11 February 2014, the Trial Chamber ordered the Merhi case to be joined with the Ayyash et al. case in an oral decision.  It filed its written reasons on 25 February 2014, where it also ordered an adjournment of the trial to allow Mr Merhi’s Counsel time to prepare.
  • On 11 April 2014, the Trial Chamber recorded nine facts that the Defence teams agreed not to contest at trial.
  • On 26 May 2014, the Merhi Defence filed its Pre-Trial Brief.
  • On 5 June 2014, in deciding an appeal by Counsel for Mr Merhi, the Appeals Chamber confirmed the Trial Chamber’s decision to resume proceedings on 18 June 2014.
  • On 18 June 2014, the Ayyash et al. trial resumed following a four-month adjournment as a result of the joinder of the Ayyash et al. case with the Merhi case.
  • On 28 July 2015, in deciding on a challenge from Counsel for Mr Oneissi, the Appeals Chamber confirmed a Trial Chamber decision that call data records from Lebanese telecommunications companies had not been illegally transferred to the UNIIIC or the STL, and that had deferred a decision on the admissibility of Prosecution Call Sequence Tables (chronological lists of calls related to a particular telephone number over a specific period of time, including information about the time, date, type, duration, and location of the call).  This decision was significant, since evidence related to the alleged movements of, and contacts between, the Accused, as shown through analysis of cellular telephone and network records, is a critical part of the Prosecution’s case.
  • On 11 July 2016, the Appeals Chamber (Judges Nsereko and Baragwanath dissenting) determined that there was sufficient evidence to conclude, based on the requisite standard of proof, that Mustafa Amine Badreddine was deceased.  (This decision was in response to challenges by Counsel for Badreddine and the other Accused to a 1 June 2016 oral decision of the Trial Chamber, from which Judge Braidy dissented.)  The Appeals Chamber ordered the proceedings against him to be terminated, without prejudice to resuming them should Badreddine be found alive in the future, and ordered the Prosecution to file an amended indictment.

Current Status:  Prosecution Case

The Prosecution is currently presenting its evidence.  Since the trial opened on 16 January 2014, the Trial Chamber has

  • Heard from over 230 witnesses,
  • Admitted over 2,200 exhibits into evidence, and
  • Received over 3,800 filings from the parties, and
  • Delivered over 700 decisions. 

The Prosecution has presented evidence about

  • Alleged preparatory acts undertaken by the Accused
  • The political background and context in Lebanon at the relevant time
  • The activities, travel and movements of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in the months prior to the attack
  • The alleged telephone networks and their use, including
    • the origin and nature of the network of telephones allegedly involved in the preparation and carrying out of the attack
    • expert evidence including evidence relating to cell site analysis; computer and information systems; and the storage and security of data, including digital evidence
    • evidence from the communications service providers
    • alleged efforts of the Accused to avoid detection.

Once the Prosecution’s case closes, the Legal Representative of Victims and the Defence teams will have an opportunity to present their respective cases.