Independence of the Judiciary Coalition Statement on Jamal Hajjar’s Coup: Halting Investigations into Financial Crimes Deprives the Public Prosecution Offices of Purpose

Independence of the Judiciary Coalition Statement on Jamal Hajjar’s Coup: Halting Investigations into Financial Crimes Deprives the Public Prosecution Offices of Purpose

On 6 June 2024, Acting Cassation Public Prosecutor Jamal Hajjar issued a decision ordering the judicial police to ignore any instruction from Appellate Public Prosecutor in Mount Lebanon Ghada Aoun, effectively suspending her. This development came after Aoun refused to comply with Hajjar’s decision to halt her investigations into all cases in which maljudging claims have been filed until those claims have been adjudicated, pursuant to Article 751 of the Code of Civil Procedure. She had also refused to supply him with the files for the financial cases against Fransabank and AM Bank. Moreover, Hajjar stated that all circulars issued by his predecessor, Ghassan Oueidat, remain in effect, including those commanding that all important cases and cases against public-law persons be automatically referred to him so that he may give his directions on them.


Although Hajjar justified his action on the basis of restoring public order in the face of conduct he considers to be in breach of it, he took no measure to reassure the public that the investigations into major financial crimes would continue, particularly the case against Optimum Invest SAL (wherein forensic audit firm Kroll has reported that the company may have conspired with Banque du Liban in a scheme involving USD8 billion in commissions whose ultimate beneficiary remains unknown). To the contrary, his insistence on suspending the investigations into cases wherein maljudging claims have been filed pursuant to Article 751, which is also evident from his letter to Aoun on May 7, sends a clear message that he – like his predecessor – has no qualms about all judicial investigations continuing to be obstructed indefinitely at the will of their defendants. In effect, this strips the judiciary of any role in adjudicating disputes or protecting the rights belonging to the state and people, impinges on fundamental constitutional rights, and institutionalizes the system of impunity that this article has come to embody.


On that basis, and in conjunction with our previous statements, the most notable being


  • the statement we issued on 22 February 2023 in response to Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s intervention to halt Judge Aoun’s work on all cases wherein maljudging claims had been filed, pursuant to Article 751
  • the statement we issued on 31 July 2023 in connection with the third anniversary of the Beirut Port blast, which was titled “Time to Shake Off the Ashes of the Coup and Article 751
  • the statement we issued on 1 September 2023 after Banque du Liban Governor Riad Salameh filed a maljudging claim aimed at halting the embezzlement case against him using the same article, which was titled “Article 751: A Vehicle for Overthrowing the Constitution and Sovereignty” [al-Madda 751: Matiyyat al-Inqilab ‘ala al-Dustur wa-l-Siyada]
  • the statement we issued on 28 March 2023 in connection with a press conference held with change-oriented MPs to present a bill amending Article 751, which bore the revealing title “The Legislation Necessary to Restore Public Order to the State” [al-Tashri’ al-Dururiyy li-I’adat al-Intizam al-‘Amm li-l-Dawla]

we would like to state the following:


  • We warn the public once again of the absurd situation arising from the collaboration between political, financial, and judicial forces to transform Article 751 into a weapon that any defendant can use at will to indefinitely halt the investigations into him or her now that the Full Bench of the Court of Cassation has been shut down by a political decision. Hence, we call once more upon judges (including Hajjar) to use their power of legal interpretation to block the abuse of this article in a manner that now threatens the right to litigate and the duty of the state and Public Prosecution to ensure social peace and state rights, all of which are rights and duties with constitutional force. We also call upon democratic MPs to declare a general mobilization to pass the bill that they submitted on 28 March 2023 and thereby end this absurd situation beyond all logic and reason.


  • We call upon the cassation public prosecutor to rescind his decisions that clearly exceed his powers in order to avoid sanctioning practices that reduce public right to a single person and undermine any scope for independence in the Public Prosecution offices’ work. In this regard, we stress that the cassation public prosecutor has no power to punish or suspend prosecutors, nor to withdraw cases from them. Rather, this figure’s powers are limited to directing them to initiate (not halt) public-right cases and referring any misconduct he or she observes to the Judicial Inspection Authority.


  • Finally, any desire to restore public order should entail, firstly, reactivating the frozen judicial investigations, especially in the port blast case and the banking and financial cases. Conversely, any measure that produces the opposite results, such as Hajjar’s decisions, can only lead to further disruption of public order and impingement on society’s rights, irrespective of the bases cited for it.


This statement was originally published in Arabic on 7 June 2024.

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