Seminar Special Tribunal for Lebanon and Terrorism

Date: Wednesday 15 June 2011

In cooperation with the T.M.C. Asser Instituut, ICCT hosted a Seminar with Prof. Michael P. Scharf on “Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) Appeals Chamber Interlocutory Decision and (Definition of) Terrorism“.

Prof. Michael P. Scharf is the John Deaver Drinko – Baker & Hostetler Professor of Law, and Director of the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center, at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. In February 2005, Scharf and the Public International Law and Policy Group, a Non-Governmental Organization he co-founded and directs, were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by six governments and the Prosecutor of an International Criminal Tribunal for the work they have done to help in the prosecution of major war criminals, such as Slobodan Milosevic, Charles Taylor, and Saddam Hussein. From October 2004 – March 2005, he served as a member of the international team of experts which provided training to the judges and prosecutors of the Iraqi Special Tribunal. Under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Professor Scharf worked in the Office of the Legal Adviser of the U.S. Department of State, where he held the positions of Counsel to the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, Attorney-Adviser for Law Enforcement and Intelligence, Attorney-Adviser for United Nations Affairs, and delegate to the United Nations General Assembly and to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
On the 16th of February 2011, the STL Appeals Chamber handed down a landmark ruling on, inter alia, the definition of Terrorism. In a publication for the American Society of International Law, Prof. Scharf argued that this decision is the first general definition of terrorism, and is anchored in customary international law that seems to impose an obligation on States to prosecute terrorists. Moreover, the STL decision also defines the principles in relation to criminal responsibility and, importantly, joint criminal enterprise, which has been used by other international tribunals in the past.

Nevertheless, as became clear during the Seminar, there is currently no international consensus on the interpretation of the STL Appeals Chamber on the existence of a definition of terrorism. Legal Experts such as Ben Saul have argued that terrorism is in fact not a customary crime, because this would require widespread state practice and opinio iuris – among other reasons. The seminar concluded with a lively discussion, not in the least due to the presence of a large number of legal experts and scholars from various (international) courts and tribunals in The Hague.