How the Lebanese Citizen Bill of Rights Can Deliver an Independent Judiciary

How the Lebanese Citizen Bill of Rights Can Deliver an Independent Judiciary

a statue of a women holding the balance of justice

Many in Lebanon have started demanding an independent judiciary. And yet few describe what this really means. After all, in its very definition, the judiciary is there to simply interpret what the law is and to pass judgment for the authorities to apply. Unfortunately, over the past few years, the people in Lebanon have lost faith in the independence of their judiciary for three primary reasons:

1- Postponement of trials: In Lebanon, individuals are being held against for offenses for which they have never been tried. In some cases, they have been held for years awaiting justice. Television documentaries have shown bulging and untried prison populations in inhumane conditions, displaying the judiciary’s lack of responsiveness and humanity.

2- Lack of implementation of laws: One often hears that the Lebanese laws on the books are good but are not being applied—not least of which is the Lebanese constitution itself. The selectivity of the application of laws has caused citizens to lose faith in the professionalism and independence of the judiciary. A prime example here are laws pertaining to improper enrichment that almost never get applied. This is especially troubling at a time when the political class has become disproportionately rich, while Lebanon’s treasury is teetering on bankruptcy.

3- Unfair judgments: There is a perceived notion of unfairness in how judgments are made and the undue influence exerted on judges, affecting verdicts. In clear-as-day cases, where mountains have been destroyed, beach properties snatched and rivers polluted, erroneous judgments have been made, casting a dark shadow on those who made them.

Assuming the sectarian oligarchic political system remains as it is today, how could the independence of the judiciary be achieved? The Lebanese Citizen Bill of Rights proposes to bend justice back in shape through the introduction of certain rights that reassert what’s in the constitution, while introducing new rights guaranteeing Lebanese citizens timely civil trials, due process, swift implementation of laws, judicial review and citizen access to the Lebanese appellate courts, as well as oversight through mechanisms such as ombudsmen (already a law but not yet applied), lifetime judicial appointments, citizen participation in juries, citizen judges and even opening the possibility of voting for judges. The Lebanese Citizen Bill of Rights is what the country needs to fulfill the citizens’ wish for a fully independent judiciary. Anything less risks incessant and undue influence over the Lebanese judiciary. 


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