In October 2009, the Judges of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) met in plenary session for the second time this year. One of the important items on the agenda was the consideration of proposals for amendments to the Rules of Procedure and Evidence (RPE), which were adopted in March and amended in June of this year.
The amendments to the RPE adopted by the Judges in the second plenary were agreed to in light of the experiences gained to date by the STL, and are aimed at further enhancing the efficiency, effectiveness and integrity of the proceedings. The amendments, covering a range of Rules and relating to various stages of the proceedings, were made in accordance with Article 28 of the Statute, which provides the Judges with the power to adopt Rules of Procedure and Evidence and to amend them as appropriate. In this way the Rules - and their regular review - can ensure that the STL is properly equipped with the necessary legal procedures to hold efficient and effective proceedings and thereby implement the mandate entrusted to it by the Statute.
The most significant amendments include:
an increased consultation and coordination between the President and the Registrar on administrative and judicial support functions (Rule 39);
a mechanism for the Prosecutor to provide the Pre-Trial Judge during the investigative stage with documents and information which will assist the Pre-Trial Judge to carry out his functions and to review and confirm any indictment that may be submitted to him (Rule 88);
a strengthening of the regime for protecting witnesses at all stages of the proceedings, including the investigation stage, as well as after proceedings have concluded (Rules 50, 115, 133, 166);
the addition of procedures to ensure that victims who participate in the proceedings will be on an equal footing to the parties in terms of receiving necessary documents, and being subject to disclosure obligations including the obligation to disclose exculpatory evidence (Rules 87, 112 bis, 113, 114);
the extension of “in absentia proceedings” to all stages of the proceedings before the STL and not only the trial stage (Rules 106, 108);
the inclusion of two new contempt provisions which will not operate retrospectively but only prospectively. The first covers the situation when a person during questioning knowingly and willfully makes a statement which he knows is false and which he knows may be used as evidence in proceedings before the Tribunal. The second relates to when a person threatens, intimidates, or - by statements which are untrue and the publication of which runs counter to or is inconsistent with freedom of expression as laid down in international human rights standards - engages in serious and public defamation of a Judge or any other officer of the Tribunal, or offers a bribe to or otherwise seeks to coerce a Judge or any other officer of the Tribunal (Rule 134);
a clarification that the Pre-Trial Judge is empowered to take statements of anonymous witnesses at all stages of the proceedings, while the decision on whether to admit such statements in a trial is one for the Trial Chamber (Rule 93, 159); and
an improvement on rules relating to the appeal stage of the proceedings, including when notices of appeal must be filed and the status of an accused following an appeal (Rule 177 and 189). In addition, amendments of a more technical or stylistic nature were made to a number of other rules.
The amendments to the Rules are posted on the STL website on 6 November 2009, and will enter into force on 17 November 2009, pursuant to Rules 5 and 7 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.
At the request of the President, the Judges also discussed the Directive on the Assignment of Defence Counsel which was issued in March of this year and made changes improving its content.