The launch of the Justice Forum: An important milestone to reforming the justice sector

March 4, 2024

BEIRUT, 29 February 2024 – The Minister of Justice, the President of the Administration and Justice Commission of Parliament, and the Presidents of the Higher Judicial Council and of the Conseil d’État jointly launched the Justice Forum. The forum, which is supported by international partners such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union (EU), marks a pivotal moment in Lebanon’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its justice system.

This initiative comes at a critical juncture for Lebanon, as the nation grapples with unprecedented challenges that have also severely impacted the functioning of its justice institutions. This Forum is a recognition by Justice sector authorities on the urgency of undertaking comprehensive justice sector reform.

The Minister of Justice, his excellency Henri Khoury, stated: The importance of this Forum lies in the fact that it meets the Lebanese judiciary’s constant aspiration to conform with international standards and best international practices, in cooperation with the executive and legislative powers as well as the bar associations.

The Justice Forum represents, a crucial step towards the comprehensive reform of the justice sector in Lebanon. It aims to bring together stakeholders from across the justice sector—including the executive, judiciary, legislative bodies, Bar associations, academia, and civil society—to develop a national roadmap that seeks to address the myriad of challenges facing justice institutions and improve the delivery of justice services. Among these challenges is the need to strengthen the independence and effectiveness of justice institutions.

The roadmap will be developed through inclusive thematic groups where technical discussions will be held around core issues affecting the functioning of the justice system.

Judge Souheil Aboud, the 1st President of the Court of Cassation and the President of the Higher Judicial Council, emphasized the essential elements for the establishment of a state of law. He outlined three crucial factors: firstly, comprehensive legislation and laws; secondly, the presence of independent judges and an efficient judicial system; and thirdly, material assurances for judges along with facilities for judicial palaces. He stressed that "experience has shown that there is currently no widespread desire for the existence of an independent judiciary, and achieving judicial progress requires the cooperation of everyone."

In his allocution MP Georges Adwan, President of the Administration and Justice Commission of Parliament added that: A judiciary that is free, independent, and impartial serves as the cornerstone for the establishment of the State, ensuring good governance and playing a crucial role in fostering a prosperous nation. It is essential for rebuilding people's trust in the state.

The launch of the Justice Forum marks the beginning of a process to comprehensively reform the justice sector. Through stakeholders’ engagement, the comprehensive roadmap to be developed will chart the course on improving the justice delivery in Lebanon to the benefit of all.

The Ambassador of the European Union to Lebanon, Sandra De Waele, emphasized that ‘’an impartial, empowered, and independent judiciary remains critical for Lebanon, not only to guarantee a system with strong checks and balances, but also to regain people’s trust, investors’ trust, and the trust of the institutions and partners that can support the country on the road to recovery’’. She also underlined the EU’s willingness to lend further assistance, if the Lebanese authorities fully embrace the path of reforms.

As noted by UNDP Resident representative, Mohammed Saleh, “stakeholders from across the spectrum - the judiciary, parliament, ministries, the bar associations, civil society, academia and others – will be invited to meet in thematic groups to jointly chart the course for the justice system that we all here want and that the people of Lebanon need”.

As noted by President of the State Council Fadi Elias: The purpose of judicial independence is to secure the highest degree of freedom and assurance for citizens while maintaining the efficiency and practical effectiveness of the judicial system. This is achieved through an autonomous authority responsible for enforcing the law, ensuring the integrity of judgments, and preventing any distortion or misuse in its application to individuals.

Justice sector authorities are committed to advancing these reforms to build a more efficient, transparent, and accessible justice system in Lebanon. This initiative is a critical part of broader efforts to uphold the rule of law and ensure justice for all to all the people of Lebanon.

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UNDP is working in Lebanon since 1986 as a development partner supporting economic recovery, including working with municipalities to deliver basic services to host communities, promoting clean energy and solid waste management, strengthening governance and rule of law, providing support to elections, and working on empowering women and youth.