According to a public statement issued by the Prosecutor the following day, this “marks the launch of the judicial phase of the Tribunal’s work. For the first time, a legal case has been launched by an international Tribunal against those responsible for a political assassination in Lebanon.”
The next step in this long-awaited process is for the STL Pre-Trial Judge to review the indictment and the supporting evidence presented by the Prosecutor to determine whether the STL should formally charge the person or persons named in the indictment with any crime. According to the Prosecutor’s statement, “the Pre-Trial Judge may submit to the Appeals Chamber preliminary legal questions necessary to review and rule on the indictment. The Appeals Chamber may then order a public hearing, which will be limited to questions of law.”
The Prosecutor also acknowledged that the secrecy surrounding the indictment is both critical and “frustrating.” However, the Rules of the Tribunal require that the individuals named in the indictment remain unknown until the Pre-Trial Judge issues his final decision: “This continued confidentiality is essential as I cannot presume that the Pre-Trial Judge will confirm the indictment. If it is confirmed, the content of the document will be made public in due course and when so ordered by the Pre-Trial Judge.”
Meanwhile, the deepening political crisis in Lebanon, worsened by the recent collapse of the Lebanese government, has many observers worried. According to BBC News, “there are growing fears that a much-anticipated report into the 2005 assassination of the former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, could again see clashes in the streets of Beirut.”