Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Special Tribunal for Lebanon does not have Jurisdiction over Legal Persons

On 24 July, Judge Lettieri, acting as contempt judge of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, decided that the Tribunal does not have jurisdiction over corporations for contempt offences, contrary to an earlier decision discussed at length here. The Contempt Judge noted:
Irrespective of one's position as to the better policy (and I could even agree with Judge Baragwanath de lege ferenda), the fact that the Tribunal is not allowed to prosecute legal persons does not as such render its contempt power meaningless. The natural persons who comprise a corporation, no matter how high their position, can still be held responsible for interfering with the administration of justice and this makes the Tribunal's authority to deal with contempt and obstruction of justice effective. 
A number of amici curiae briefs challenged the Tribunal's inherent jurisdiction over offences against the administration of justice generally and their impact on the right to freedom of expression. The Contempt Judge rightly held that jurisdiction over such offences is a necessary corollary to the exercise of judicial powers, as I discussed at length in my chapter on contempt offences in this volume. He also found that the balance with freedom of expression was not relevant to the question of whether the Tribunal could have jurisdiction over such offences. 

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