Lebanon’s Justice Minister Says Role Of Military Courts Should Be Reviewed

Malak Alaywe Harz became an icon of the revolution in its beginning when she confronted one of the former Minister of Education Akram Chehayeb’s bodyguards, who had opened fire at the protesters as they were blocking Chehayeb’s envoy. 

The bodyguard turned out to be an army soldier working a bodyguard for the minister. Four months later, on February 19th, Malak was summoned to be tried in a military court over the incident. She was charged with insulting and defaming security forces and the “military institution.”

As a result, Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm had taken to Twitter on February 21st to question the role of the military court in civilian cases.

She said, “Summoning Malak Alawye to the Military Tribunal opens a case that has been postponed for decades. We are ready for a joint reflection with the Defense Ministry on the concept of military justice.”

The main mandate of the court, which falls under the Defense Ministry, is to try members of the military and security forces for crimes that they committed on duty.

However, civilians are often tried in military court for cases that include espionage, unlawful possession of firearms, communication with Israel, treason, or crimes against the military or security forces.

Trying civilians in military courts is, of course, a very controversial practice because a defendant may not be entitled to the same rights they have in civilian courts.

Human Rights Watch has often criticized this practice. Earlier this month, they said: “Lebanon’s Parliament should end this troubling practice by passing a law to remove civilians from the military court’s jurisdiction entirely.”

An investigation by the organization found that the process of trying civilians in military court contains a lot of human rights violations, according to international law. These include using torture to extract confessions and long pre-trial detention.

Will Minister Najm’s statement finally further the initiative to abolish the use of military court on civilians?