Finding a definition of terrorism through the STL

This is why the STL is so important for the world. It’s not only the “Israeli conspiracy to nail Hezbollah” (sic!), it’s also the international community’s conspiracy to nail Al Qaida (Yes, US, but also Spain, India, Indonesia, Yemen etc) that’s to be discussed here.

The STL creates a precedent for prosecuting terrorism at the international level. Clearly, there are two directions in dealing with terrorism in international law: one is to define it at the international level, the other is to prosecute the perpetrator through the local justice.

The STL (an international hybrid tribunal) mixes the two: it uses the local law to prosecute the alleged perpetrators in an international justice institution. The easiest way, I believe.

Terrorism doesn’t have a definition at the international level. Experts have been trying for a decade now. The crack was to actually define it at the local level and prosecute the alleged perpetrators according to the local law. But what do you do when you’ve got an unreliable justice system like Lebanon? You send it to a military court,as you do with all your important cases? That’s be outrageous. So, you ask for an international court to apply the law you don’t trust your own justice system to apply.

Here’s excerpts from STL’s president Cassese’s speech after today’s hearing:

“In consonance with international case law, generally speaking the Tribunal will apply Lebanese law as interpreted and applied by Lebanese courts, unless such interpretation or application appears to be unreasonable, might result in manifest injustice, or proves not consonant with international principles and rules binding upon Lebanon.”

“The Tribunal is duty bound to apply the Lebanese law on the crime of terrorism, because this is what is stated in Article 2 of our Statute. We may not apply any international definition of terrorism, be it laid down in treaties binding upon Lebanon, or in any customary rule of international law.”

Terrorism in the Lebanese penal code is:
“an act, whether or not constituting an offence under other provisions of the Criminal Code, which is intended to spread terror; and (ii) the use of a means ―liable to create a public danger‖. Thus, the Lebanese definition of terrorism hinges upon two elements: the subjective intent to spread terror; and the objective fact of using means that are liable to cause a public danger,” Cassese said.

There is just one problem with the Lebanese law, the president of the STL said. The means, the tools employed in a terrorist act, according to the Lebanese law: “explosive devices, inflammable materials, poisonous or incendiary products, or infectious or microbial agents”. But not a gun, a semi-automatic or automatic machine gun, a revolver (used in assassinating Pierre Gemayel), or a knife and perhaps even a letter-bomb.

The point is here that the reason of the assassination might be more important than the means used to assassinate the politician, journalist or religious leader. Cassese refered to the Sheikh Nizar Al Halabi case, the head of Al Ahbash sect who was shot by Wahabis because his sect was “not complying with the principles of Islam”. if it was a personal vendetta, that would have been murder. But the killing was meant to hurt Al Ahbash sect, not just Al Halabi. But the Lebanese court found that al Halabi’s killing was a simple murder.

Therefore, the Lebanese law is not enough and where it is contradicting the international law (e.i. treaties, accords, agreements and customary law) it will be ignored.


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