Lebanon News

Justice committee scraps requirements for new judges

Jreissati heads a committee at the Parliament in Beirut, May 28, 2019. (The Daily Star/Ali Fawaz, HO)

BEIRUT: Parliament’s Administration and Justice Committee decided Tuesday to scrap the current requirements for lawyers and bureaucrats to become judges, in what it called a bid to preserve an independent judiciary and fight corruption.

Committee head MP George Adwan said after the session that the committee discussed amending Article 77 of the judiciary’s law, which sets the criteria for lawyers and bureaucratic employees with law degrees applying to become judges.

However, the committee decided to completely scrap the article in order to have an independent judiciary, the state-run National News Agency quoted Adwan as saying. Once implemented, becoming a judge would only be possible through the Institute of Judicial Studies.

Adwan said an independent judiciary was crucial in fighting corruption. Therefore, the committee was also working on amendments to not allow judges to leave the judiciary to take other administrative jobs, such as governor positions, he said.

“Judges must respect their fundamental mission, and they cannot ... become governors or take other positions,” he added.

MP Paula Yacoubian, a committee member, said the committee had still not written the draft law to eliminate Article 77.

“It’s clientelistic to add lawyers [to the judiciary] when you don’t know how qualified they are,” Yacoubian told The Daily Star.

MP Bilal Abdallah, also a member, said the committee supported an independent judiciary that wasn’t tied to other positions of authority.

Another law, submitted by Yacoubian, was also discussed in the session. It would allow MPs to appeal decrees to the Shura Council, such as challenges submitted to the naturalization decree.

The decree, which granted Lebanese citizenship to about 400 people, was made public after the May parliamentary elections and sparked outrage across the country due to its secretive formation and passing. The Lebanese Forces and Progressive Socialist Party appealed it to the Shura Council at the time.

Yacoubian said Tuesday that the complaints lawmakers had filed to the Shura Council against the naturalization decree were returned since the MPs were not directly “harmed” and therefore couldn’t contest it. Her proposed law would grant lawmakers the right to contest decrees.

Abdallah said the committee almost unanimously agreed on giving lawmakers that right, “as long as it doesn’t contradict the Constitution.”

Adwan said in its next session, the committee would decide on the subjects of decrees that lawmakers can contest and the number of MP signatures needed to submit complaints.

Also Tuesday, Parliament’s Environment Committee met to discuss a draft law on waste management put forward by Yacoubian.

Yacoubian said her legislation called for amending Law 80, the solid waste management law, by setting procedures for sorting and transporting waste.

“Sorted waste is raw material. It becomes garbage when we mix it,” Yacoubian said.

In the draft law, Yacoubian calls for transporting sorted and unsorted waste separately and including the municipal police in the list of authorities in charge of giving violation notices.

Yacoubian said Environment Minister Fadi Jreissati, who attended the session, suggested that the same changes could be made in an executive decree that implements the law, rather than an amendment to the law itself.

However, she said a law would be more powerful than a decree, and the solid waste management law that passed was “incomplete and does not protect our environment.”

Yacoubian argued that the implementation of the law would have a lower cost on the environment, economy and health.

“If you’re dumping or burning recyclable material, you’re dumping and burning money,” she added.

The decentralized solid waste management law, passed in 2018, gave vague pollution guidelines and did not include a funding mechanism for municipalities, which are expected to take on a larger role in waste management.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 29, 2019, on page 2.

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