This three-year project, Fact-finding in Lebanon: The Netherlands Support to Forensic Capability and Uptake in Lebanon, aims to ensure an integrated approach to forensics in fair trials in Lebanon.Active: Fact-Finding in Lebanon
The Hague Institute for Global Justice collaborates with Aktis Strategy and the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI). The project is funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The effective use of forensics in justice and security sectors is an important guarantee for the rule of law in many countries, including in Lebanon. Thanks to research-based expert exchanges between national and international experts, this three-year project contributes to local efforts to firmly establish a rule of law culture. The main objective of this project is to ensure an integrated approach to the use of forensics in fair trials, also for next generations of Lebanese forensic experts and legal professionals.
During the inception stage, which lasted until March 2016, Lebanese and Dutch experts agreed that peer-to-peer exchanges between the forensic and legal communities of practice would be particularly pertinent. In this spirit, from 19-25 June 2016, The Hague Institute hosted a high-level delegation under the lead of the Chief General Prosecutor to the Supreme Court in Lebanon, Judge Samir Hammoud. During this exposure visit, 14 Lebanese prosecutors and trial and investigative judges exchanged expertise on best practices with experts from the Netherlands and Hague-based courts and tribunals.
First, exchanges between Dutch and Lebanese experts are apposite, because both countries have criminal proceedings with a more inquisitorial model. Unlike more adversarial criminal proceedings such as in Anglo-Saxon countries, there is a ‘free system of evidence’, rather than admissibility rules for evidence. Consequently, Dutch and Lebanese judges can freely assess the relevance, credibility, and probative value of evidence. Benefiting from this common understanding, Dutch and Lebanese judges and prosecutors shared insights about forensics – not in the least because of Dutch efforts to prevent new miscarriages of justice in this way. Special attention was paid to how judges can assess not only the quality of a forensic institution but also of individual forensic experts’ reports and testimonies.
Second, exchanges with experts from Hague-based courts and tribunals are relevant due to challenges caused by transnational and international crimes. While globalization is mostly a positive force, flows of information, people and goods also create particular difficulties for many countries including for Lebanon. Therefore, Lebanese and international experts shared expertise on how to devise strategies for the investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes and terrorism, for example. The collection and preservation of evidence for these types of crimes is usually particularly complex. Also, to see forensic science ‘at work’, this first project activity in The Hague entailed visits to the international courts and tribunals and the Netherlands Forensic Institute located in this city of international peace and justice.
Next steps in this project from 2016 until December 2018 will include capabilities and needs assessments regarding the use of forensics in fair trials in Lebanon and follow-up expert exchanges in The Hague and Beirut. Steps such as joint curriculum development activities for professional training programs, ultimately, seek to ensure that this expert knowledge will also help future generations of forensic scientists and lawyers in Lebanon and the region. In this way, the project team seeks to contribute to fostering a rule of law culture in Lebanon and ultimately worldwide.