On 24 November 2021, the media reported that four judges had presented their resignations to the Supreme Judicial Council. The judges did not publicize the reasons for their resignations, which appear to have been submitted collectively. Hence, so far there is no reliable information about their intentions and whether the resignations are final or were presented to apply pressure or draw attention to the dire conditions that the justice system has reached. Besides the fall in the value of judges’ salaries (which now average approximately USD250), as has occurred with public servants at large and many private-sector workers, the justice system is suffering from a range of adversities such as the scarcity of material resources (e.g. electricity and paper for the courts) and strikes by public servants protesting their material conditions. Many judges have also faced organized campaigns to vilify and intimidate them in connection with several cases, most importantly the port blast case and the cases concerning the governor of the Banque du Liban and the banks.
These resignations warrant the following observations:
1- They constitute a potent warning of the breakdown that the financial and economic collapse could cause within one of the most important public utilities, namely the justice system. This warning is directed particularly at the ruling political forces, which continue to exhibit incapacity and irresponsibility toward one of the world’s largest financial and economic crises. They also constitute a warning of the danger posed by the continued systematic campaigns targeting every judge who dares to defy the system of immunities and impunity, campaigns that have appeared most clearly in the port blast case.
2- They reflect many judges’ feelings of helplessness and exasperation toward the material and moral factors that prevent them from properly performing their judicial function and embarrass them before a public yearning for justice after decades of wrongs.
3- The judges most impacted by these adversities are likely those most committed to upholding their judicial ethics concerning both independence and integrity. This is because these judges depend primarily and perhaps exclusively on their base salaries, unlike corrupt judges whose accounts brim with illegitimate benefits. They are also the most targeted by incitement, intimidation, and vilification because of their integrity and refusal to yield to the system of impunity. Therefore, we fear that these resignations could be a precursor to other collective resignations that result in a judiciary purged of its best men and women.
Hence, the Independence of the Judiciary Coalition declares the following:
1- We condemn the ruling forces’ persistence with a policy of denial. They are ignoring the financial and economic collapse and its repercussions, as well as the urgent need for emergency measures to ensure the continuity of essential public utilities, foremost among them the justice system.
2- We warn of the consequence of the continued systematic campaigns to deter judges from performing their functions and thereby protect the system of impunity. Irrespective of the immediate political gains that these campaigns may bring to the people behind them, the long-term outcome is the destruction of the institutions and more partisanship and state absence, which will come back to haunt most of them sooner or later.
3- We express our appreciation for all the judges who have so far persevered against all the means aimed at enticing, intimidating, sectarianizing, discriminating among, and corrupting them during their past years or perhaps decades of work. We highly appreciate the continued perseverance of many such judges under the current circumstances, which are growing harsher than ever before.