Lawyers were controversial about Hariri’s proposal for immunity

After the former head of government Saad Hariri on Tuesday announced his upcoming petition by his parliamentary bloc aimed at suspending articles of the Constitution and laws relating to the immunities of all officials in the country, L’Orient-Le Jour requested comments from two public experts. right. Salah Honein, a former MP and lawyer, and Rizk Zgeib, a lawyer and lecturer in the Faculty of Law and Political Science of Saint Joseph University, essentially argue that a crime like the double explosion in the port of Beirut on 4 August 2020 is not subject to ministerial immunity under constitutional and legal texts. Both, however, advocate the abolition of any immunity and any privilege of jurisdiction so that, according to them, equality before the law is guaranteed in every situation.

At a press conference held on Tuesday at the Maison du Center, Mr. Hariri announced “a proposal to suspend all constitutional and legal articles granting immunity or special litigation procedures for the head of state, prime minister, ministers, deputies, judges, civil servants and even lawyers. ”

His approach is based on the fact that many parliamentary blocs, including his own, have been maneuvering in recent weeks to avoid investigations into the Court’s investigating judge, Tarek Bitar, the deputies and former ministers involved in him, and other political figures. for their part, they are trying to protect the security forces from him.

The problem of reliability

Commenting on Mr. Hariri’s change in position, former MP Salah Honayn believes it is “a political word that is no longer credible.” “Seriously, such a proposal should have been made when its author was in power,” he insists. “Saad Hariri took the reins into his own hands three times, but he never took such a step. Now that he is no longer chairman of the Council of Ministers, it is difficult to link his word to any achievements, ”Mr. Honain added bluntly.

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“In any case, it is necessary that all citizens were in equal conditions before the court,” the former MP continues, regretting the “clannishness” of Lebanese society. “Why should a prosecution of a minister, official or lawyer get the consent of two-thirds of parliament, or the permission of a superior, or a council of order?” Lawyers? “Asks the lawyer, regretting that” the clans are protecting their leaders or the organizations that lead them. ” And add: “As long as there are islands of protection, our society will remain archaic, not opening up to justice and citizenship. ”

Regarding the immunity of the head of state, which Mr. Hariri includes in his remarks, Salah Khonein notes that “for violation of the Constitution, high treason or an offense of common law, the Constitution establishes that the President of the Republic can only be prosecuted by the Chamber of Deputies by a two-thirds majority votes of its members ”. According to him, it is now appropriate to amend the constitutional law in order to “subordinate all these actions to ordinary criminal justice in the spirit of ensuring the equality of all before the law.”

Saad Hariri also said on Tuesday that ministers enjoy constitutional immunity. A point refuted by Salah Honayn. “Contrary to what is commonly said, the head of government and ministers do not enjoy immunity when it comes to a crime such as the double explosion at the port of Beirut. “Regarding the immunity of ministers in cases of high treason and violation of ministerial duties, the lawyer advocates for its abolition, emphasizing that“ justice should no longer be impeded by the two roadblocks, which now constitute two-thirds of the parliamentary vote and the High Court is responsible for judging presidents and ministers. “.

“Step forward”

For his part, Rizk Zgeib notes that Mr. Hariri, in his press briefing, referred to the constitutional jurisdiction of the High Court in the port double blast case. However, this specialist points out, this privilege of jurisdiction in favor of ministers does not apply in the event of a crime. He cites the “constant case-law of the Court of Cassation” according to which “even if committed in the exercise of the functions of a minister, the act constituting a crime falls under ordinary justice.” “In this case, there is no need to waive immunity for Judge Bitar to be competent. Therefore, there is no need to amend the Constitution, it is enough to apply it, ”the lawyer notes. While endorsing more generally the lifting of all immunities “other than immunities relating to parliamentary action that are public order,” he describes Saad Hariri’s initiative as “a step forward,” but regrets that it only aims to “suspend” immunities. and not “cancel” them once and for all.

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Regarding the conditions for amending the Constitution, Mr. Zgeib argues that the petition initiated by Mr. Hariri requires the signature of ten MPs. The document must be submitted for approval by two-thirds of the members of parliament and, if necessary, submitted to the Council of Ministers. The government will then have to draft a constitutional law within four months and send it to the Chamber of Deputies, where two-thirds of the members will have to approve it in order to transform it into law. Steps that are difficult to achieve in the absence of a government that, if formed, will have the right to develop a text for up to four months, while public opinion has been waiting for a year to finally learn the truth about the reasons and responsibilities of the August 4 drama.

Bar Association lifts Zeiter and Khalil’s immunities

As part of an investigation into the double blast in the port of Beirut on 4 August 2020, the Bar Council yesterday lifted immunity from two deputy and former ministers, Gazi Zeiter and Ali Hasan Khalil, who are also members of the bar. …

The two officials were indicted by the investigating judge, Tarek Bitar, but they also enjoy parliamentary immunity, hence the fact that they never appeared before this judge or his predecessor. Fadi Sawan, who also indicted them in connection with this investigation. An investigating judge demanded that these immunities be lifted, but parliament launched a mechanism for several days to allow for a parallel investigation of the criminal prosecution of MPs and former ministers Ali Hasan Khalil, Gazi Seiter and Nukhad Makhnuk. A parliamentary petition was even signed demanding the jurisdiction of the High Court, responsible for trials of presidents and ministers, a jurisdiction that was never considered.

Many see in these maneuvers of parliamentarians a desire to torpedo the investigation and prevent the prosecution of their colleagues accused in this case. Thus, this approach of the Bar Association is of great practical and moral importance.

“The Bar Association lifted the immunity of the lawyers Gazi Zeiter and Ali Hasan Khalil during the investigation of the port case. And this is good! “Nizar Sagiye, a lawyer and director of Legal Agenda, tweeted yesterday. “Your immunity is artificial, the decision remains with the people,” activist and lawyer Wassef Harake commented on Facebook.

After the former head of government Saad Hariri on Tuesday announced his upcoming petition by his parliamentary bloc aimed at suspending articles of the Constitution and laws relating to the immunities of all officials in the country, L’Orient-Le Jour requested comments from two public experts. right. Salah Honain, former MP and lawyer, and …

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