Lebanon: A judicial decision constitutes a blow to freedom of expression and the independence of lawyers

Lebanon: A judicial decision constitutes a blow to freedom of expression and the independence of lawyers
Lebanon: A judicial decision constitutes a blow to freedom of expression and the independence of lawyers

Today, 14 organizations that are members of the “Coalition for Freedom of Opinion and Expression in Lebanon” saw that the decision of the Beirut Court of Appeal to reject an appeal submitted by lawyers to nullify seemingly unconstitutional amendments to the Law of Ethics for Lawyers constitutes a wasted opportunity to consolidate the rule of law and the human rights of lawyers in Lebanon.

On March 3, 2023, the Beirut Bar Association amended the ethics of the profession in a way that requires lawyers to obtain prior permission from the president of the association before any media appearance or discussion of legal issues on social media, and the association prevented lawyers from criticizing the president and members of its council, especially during union elections. . At the end of the same month, 13 lawyers filed two appeals before the Court of Appeal in Beirut to invalidate the amendments to the ethics of the profession of lawyers, based on arguments, including that the syndicate is not the competent authority because restrictions on freedom of expression can only be approved by the legislative authority, and that the amendments violate the basic principles of the United Nations. regarding the role of lawyers and that it did not respect the principles of proportionality and necessity. The two appeals are also based on the fact that the amendments actually grant members of the Syndicate Council legal immunity and protect them from criticism in the media, and are not suitable for efforts to expose allegations of corruption.

Members of the Alliance for Freedom of Opinion and Expression in Lebanon said: “The Beirut Court of Appeal’s rejection of the two appeals of the new amendments to the Law on Ethics for Lawyers is a setback for the rule of law and freedom of expression in Lebanon, which would reinforce the growing repressive environment and give the Beirut Bar Association the tool to exercise more control over The ability of lawyers to engage in constructive public debate, provide the public with knowledge, and expose wrongdoing by officials.”

Coalition members added: “Lawyers, like other citizens, are entitled to enjoy human rights, including the right to freedom of expression. In particular, lawyers have the right to participate in public debate on issues related to law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights without suffering professional restrictions on the pretext of their legal work or membership in a legal institution.

He continued, “The Bar Association must immediately retract its arbitrary decision and abide by the rule of law and the right to freedom of expression that is constitutionally and legally guaranteed. The authorities should also guarantee the right to freedom of expression and the free flow of information, especially in times of crisis when public debate is most needed.”

It is noteworthy that the recent amendments extended the restrictions imposed in 2014 on lawyers to prevent them from discussing pending cases before the courts. The recent amendments went further by requiring lawyers to obtain prior permission from the captain before participating in seminars of a legal nature, conducting interviews with media outlets, and speaking about legal issues on social media or on websites without specifying the mechanism or time limit for submitting a request for permission.

In addition, the amendments shield the Beirut Bar Association and members of the Bar Council from any criticism. It grants al-Naqib disproportionate power to make unilateral decisions on granting permissions, and therefore flagrantly impedes lawyers’ exercise of the right to defense, including strategic and legal litigation that requires communication with the public, campaigning, and advocacy. It is feared that the amendments will have a negative impact on people’s access to justice.

The new restrictions were previously used against lawyer Nizar Saghieh, executive director of the “Legal Agenda,” a non-profit research and advocacy organization based in Beirut. Saghieh is among the 13 lawyers who filed two appeals in March. Saghieh was summoned to a hearing before the Bar Council on April 20 after his public criticism of the amendments. The syndicate has not yet issued any decision regarding him, which means that the danger of his removal from the syndicate as a punishment for his peaceful opposition still exists.

Saghieh said, “The Bar Association and the Beirut Court of Appeal force lawyers to choose between our profession and our freedom, contrary to what is stipulated in the constitution and international standards. We will continue to defend our rights with all available means.”

signatory organizations

A. Take action for human rights

Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections






Samir Kassir Foundation

Skills Foundation

The Lebanese Center for Human Rights

Legal Notepad

MENA for Human Rights

Media organization for peace

Amnesty International

Alternative Press Syndicate

A nucleus of legal initiatives