Monday, May 25, 2015

Lenient military court sentence continues to stir controversy in Lebanon

L'Orient | Le Jour reports:

The "March 14" campaign continues against the verdict in the case of former minister Michel Samaha and against the prerogatives of the military court.

Sentenced to 4 and a half years in prison by this exceptional court after being convicted of having wanted to conduct attacks in Lebanon, the former adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad could in principle be tried again based of incriminating evidence that had not been presented at the original trial. Since the announcement of the verdict, pressure from the streets is increasing. Several politicians and civil society actors cried foul, seizing the opportunity to demand revision of the prerogatives of the military court.

Last Saturday, "March 14" lawyers organized a conference in Biel entitled: "The military court: the need to reduce its prerogatives, define its role and propose a legal substitute." Several deputies took part in the discussion, as did Lokman Slim, representing human rights associations.

In a speech, attorney Fadi Saad indicated that in 1997 the UN Human Rights Committee issued a report in which it expressed "concern" vis-à-vis the broad powers enjoyed by the military court in Lebanon, especially that "it exceeds the limits of disciplinary matters for targeting citizens," he said. The report thus recommended that some of its powers should be transferred to ordinary courts, the committee stressed.

"Today we decided to raise our voices to say that the exception should remain so. Special courts will ultimately produce a system that represses justice and tramples rights," said the lawyer. He argued on behalf of his colleagues that respect for fair trial rights of the defense, transparency, and the required judicial independence are not guaranteed by the military court.

"My attitude towards this body has not been inspired by the 'political verdict' delivered in the case of the accused Michel Samaha," continued FL deputy Elie Keyrouz. "My position comes from my philosophy and is based on respect for human rights," he said. According to him, the reason for the establishment of military courts is to allow the application of exceptional measures "that are not compatible with the standards of justice."

In turn, Ziyad al-Kadri MP said the verdict against the "terrorist Michel Samaha was a national shock whose effects will only cease when the Military Court of Cassation accepts an appeal by the military prosecutor and the trial is resumed."

Finally, over the weekend Lebanese Forces students held symbolic protests in several Lebanese regions to express their rejection of both the judgment and the court that pronounced it. [Rough Google translation.]

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