The caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury issued two circulars on April 26, requiring that judges obtain authorizations before appearing in the media and before traveling to attend seminars or conferences.
These circulars follow a similar controversial decision made by the Beirut Bar Association, which had announced that all members of the bar need to obtain prior authorization from its head before appearing in the media. The minister’s circulars were revealed on Thursday and condemnations have begun to multiply.
In detail, the first circular refers to a previous one dated 2021 and “draws the attention of judges to the fact that they are prohibited from appearing in the media and giving their opinion without prior authorization” from the minister. The circular indicates that judges must “abide by legal decisions” and refrain from appearing in any media without prior authorization.
The second circular, also dated April 26, justifies the decision by stating that “judges establish direct relations with national and international organizations, as well as with embassies, for the purpose of participating in trips and conferences abroad.”
“Judges are required to obtain prior authorization from the justice minister at least 10 days before any trip abroad, otherwise they will be subject to prosecution,” it added.
“Judges are also required not to have direct relations with embassies or organizations for the purpose of participating in trips or seminars in Lebanon or abroad, before having submitted a request to this end to the justice minister and having obtained authorization.”
Lawyer and activist Nizar Saghieh, who is the director of The Legal Agenda, blasted the two circulars on Twitters, saying that the first “aims to silence judges” and the second “to isolate them by prohibiting them from talking directly with organizations or embassies.”
“As I anticipated, the Justice Ministry has soon aligned itself with the position of the bar association by requiring prior authorizations for judges,” Saghieh continued. “The silence of the lawyers is coupled with the silence of the magistrates. ”
Despite the vast support he has received within civil society, Saghieh has already paid a high price for his stance against the decision of Beirut Bar Association President, Nader Gaspard.
Saghieh was summoned on April 20 by the bar’s council for questioning and risked disbarment. The bar’s decision regarding Saghieh has not yet been taken.
Following a complaint filed by Saghieh and other activist lawyers, the Court of Appeal in charge of ruling on the bar’s decision was supposed to deliver a verdict either to annul or validate the decision on Thursday. The deadline for the court’s decision has been postponed.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Joelle El Khoury.
The caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury issued two circulars on April 26, requiring that judges obtain authorizations before appearing in the media and before traveling to attend seminars or conferences.These circulars follow a similar controversial decision made by the Beirut Bar Association, which had announced that all members of the bar need to obtain prior authorization from its head...