- Basic Information
- Executive and Legislative Branches
- Judiciary Branch
- Public Prosecution
- Course of a Criminal Case at the Public Prosecution
Country Name: Republic of Lebanon (Al-Jumhuriyah al-Lubnaniyah)
Name of Capital City: Beirut (Bairut)
Date of Independence: Lebanon gained independence from the League of Nations mandate under French Administration on November 22, 1943.
Regions, Provinces or Governorates: 6 regional governments (mohafazaat): Beirut, North Lebanon (Ech-Chimal), Mount Lebanon (Jabal Loubnan), South Lebanon (Ej-Jnoub), Bekaa (El-Bekaa), and Al-Nabatiyah.
25 districts (qadaa): Baalbek, Hermel, Zahle, Western Bekaa, Rashaya, Byblos, Kesrwan, Metn, Baabda, Aley, Chouf, Sidon, Jezzine, Tyr, Hasbaya, Marjeyoun, Nabatieh, Bint Jbeil, Akkar, Miniyeh-Denniyeh, Bsharreh, Tripoli, Batroun, Koura and Zgharta.
Country Area (sq km): 10452
Type of State: Republic/unitary
Date of Constitution: The Constitution was adopted on May 23, 1926.
It was amended in 1949.
The National Reconciliation Agreement reached in Taif, Saudi Arabia in 1989, altered representation in the parliament by creating a 50-50 balance between Christian and Muslim members. The Taif accord also increased the number of seats in parliament and transferred some powers from the head of state to the prime minister and the cabinet.
Type: The head of state is the President.
Based on the unwritten National Pact of 1943, the President is a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the parliament a Shi'a Muslim.
Name of Current: The Lebanese parliament elected on May 25, 2008 the commander of the Lebanese army General Michel Sulaiman as Lebanon's new president for a 6-year term.
About: The Prime Minister, also called the President of the Council of Ministers, is the head of government.
Name of Current: The prime minister is Mr. Saadeddine Hariri, son of the late Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri. He was asked to form a government on August 8, 2009.
Type: Unicameral parliament
- House of Representatives [Arabic][French]
Note: the information below was not updated after September, 2009.
- According to the principle of separation of powers, the Judicial is independent from the Legislative and Executive.
- The provisions governing the functions of the Judicial Branch are contained in the following legislative resources:
1. The Lebanese Constitution.
2. The relevant international treaties and conventions.
3. The Criminal Procedure Code.
4. The Military Justice Act.
5. The Judicial Justice Act.
6. The Penal Code.
7. The Civil Procedure Code.
8. The Public Officials Act.
- The Supreme Judicial Council, headed by the First President, or Chief Justice, of the Court of Cassation, is in charge of judicial appointments, transfers, training and disciplinary actions. The judiciary is comprised of ordinary and exceptional courts.
- Ordinary courts are subdivided into criminal and civil departments. At the base of the structure are the Courts of First Instance. Judgments from the Courts of First Instance can be appealed to the Courts of Appeal. This court has both appellate and original jurisdictions. In addition to cases appealed from the lower level of courts, its appellate mandate includes decisions taken by professional associations.
- The Shari'a Courts are divided into Sunni and Shi'a units, which settle matters of personal status in each community. The Ecclesiastical Courts, composed of various Christian and Jewish divisions, settle matters of personal status for individuals from their respective communities. In addition there are several other courts with specialized jurisdiction, including the Labor Court, Land Court, Customs Committee, Military Courts, and Juvenile Courts.
- The Court of Cassation serves as the final court of appeal and also has a Public Prosecution Department. In addition to hearing appeals from the lower courts, the Court of Cassation adjudicates in the event of judicial disputes between exceptional and ordinary courts, or between two types of exceptional courts.
- The ten-member Constitutional Council, created in 1990, judges the constitutionality of governmental acts and also adjudicates in the event of litigation during parliamentary and presidential elections. The Council of the State, established in 1924, is empowered to try cases relating to disputes between individuals and the state.
Adopting the inquisitorial system, the Lebanese legislator distributed the function of prosecuting and hearing the criminal case to three judicial bodies:
1. Public prosecution (or niaba) in which the function of initiating the public action is vested.
2. Initial inquisitorial bodies which investigate the case.
3. Criminal courts which decide the case.
All these bodies collectively represent the "criminal justice", which is an offshoot of the "judicial justice". The latter, together with the administrative justice and financial justice, form the judiciary provided for in Article (20) of the Lebanese Constitution.
Rules of the criminal system in Lebanon:
Characteristics of niaba:
- The civil courts and criminal courts form one unit in terms of the judges deciding the cases in both courts. No judge is permanently appointed to decide civil cases and others to decide criminal courts. On the contrary, a judge can practice his job in either court. If appointed in a criminal court, this does not mean necessarily that he may not be transferred to serve later at any time in a civil court.
