The Special Tribunal for Lebanon and Terrorism as an International Crime: Reflections on the Judicial Function
THE ASHGATE RESEARCH COMPANION TO INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL LAW, W. Schabas, Y. McDermott, N. Hayes and M. Varaki, eds., Ashgate: Farnham, Forthcoming
17 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2012
Date Written: September 6, 2012
The surprising Decision by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in 2011 that transnational terrorism in peacetime is a customary international law crime sparked controversy. Until then there was a widespread belief that there existed neither an agreed definition nor an international crime of terrorism. This article first outlines how international law dealt with terrorism in a criminal context up until the decision of the Tribunal in 2011. It then briefly critiques the Tribunal’s assessment of the various material sources purportedly evidencing a customary international law crime of transnational terrorism. That critique demonstrates that even on the Tribunal’s own criteria for identifying customary law, there is no crime of terrorism. The core of the article then asks a series of background questions about what the Tribunal’s Decision reveals about its approach to judging and the judicial function. Here the chapter considers in turn the expansive judicial definition of contested issues; the confused methodological approach to custom formation which led the Tribunal into error; the fatal inattention to utilizing the writings of jurists and amicus briefs in an area of chronic indeterminacy; the issue of disqualifying a judge (President Cassese) for perceived lack of impartiality in respect of his prior academic publications on the subject matter at hand; and the vexed line between acceptable and unacceptable judicial ‘law-making’. The article ends by pointing to some factors which may affect the future persuasive value of the Decision in relation to the customary law status of terrorism.
Keywords: terrorism, international criminal law, customary international law, custom formation, sources of international law, United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon, judicial function, international courts and tribunals, disqualification of judges
JEL Classification: K10. K14, K30, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation