Defence Counsel for the late Mustafa Badreddine have successfully appealed a decision of the Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) that insufficient evidence had been presented to prove Mr Badreddine’s death “to the requisite standard”. Iain Edwards and two other Counsel representing the rights and interests of Mr Badreddine persuaded the Appeals Chamber that the entirety of the available evidence pointed to the fact that he was dead.
Mr Badreddine was a senior military commander of Hezbollah, charged with being the mastermind behind the 2005 assassination of the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, and the murder of 21 others in Beirut. The trial opened in January 2014. Together with four co-accused, he was being tried in his absence before the STL; it is the first international case to deal with terrorism as a distinct international crime, and the first to be held in the absence of the accused since Nuremberg.
Mr Badreddine was killed in Syria in May 2016 in unclear circumstances. After many weeks of litigation, the STL’s Appeals Chamber agreed with the Defence that the Trial Chamber had erred in law by reaching its decision on whether or not it was satisfied that the fact of Mr Badreddine’s death had been established without knowing which standard of proof it was to apply. For the first time in international criminal law, the correct standard of proof to be applied in such circumstances was identified and applied by the Appeals Chamber to the facts that had been made available to the Trial Chamber.
The conclusion that Mr Badreddine’s death had been proved to the appropriate standard resulted in proceedings being terminated against him without prejudice and with his presumption of innocence remaining intact.