- There is a distinction between the ordinary courts and the special (or exceptional) courts.
- The court judges are separate from those of the prosecution and those who investigate the case though all belong to the court system. In their appointment and distribution over the different courts, all of them are governed by the provisions of the same Code.
- Prosecuting Authority (PDF file)
- Independence of niaba:
The niaba has been given a judicial character and has been linked to the judiciary. This link distinguishes niaba from the Legislative and the Executive. Because of this independence, there has been a conflict between the concept of the niaba judicial function and the concept of assuming this function on behalf of the "people". This conflict has shaken the function of the niaba judge in the vision of successive criminal laws. Yet, this conflict has not left any impact on the niaba independence.
- Hierarchical subordination of the niaba judges:
At one end of the spectrum, the niaba judges are linked to each other. On the other end, they are subordinated to the Public Prosecutor at the Court of Cassation. By contrast, the court judges perform their duties in complete independence from each other. Thus, the niaba judge is subordinated in his decisions to the instructions and directions of his superiors in his judicial department.
- Unity of niaba:
While no trial judge can replace the other in hearing the same case, a prosecutor may replace another in the same department in prosecuting a particular case. The reason for this is that the niaba judges of a certain niaba department practice the same authority they have within one hierarchical system.
- Non-accountability of the niaba judges:
Like all other court judges, the niaba judges are unaccountable for their mistakes committed while performing their duties. In addition, the niaba institutions are not subject to the authority of judicial inspection. But, the inspection department may, upon the request of the public prosecution at the Court of Cassation, submit the niaba judges to the disciplinary board. The public prosecutor at the Court of Cassation may also initiate the public action in case of crimes committed while in, or outside, the course of performing their functions.
- Independence of the niaba judges from the court judges:
The panels of the criminal courts can be held only when the niaba representative is present. However, there is no room for the latter to intervene in the trial's procedures. But, he carries on all the judicial procedures decided in law for the claimant party.
The role of the niaba judge in prosecuting the public action:
- The legislator has vested in niaba judges the responsibility to prosecute the public action.
- The niaba's right to initiate judicial proceedings is not an absolute right, as it is restricted in some cases by legal impediments which preclude its practice. Examples of these cases are the following:
1. Offenses committed during the trial session.
2. The right of some general departments, such as customs department, to initiate judicial proceedings in respect of the crimes related to its activities.
3. In cases where the right to initiate the court action rests with the injured party who acts as the personal claimant.
4. In cases where the right to prosecute the court action is hinged upon obtaining a prior permission due to the immunity enjoyed ex officio by the person intended to be prosecuted.
5. In cases where proceeding with the public action is hinged upon a prior judgment, which decides its progress and takes it outside the authority of the criminal justice.
6. In cases where the defendant enjoys political or diplomatic immunity.
- Pre-Trial Process of Criminal Prosecution (PDF file)
- Pre-prosecution phase:
Upon receipt of a report on an offense within the area of his jurisdiction, the niaba judge conducts the initial investigations in person or through the security forces in his area who conduct the investigation under his supervision. During these investigations, the niaba judge has the right to listen to the witnesses after he swears them in. It is up to him to decide whether to order the detention of a suspect.
Deciding whether prosecution should, or should not, be initiated is in the first and last place the responsibility of the niaba judge. He may decide to shelve the investigation papers or directly brings the involved infractions or misdemeanors before the one-judge criminal court. He also may refer the case to the initial investigation judge at the courts of misdemeanors or felonies. In all cases, his decision in this respect cannot be reversed.
- Initial investigation phase:
The niaba judge represents the people before the authorities of initial investigation authorities (investigation judges and accusatorial body). He may, in this respect, take all the procedures decided in law. He may make exceptions and adopt any methods of defense, particularly, the right to review the decisions issued by these bodies. After closing the investigation, the niaba judge makes his pleading and expresses his demands. However, his opinion is not binding.
- Trial phase:
The appellate public prosecutor represents the public right also before the appellate and criminal courts. He attends the court sessions at the right side from the bench. He stands when he wants to make remarks or demands. His presence is essential for the completion of the court's panel. However, he does not interfere in the court's proceedings. In the trial, he acts as a principal party in the case and he has the right to take all the necessary procedures required for the prosecution of the case.
Before the Court of Cassation, as in the Judicial Council, the Public Prosecutor at the Court of Cassation or whoever represents him from the general attorneys represents the niaba. Because they appear before the lower courts, the niaba judges also appear before the higher courts.
However, it is worth noting that the niaba is not represented before the one-judge criminal court. It is up to the appellate public prosecutor or whoever represents him to proceed with the case before this court by making written submissions.
- The phase following deciding the case:
The niaba judge follows-up the execution of the criminal judgments and decisions, particularly, those imposing liberty-limiting penalties. At this phase, he has to visit and inspect the prisons, custody, and detention places to monitor the situation in these places.