BEIRUT: Lebanon’s judiciary Thursday asked Parliament to reverse its recent decision to halve the annual vacation of lawyers and judges, saying meddling in the sector's affairs violated its independence.
Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi endorsed the judiciary’s demand.
“It is not acceptable to deal with the judiciary as if it is not an independent, sovereign authority by regulating its work without consulting that authority,” said a joint statement by the Higher Judicial Council and the Tripoli and Beirut Bar Associations.
“Parliament approved yesterday an item related to shortening the judicial vacation despite calls for MPs to observe Article 5 of laws governing the judicial system ... stipulating that the opinion of the judiciary was necessary with regards to any judiciary-related laws,”
The usual “judicial vacation” begins on Aug. 1 and ends on Sept. 30, during which lawyers and judges alternate working periods to oversee the most urgent cases. Cases deemed trivial are usually postponed till October.
Parliament Wednesday approved a decision to shorten the vacation to just September.
“The Judicial Authority will work with the Tripoli and Beirut Bar Associations, Speaker Nabih Berri and some lawmakers to go back on the item seeking a shorter vacation, [during] which [work] is in principle a rotation process," the judiciary warned. “It is not a vacation per say as judicial work continues even in a limited manner."
The statement followed a meeting Thursday with members of Lebanon’s judiciary who agreed to form a committee comprising of members from the bar associations in the north and the capital to follow up on the matter and take the necessary measures in case Parliament remained adamant on the amendment.
The judicial groups added that if the decision was not repealed, "we will challenge [it] because it violates the Constitutional principle of separation of powers.”
In a separate statement, Rifi said Parliament should have taken into consideration the judiciary's opinion before approving a law regulating the judicial process.
"Article 5 of the judicial law stipulates that the Higher Judicial Council should be consulted in all laws and systems related to the judiciary and the vacation period is part of such laws," he said.
"True reform is this minister’s main concern, something which will be done in coordination with the Higher Judicial Council," he added. "A road map has been designed and put into effect to elevate the status of the judiciary ... including speedy trials and respecting detention periods."