BEIRUT: Any attempt to undermine the National Pact would only lead to civil strife among the Lebanese, experts warned over the weekend during an international conference about drafting constitutions in the Arab world. “Any attempt to undermine the National Pact or keep blocking its implementation will only lead to a new civil war among the Lebanese,” said Judge Abbas Halabi, who contributed to the pact and was one of the many participants of the conference.
Local and foreign scholars as well as diplomats discussed the challenges of drafting constitutions during the two-day conference that took place at the Monroe Hotel in Ain al-Mreisseh.
The conference was organized by the Lebanese Foundation for Permanent Civil Peace and the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation. Over 150 researchers, public sector workers, media professionals and Arab and European diplomats accredited in Lebanon participated.
Four ambassadors to Lebanon, from the Spanish, Egyptian, Tunisian and Yemeni missions, illustrated the experience of drafting new constitutions during a session on democratic transition.
Former Justice Ministers Edmond Rizk, Bahij Tabbara, Khaled Qabbani and the head of the Constitutional Council Issam Sleiman also took part in discussions.
Participants exchanged ideas about the challenges of drafting a constitution amid emerging political systems in the Arab world. They focused on how these new governments could benefit from the constitutional process in a way that would avoid reigniting internal struggles from the past.
“Lebanon today is no longer in a transitional stage and has achieved the establishment stage,” legislative expert Antoine Mesara said. “Talking about a transitional period in Lebanon today threatens its existence as an independent, free and sovereign entity.”
Sleiman addressed the obstacles that could hamper a constitution’s development, saying these were mainly the relationships between religion and civil society and between power balances and constitutional rules, in addition to the compatibility of legislation.
German Charges d’Affaires Garsten Mair presented the German constitutional experience for comparison.
“Human rights are a very essential issue and can’t be respected unless they are included in the most powerful legislations, like the constitution. The German people have a very strong relationship with the constitution, which in turn respects their rights,” he said.
“The judicial system remains the guarantor [of human rights] in the face of economic developments in any country,” he said.
The second day of the seminar comprised a round table of constitutional experts that lawyer Carlos Daoud led.
Daoud addressed the difficult process of democratic transition and talked about the measures that should be taken so that transitions could be achieved peacefully.
These measures, according to Daoud, included adopting a new constitution that gives power to the people, encouraging reconciliation for struggling parties, holding transparent and just elections, giving the judiciary the chance to do its job in prosecuting all those who commit crimes against humanity and protecting the supporters of the previous regime from torture.
The Lebanese Foundation for Permanent Civil Peace promotes theoretical and practical efforts that address Lebanese history and politics.
The Konrad Adenauer Foundation is a political organization based in Germany.