[author: Lena Ghamrawi]
On December 27, 2013 the Prime Minister of Finance of Lebanon was assassinated. The explosion in the country’s capital, Beirut, left five dead and 50 wounded. Unfortunately, in Lebanon, this kind of event happens so frequently that it has become normal, even expected. The routine is the same: we hear of an explosion, we hope that it hasn’t affected anybody we know and then we move on with our lives. This apathy is deadly and allows this kind of political turmoil to continue unabated. However, this time, the target of this attack was someone I knew.
Lebanon’s judicial branch consists of two main court systems: civil and military. The civil court has jurisdiction over civil, commercial and criminal cases. The military court deals with cases that relate to treason and national security issues. In addition, there is a Supreme Council that oversees cases brought against the Prime Minister and President. Under the Lebanese constitution, those who violate the laws will be tried in court. Yet, reality illustrates a vastly different picture due to the absence of law enforcement.
For example, when Prime Minister Rafic Hariri was assassinated in 2005, the trial couldn’t be held in Lebanon due to the high level of corruption within the legal system. Internal political factions have hindered the process towards justice because they have become more influential than the Lebanese government. They are able to bribe corrupt judges and threaten those who rule against their favor. An international “Special Tribunal” has been set up for this case and is set to begin January 16, 2014 in Leidschendam, The Netherlands. The fact that Lebanon couldn’t have this trial within the country speaks volumes to the weak nature of the legal institutions in Lebanon.
Looking over Lebanon’s troubled legal system leads to a new appreciation for aspects of our American legal system. The American court system empowers us to seek justice under the law that views every citizen as an equal. By disconnecting the political and legal realms, one can create a foundation that truly serves the people, not just those who created it.
However, when there is nobody to implement the laws and citizens accept political violence as the status quo, situations like those in Beirut will continue to occur. Citizens, legislators, and the government must be able to cooperate in order to enforce laws. The degree of apathy that has engulfed unstable nations, such as Lebanon, should serve as a caution to us. We must remain vigilant of our own system, imperfect though it may be, to ensure that it continues to serve us all.
Lena Ghamrawi is part of the records team at McManis Faulkner. She is responsible for all aspects of maintaining the integrity of the firm’s case files.