Jul 28, 2014

Last witness before the STL summer recess: Mr Mohammed Kheireddine (22 and 23 July 2014)

The Prosecution started with a summary of the statement given by Mr Kheireddine, who is a police officer within the Internal Security Forces (ISF) of Lebanon:

“At the time [of the attack], his job was to attend at crime scenes and to take finger-prints, biological evidence, and pictures. On 14 February 2005, Mr. Kheireddine was working inside his office at the Helou barracks when he heard an explosion. He and his team were ordered to attend the crime scene at the St. Georges area. His team took pictures, a video, and notes of what they observed at the crime scene. Mr. Kheireddine and his team also went to the hospitals to take pictures of the deceased victims and to obtain finger-prints of the deceased when possible. Approximately a week later, Mr. Kheireddine was called to the crime scene to take pictures and to obtain a sample of a partial hand that was recovered from under the rubble. Mr. Kheireddine also took pictures of the crater and objects found in it. Further, he went to Helou barracks to take pictures of car parts and other plastic and metal parts. A month after the explosion, Mr. Kheireddine and explosives technicians went to the St. Georges Beach Club to inspect if any evidence remained, but they did not find anything.”

[screenshot of Mr Kheireddine appearing by video-link before the STL]

Further, Mr Kheireddine together with his ISF colleagues drafted a report on the forensic examination and technical inspections carried out by them on the day of the attack. This report contains observations and photographs of the crime scene (including bodies, the crater, and damaged vehicles), the morgue at the hospital and metal parts collected from the crime scene by the explosive experts. There is also a video taken by a member of Mr Kheireddine’s team on 14 February 2005 at the crime scene, and another report written by him and a colleague on 1 March 2005 about their attendance at the crime scene in order to take samples and photographs of the remains of a human palm that had been found buried under some wreckage.

After this short examination-in-chief, Mr Andreas O'Shea for the Merhi Defence started cross-examining the witness by asking some questions about the witness’ experience and training within the police. Mr Kheireddine explained that this was the first explosion crime scene he visited, that he was leading a team of three, with one taking the video, and the other two taking photographs and notes. The original notes were destroyed, as everything was included in the final report; this was their standard practice.

Mr O’Shea also questioned the witness about the content of the photographs and the video taken at the crime scene, showing among others firemen, severely damaged buildings, the crater filled with water, and people in and around the crater. However, this line of questioning did not seem to result in anything other than what the images already show, that is the limited securing of the crime scene (with only parts of the crime scene marked by tape, at least shortly after the attack), the presence of many people at the crime scene, and experts collecting items from the crime scene without special gloves. Also, a bulldozer was used to remove bodies from the crime scene, and, according to the witness, nowadays a bulldozer would not be used to remove a dead body while the inspection at the crime scene is still ongoing. The witness further confirmed that a very large crime scene should have been divided into zones, and should have a coordination tent where different services can meet and coordinate their efforts, but both measures were not taken at that time.

During the cross-examination of Mr Edwards for the Defence for Mr Badreddine, it was further clarified that after the investigations into the explosion of 2005, 'lessons have been learned' by the Lebanese authorities. Since then the police have been further trained and improved procedures have been implemented for the investigation of a crime scene after such a large explosion.

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