BEIRUT: The Justice Ministry unveiled a new legal database for judges Friday to expedite the country’s trial process and bring the court system in line with basic technology standards around the world.
The courts are widely criticized for the speed that cases are handled. Criminal cases often take years before reaching the trial phase while the accused linger in jail.
Court officials acknowledge that part of that problem is due to a bottleneck in the judicial system, as judges cannot handle enough cases every day to clear the backlog.
The electronic database, which will offer access to all Lebanese laws, codes and regulations, is an attempt to increase the court’s capacity and move cases along faster.
“We are aiming to make a library for all the judges so they can prepare for their trials quickly, especially when they want to examine the legal context of a case,” said Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi at the database launch.
“This assistance is for the judges who speak on behalf of the Lebanese people,” he said.
The database was exhibited at the headquarters of the Bar Association in Adlieh, before going live for judges next week.
The service provides six types of legal searches and hyperlinks related documents together for easy browsing.
The project, backed by the European Union and the U.N. Development Project, was lauded as an important achievement for the country.
“It will come as no surprise that the administration of justice in Lebanon is facing many challenges, the most important of which is the problem of delays in the processing of cases,” said UNDP representative Robert Watkins.
“The importance of an informed justice system cannot be overemphasized,” Watkins said.
The digitization of legal codes is a rudimentary service that many nations adopted decades ago. Judicial officials said the new database was the “most basic” system that should be expected in a functioning court system.
The slow-moving court system and generally dysfunctional Justice Ministry is linked to a near-crisis-level detention problem in the country’s jails, where the majority of prisoners are pre-trial detainees who have been held for months or years.
The Justice Ministry is also set to take over the responsibility for administering the country’s prisons.