The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has entered its judicial phase with the first indictment received from The Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), Canadian Daniel Bellemare. The Lebanese media has speculated that the indictment contains the names of Hizbollah members.
The tribunal was set up to investigate and try those responsible for the murder of the former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri and 22 other in 2005.
Pre-Trial Judge, the Belgian Daniel Fransen, will now review the documents at the court in Leidschendam, Netherlands. The review is expected to take around seven weeks and will allow the judge to raise any legal, though not factual, concerns about the evidence before him.
The case has been a focal point for tensions between the Lebanese government, Hizbollah and Syria. The Lebanese government of national unity fell on Wednesday 12th January 2011 after the resignation of Hizbollah and March 8 coalition partners.
The UN fact finding mission to Lebanon found that the Lebanese investigation into the deaths was “seriously flawed” and that Syria had been responsible for the political tensions which led to the attack. The 2005 report stated:
The Government of the Syrian Arab Republic clearly exerted influence that went beyond the reasonable exercise of cooperative or neighbourly relations. It interfered with the details of governance in Lebanon in a heavy-handed and inflexible manner that was the primary reason for the political polarization that ensued.
The UN Secretary General has appealed for groups in the region not to politicize the trial – an appeal which appears to have fallen on deaf ears after the head of Hizbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said on Sunday 23rd January 2011 that his party would defend party members accused of the murders, calling the tribunal an “Israeli project” according to media reports.