Court of Cassation Public Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat sent a missive Tuesday to Internal Security Forces head Imad Osman saying police have a “duty” await instructions from the prosecution, in opposition to a memo the latter had issued two months ago granting the police the authority to issue arrest warrants, even in the absence of any instructions from the public prosecutor’s office.
The memo caused outrage within the judicial and human rights circles.
Following a meeting held Monday between Oueidat and Osman, the latter had in his memo that “there is no dispute with the Court of Cassation Public Prosecution.”
However, following Osman’s remarks, Oueidat provided clarifications on Tuesday that seem to get things straight, asking Osman to distribute his missive to all police stations.
“Since the investigations are conducted under the supervision of the prosecutor’s office, the judicial police must comply with the competent prosecutor’s office,” said Oueidat in his missive Tuesday, stating that “when it is impossible to reach a prosecutor general at the Court of Appeal or any judge replacing him, Court of Cassation Public Prosecution shall be contacted in order to obtain its instruction.”
“Many are using the judges’ strike as a pretext not to proceed with the preliminary investigations. However, this pretext does not hold, because the Court of Cassation’s prosecution should be contacted if need be,” said Oueidat. “Therefore, your internal memo should be oriented in this direction,” he asked Osman, stressing that “obtaining instructions from the prosecution is a duty.”
L’Orient-Le Jour contacted Osman’s office for comment, but did not receive a response by time of publication.
At the same time, lawyers from the Pioneers of Justice group submitted a complaint on Tuesday against the ISF before the Court of Cassation’s Prosecutor’s Office. They invoked “an attempt to push the ISF agents, which Osman is the head of, to arrest people without judicial instruction and for an indefinite period of time.”
Haytham Ezzo, a lawyer and coordinator at the Pioneers of Justice activist group, told L’Orient-Le Jour that according to the Penal Code, “any civil servant who arrests or detains a person, outside the cases provided for by the law, shall be liable to sanctions.”
On another level, the Pioneers of Justice’s complaint includes another reproach against Osman, namely the imposition of a tariff for obtaining a criminal record extract.
“Although the budget law sets the cost of this formality at LL4,000, the ISF director increased it to LL40,000. However, this increase can only be done through a law,” said Ezzo.
This article was originally published in French in L’Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Joelle El Khoury.