BEIRUT: The Lebanese Parliament elected members to serve on the country’s new Supreme Council (SC) on Wednesday, which will be responsible for trying ministers and presidents accused of crimes ranging from corruption to treason.
The SC will consist of seven members elected by the Chamber of Deputies, and eight of the country’s most senior judges.
The Lebanese Constitution states: “The Chamber of Deputies has the right to impeach ministers for high treason or for breach of their duties, and ministers will be tried by the SC. They shall leave office as soon as impeachment is confirmed. If they resign, their resignation shall not prevent judicial proceedings against them.”
The politicians elected to the SC were Ali Ammar of Hezbollah, Georges Okais of the Lebanese Forces, Faisal Sayegh of the Progressive Socialist Party, Georges Atallah from the Free Patriotic Movement, Samir Al-Jisr of Future Movement, Hagop Pakradounian from the Armenian Revolutionary “Tashnag” Federation, and the Phalange’s Elias Hankash.
On the eve of the vote, Speaker Nabih Berri stated: “Parliament, through the initiative of forming the SC, is seeking to prove its determination to prosecute corrupt officials.”
However, legal expert and former deputy Salah Honein told Arab News: “The Lebanese Constitution provides for the separation of powers. No trial can be formed of deputies and judges. It contravenes the principle. Deputies’ duties include accountancy and control, along with restraining ministers from abuse of power, but deputies cannot be judges.
“Forming the SC is resonant but pointless. It has not been activated for decades, and the deputies representing political forces and elected as members can protect the accused. Referring a minister or a president to the SC requires indictment, but the decision to impeach may not be taken without a two-thirds majority in the Chamber.
“That barrier makes it less likely to refer anyone to the SC. The decisions of the SC then require a majority of ten votes. Its composition, then, makes it almost impossible to actually try any minister or president.”