BEIRUT: Defense attorneys at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon argued that the death of Mustafa Badreddine has placed them in an untenable position, and will appeal a ruling finding insufficient evidence he was killed. Badreddine’s counsel indicated Thursday that they may seek to withdraw from the trial, citing ethical concerns over their representation. In concert with the defense, they requested an appeal of the court’s interim decision and asked for a stay of proceedings pending its outcome.
“The prejudice would be that we are to continue proceedings where we no longer have jurisdiction.
“It puts the defense counsel in a very difficult position with regard to our ethical obligations,” said attorney Mylène Dimitri. She argued the problem extended to the entire defense. “It’s a conspiracy trial Mr. President, so if you are proceeding against someone whom the appeal panel might decide you no longer have jurisdiction over, it’s prejudice per se.”
Judge David Re made clear he did not want the court to stand idle as it waited on the outcome of an appeal, and noted that further evidence from Lebanon may not be forthcoming.
“This is as close to a Gordian knot of a problem as one can imagine,” said prosecutor Graeme Cameron. “The prosecution stands ready to proceed ... [however] issues like the withdrawal of counsel will not assist us in moving the case forward.”
There is no clear precedent in international law as to whether Badreddine’s death must be established beyond a reasonable doubt.
Guénaël Mettraux, representing Assad Sabra, urged judges to be careful. He cited the case of prominent Nazi Martin Bormann, convicted in absentia by the military tribunal at Nuremberg. Bormann’s attorneys argued that he was dead, but were unable to convince the court. But he was dead – Bormann’s remains were discovered in the ’70s, and he was determined to have committed suicide during the last days of the war.
“It stands as a warning that the chamber be careful in not setting a standard that is high enough that establishing the death of a defendant becomes impossible,” Mettraux said.
Re adjourned proceedings for the week, and gave counsel for Badreddine 24 hours from receipt of the court’s written decision to file their appeal.
Source & Link : The Daily Star