Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rocky road to reform in Lebanon

Justice (ret) Gilles Létourneau
Global Military Justice Reform contributor Justice (ret) Gilles Létourneau writes:

As it appears in the August 19, 2015 edition of L'Orient | Le Jour, the Lebanese Minister of Justice intends to table a bill which will abolish extraordinary tribunals or courts of special jurisdiction and replace them with tribunals specialized in matters of terrorism and other serious crimes.

Although the initial intent of the Minister in this context was to abolish military tribunals, the bill for the time being is to keep them alive, but restrict their jurisdiction to the trial of military personel for military crimes. In other words they would lose their juridiction to try civilians. However the Court of Justice, which is a court of special jurisdiction, will be abolished.

Thus the investigation, prosecution and trial of all crimes related to terrorism and of other serious nature will be transferred from the military tribunals and the Court of Justice to the newly created specialized penal court. This new court will be composed of civilian judges. It will be integrated to the ordinary civilian justice system.

While the military tribunals will remain with a limited jurisdiction, the Court of Justice, as previously mentioned, will be abolished. Cases pending before the military tribunals will continue to be tried by these tribunals. However those actually before the Court of Justice will be transferred to the new specialized penal court.

The stated objective is to modernize the Lebanese system of justice, harmonize it with the international penal laws and respect human rights as well as the international standards for justice.

One has to welcome this initiative of the Lebanese Minister of Justice. It remains to be seen whether the reform will materialize in the end. The Minister has already tempered his initial commitment to abolish military tribunals. History is a witness to the fact that more than one commitment made by governments to reform the military justice system has died on the Order of the Day in the Legislative Assembly. Let us hope that the Minister will be successful in his attempt to reform and that his project will not become an additional statistic in the "failed attempt" column.

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