Coinciding with the start of the Supreme Judicial Council’s first meeting at 4:00 p.m. yesterday, headed by Judge Suhail Aboud, the judicial investigator in the port case, Tariq Al-Bitar, issued a memorandum setting a date for the two interrogation sessions of Representatives Nohad Al-Machnouk and Ghazi Zuaiter on the 29th of this month, and without taking into account the response of the General Secretariat of the House of Representatives that Hearing them falls within the jurisdiction of the Council for the Trial of Presidents, Ministers, and Representatives, which indicates its insistence on completing its steps and has sent letters to the Judicial Council and the Council of Representatives, which threaten to widen the circle of confrontation.
For hours, the Supreme Judicial Council met. The first meeting, which was held with a majority of eight out of ten members, is awaiting a major judicial workshop, the first of which is the file of judicial formations, which were set on a hot fire because it is also linked to the appointment of the remaining two members of the Council. The judicial investigator in the port case, Tariq Al-Bitar, did not attend the meeting. Contrary to what was mentioned, the head of the council, Judge Suhail Abboud, did not ask him to attend for several reasons, the first of which is that the first session is for members of the council to agree on the agenda for the next stage, and the second is that the request for a meeting with the judicial investigator will not take place before obtaining the opinion of the members of the Supreme Judicial Council and consulting with them regarding file and what it is based on. Meeting with him before submitting his report may embarrass the Supreme Council and make it bear the consequences of any decision taken by the judicial investigator after that, whether he steps down or continues his work. The council refrains from interfering with the work of al-Bitar, since he has no authority over the judicial investigator.
The investigation into the port file would have taken a natural legal course had it not been for the steps taken by Judge Al-Bitar, whose objectors recorded legal notes, which they added to what they considered French and American interventions that raise questions about the purpose of this international pressure, which has become the subject of legitimate suspicion of its background, especially after If a European report was issued that talks about negligence as the main reason for the explosion. This international pressure and adherence to the judicial investigator harmed the work of the judge and the investigation and put it into question.
The investigation or that fireball did not find anyone to catch it yet, so it turned its attention to the Supreme Judicial Council and its president to get the country out of a predicament threatening it, after the mini-civil war that Tayouneh witnessed recently. What can the Judicial Council do?
The Judicial Council affirms that interfering with the work of any judge, or even asking him about the course of his work, does not fall within his powers. However, as the file turned into a public opinion issue, its discussion became obligatory before the members of the Council to deliberate on the political and judicial circumstances surrounding it, with no more than the limits of its powers. Those are the powers that Judge Abboud is keen not to overstep despite the dangerous course of the case. Judicially, it is customary for the judge to be free to dispose of his file without the aid or interference of any party, even if it is the highest judicial authority. Throughout the past period, and despite all the uproar about Al-Bitar’s work, the Supreme Judicial Council preferred to remain silent. Judge Abboud did not request an interview with Al-Bitar, who had not visited the council for more than a month.. The judge has no authority to interfere with his work, advise him, dismiss him, or even withdraw the file From his hand pursuant to the provisions of the law, at this time it is difficult for him to determine or judge a work that has not ended with a summary that is placed in the hands of his boss. When his indictment becomes ready and submitted to the Judicial Council, every incident has a conversation.
Since the beginning of his career, a single will came to Al-Bitar’s ears from the head of the Judicial Council, the abbreviation of which is the word “Behave right.” What is correct here assumes observance of the provisions of the law in reporting, not politicizing, not communicating with any of the parties to the case under consideration, and not turning the judge into a party. Perhaps Al-Bitar made mistakes in the investigation, or that his steps were necessary. It is not possible to judge that before reviewing the investigation’s course and the steps he took, on the basis of which he based his presumptive decision.
Undoubtedly, the Supreme Judicial Council notices before others how the investigation file into the port crime has turned into a public opinion issue that requires the judge to abide by the law, away from settling political scores with the political class, even if that is a popular need. And if many hopes were built on the judicial investigator in the port case, and the judge whose integrity is not questioned, what is required of him is to fulfill the wish of the overwhelming majority of the Lebanese that justice is the basis, and his work puts the reputation and prestige of the judiciary on the line.