Statement by The Legal Agenda on the 2017 Judicial Appointments: Political Takeover of the Judiciary Despite the President’s Inauguration Speech

2017-10-25    |   

Statement by The Legal Agenda on the 2017 Judicial Appointments: Political Takeover of the Judiciary Despite the President’s Inauguration Speech

On October 10, 2017, the decree on judicial appointments and transfers was issued. This decree constitutes another step in extending the political authorities’ dominance over the judiciary and its work. Pending the publication of a complete analysis of the decree’s content, The Legal Agenda wishes to present the following observations and positions:

  • The appointment process revealed the near-total dominance of political [considerations] rather than objective [criteria] when dealing with important judicial positions – whether that of Public Prosecution or among the investigating and trial judges. The worst part is that the political forces [currently ruling Lebanon] agreed to grant the force representing each sect the sole prerogative to nominate the judges in the positions allocated to the sect that it represents. This led to the judiciary’s politicization and sectarianization. Consequently, three lists [of nominees] emerged: a Sunni list produced by Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s team to fill the important judicial positions allocated to Sunnis, a Christian list produced by Minister Gebran Bassil’s team to fill the important judicial positions allocated to Christians, and a Shia list developed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s team to fill the judicial positions allocated to Shia. This occurred after the same political forces swooped on the Judges’ Cooperative Fund to strip judges of fundamental financial guarantees of their independence.

  • In light of these practices, the Supreme Judicial Council has become akin to a mailbox or false witness to the transfer of judges in accordance with the whims of politics. It is therefore unable to perform the function for which it was created, namely to watch over the judiciary’s independence and good performance. To attribute responsibility fairly, we must clarify that the council’s role would not have declined in this manner – in contravention of the provisions governing the judicial judiciary – had political forces not impress up on it that any neglect of or resistance to their demands would prompt them to veto (i.e. abort) the appointments draft. That was what various political forces did five times between 2010 and 2017.

  • Even more dangerous is the effect of the trajectory taken by these appointments on judges, given the increase in the role of political authorities waning of the “Supreme” Judicial Council’s. At a time when judges find themselves more exposed and individually isolated than ever before, the sectarianization of the nomination process will set a mandatory referential authority for each one of them based on his or her sect. A judge will fully understand that his or her career development depends on proximity and loyalty to this authority. In such a situation, it is likely that more judges will yield and acclimatize to this system in all its crudity. Subsequently, there will be an increase in the number of judges frequenting the offices of these authorities, with or without occasion, to profess their allegiance to or concord with them, to show them their gratitude, or at least to appease them – a total inversion of these judges’ conception of judicial ethics. Under such a system, the successful judge who “has made it” is not the independent, just judge who labors to protect rights and freedoms but the concordant judge loyal to the political forces, the judge who aims primarily to protect the interests of the forces he serves and succeeds in getting their attention.

    Conversely, the judges still holding out against this scourge will find themselves marginalized and perhaps persecuted and demoralized, irrespective of their competence and integrity. They will face constant pressure and veiled calls, occasionally from within their families (i.e. from their spouses and children), to abandon their conception of judicial ethics and their “arrogance” in order to follow the political authorities and forsake whatever independence the judiciary still possesses, entrenching the total normalization of the practices that subordinate the judiciary.


Considering the enormous gravity of this event, which is akin to an organized takeover of the judiciary;

In support of the perseverance of the remaining independent judges;

And while condemning in the harshest terms the issuance of the judicial appointments decree and the practices that underpinned it;

The Legal Agenda:

  • Reminds President Michel Aoun of his inauguration speech, which stated that judges must be freed from political subordination, and calls upon him to use all his powers to end these practices in order to uphold the Constitution and the principle of the separation of powers, to protect citizens’ rights and freedoms, and, in any event, to reassure judges and all citizens that they will not reoccur.

  • Calls upon all active social forces to expose and combat these practices by all peaceful means in order to defend what judicial independence remains and pave the way for the establishment of real guarantees thereof.

  • Pledges to take various steps to fight this decree via all peaceful means available to it and expose this grave encroachment on the judiciary’s independence and hence on the freedoms and rights of every citizen.

This statement was originally issued in Arabic.

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