In a press conference organized by the Lebanese Coalition for the Independence of the Judiciary on March 28, nine members of Lebanon’s parliament introduced two draft laws that would strengthen the independence of judicial investigations and prevent political interference with the judiciary.
The Coalition and MPs stressed the need to confront obstructions of justice in Lebanon as well as institutionalized impunity, which have stalled criminal investigations and hindered justice.
If adopted, the draft laws would amend article 751 of Lebanon’s Code of Civil Procedure and article 52 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, both of which have been used to paralyze the investigation into the August 4, 2020, Beirut port explosion and other investigations into financial crimes and allegations of fraud.
Human Rights Watch has called for these amendments as a critical step towards eliminating political interference with judicial independence, including in the Beirut blast investigation.
The amendments would prevent the automatic suspension of judicial investigations when plaintiffs take legal action against the investigative judge or request their disqualification or withdrawal from the case. Instead, the competent court would decide on the suspension of judicial investigations.
Parliament should adopt these draft laws as well as a law on the independence of the judiciary that meets international standards, as a matter of urgency. A 2018 draft law on the independence of the judiciary currently remains under committee review. The Coalition for the Independence of the Judiciary has criticized attempts by both the Administration and Justice Parliamentary Committee and the Minister of Justice to amend the bill in a manner that contravenes international standards.
On March 7, 38 countries at the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned the systemic obstruction and interference with Lebanon’s domestic investigation into the Beirut blast. UN member states should support justice for the victims of the explosion by urging the Human Rights Council to establish an impartial investigation.
On April 1, family members of victims of the blast held a gathering to thank the more than 45 members of parliament who have called on the Human Rights Council to establish an international fact-finding mechanism into the explosion and for other MPs to join the call.
UN member states shouldn’t ignore these pleas for support. The Human Rights Council should pass a resolution establishing an independent and impartial fact-finding mission on the Beirut explosion. Collective action, domestically and internationally, can carve a path, albeit arduous, towards justice.