The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which said Wednesday it would try in absentia four Hezbollah members accused of murdering former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, is the first international court that can prosecute for acts of terrorism.
Set up on Lebanon's request by the United Nations in 2007, the STL is responsible for judging those killing Hariri and 21 others on February 14, 2005 in a massive car bomb blast in Beirut.
The court opened its doors in the remote Hague suburb of Leidschendam in 2009.
Criminal proceedings before the court, which for security reasons are based in the Netherlands, operate on a hybrid principle incorporating both international as well as French and Lebanese law.
A trial in absentia with the accused not present can also be allowed in certain circumstances.
These are: if an accused has waived the right to be present; if the accused has fled or cannot be found or; if the state concerned has not handed the accused over to the tribunal.
The maximum sentence the court can impose is life imprisonment.
Presided over by New Zealand Judge David Baragwanath and apart from its pre-trial Judge Daniel Fransen, the STL also has 10 other judges- four of them Lebanese- as well as a trial and appeals chamber.
Its prosecutor is Canadian Daniel Bellemare who led an independent UN investigation into Hariri's death.
The tribunal is also the first international court to have a defence office, which is led by French lawyer Francois Roux with more than 100 lawyers from around the world who may be selected by defendants wanting to get legal aid.
The STL, which had a budget of ê65.7 million (49.9 million euros) in 2011 is financed 49 percent by Lebanon and 51 percent by the international community.
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