Defence lawyers on Wednesday opened their bid to have Lebanon's special tribunal declared illegal, saying the UN Security Council abused its powers when setting up the court five years ago.
Set up to probe the February 14, 2005 car bomb killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was established through a Security Council resolution on May 30, 2007.
"The UN Security Council abused its own powers under its Charter," when it set up the tribunal, argued Antoine Korkmaz, who represents Mustafa Badreddine, one of the four men wanted by the court for Hariri's assassination.
Korkmaz said the tribunal was set up under Chapter VII of the UN's charter -- which determines the global body's powers to restore peace and security.
"The assassination... could not in any sense be considered to be a threat to international peace and security," Korkmaz argued.
Emile Aoun, defence lawyer for Salim Ayyash, another suspect, pointed out the tribunal was set up for one particular incident -- Hariri's death -- while thousands of people perished in the Middle East country's 15-year-long civil war.
Between 1975 and 1990 some 145,000 people died, said Aoun, 80,000 others were injured, while more died during an Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006.
"Despite this the international community did not pay any attention in wanting to establish justice," Aoun said.
"The STL was unlawfully and illegally established and therefore we want to ask the court to rule that it does not have the competency to judge" Hariri's assassination and refer it to the Lebanese courts, Aoun said.
Based in the leafy suburb of Leidschendam just outside The Hague, the tribunal announced in February it would try Ayyash, 48, Badreddine, 51, Hussein Anaissi, 38, and Assad Sabra, 35, all four members of the militant Shiite group Hezbollah, in absentia.
The court issued warrants for their arrest in June last year in connection with the massive 2005, downtown Beirut car bomb blast.
Interpol has also issued a "red notice" on the four in July, but so far Beirut has failed to arrest them.