BEIRUT: Caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi warned against the rise of drug abuse among university students Tuesday.
Qortbawi rang alarm bells describing drug abuse as “very dangerous,” and on the rise among Lebanese youth, “reaching not only universities but also schools.”
Qortbawi made the comments during a news conference held at his Mathaf office, in the presence of the ministry’s Director-General Omar Natour.
He called on parents, school and university administrations, educators, civil society groups, and all other relevant parties in the state to come together and coordinate their efforts to combat the trend.
He warned that the “judiciary will be very strict in drug cases and will intensify its efforts to curb drug trade.”
“This disease, which is affecting our society, is more dangerous than we think and is spreading faster than we could have ever imagined,” he said.
Qortbawi also discussed the issue of overcrowding in prisons, saying it resulted from the government’s habit of short-term planning.
“One of the developments I have observed during my time as a justice minister is that the Lebanese state doesn’t plan ahead. This phenomenon has continued for decades because we are used to dealing with timely and pressing matters when they happen, without thinking about the future,” Qortbawi said.
“This applies to the situation in our prisons today, for the Lebanese state hasn’t taken into consideration the growing number of the inmate population and so we have reached an unprecedented level of overcrowding, to the extent that we are using detention centers in the Justice Palace, which are not equipped to be prisons,” he said.
“The Internal Security Forces are using detention centers in the police station to imprison people under investigation, for longer than permitted periods allowed by the law for preliminary investigation. Police stations are not prisons,” the minister said.
Constructing three new prisons was one way Qortbawi proposed to alleviate overcrowding in the penal system, in addition to the complete rehabilitation of the Roumieh prison complex. He said there was serious talk about possibility of converting abandoned public buildings into prisons.
Speaking of the status of the judiciary, Qortbawi said, “During my reign there were unprecedented efforts, not seen in the history of Lebanon, to reform the judicial body.”
He said last week four judges were referred to the Disciplinary Council for various cases of malpractice.
Since Qortbawi assumed office two years ago, 22 judges have been referred to the Disciplinary Council and two others have been fired, including a judge from the Shura Council.