Lebanon: Court ruling approving Bar Association changes is a blatant violation and unacceptable attack on freedom of expression
Stockholm - Skyline International for Human Rights expresses its strong condemnation and astonishment at yesterday's (Friday) ruling by the Beirut Court of Appeals challenging the Beirut Bar Council's decision to change professional ethics. The council's decision to limit the lawyers' ability to speak to the media and respond to the appeals of the 13 lawyers was approved by the court.
In a statement issued today, Saturday, Skyline claims that this ruling limit lawyers' ability to express themselves and that they must choose between their profession and free speech after the court granted the Bar Association permission to restrict lawyers' right to free expression and advance communication with the media. Whether it's to speak about matters still up for debate in the courts, take part in interviews and seminars on the law, or respond to legal queries.
"Skyline" draws attention to the fact that the Court of Appeal's decision contains errors and grave violations, making it a flagrant violation of the rights to freedom of expression, the independence of counsel, and the right to legal representation as protected by the Lebanese Constitution and international law. It issues a warning regarding the risks of this action; particularly given the restrictions it places on those tasked with defending legal and constitutional rights.
Skyline recalls that this violation began on March 3, 2023, when the Council of the Bar Association in Beirut issued a decision amending the "Code of Ethics and Conduct for Lawyers", which stipulated that "a lawyer may not participate in any seminar or interview of a legal nature organized by him", unless he has obtained prior permission from the Bar Association to participate in media, social media, websites or groups.
The Council also stipulated that "permission must be obtained from the President of the Bar Association to advise on important legal matters, prohibiting lawyers from advising on cases that are not considered such"
"Skyline" pointed out that at the time, the Bar Council's decision provoked angry reactions from lawyers, who appealed to judicial authorities, while the Council summoned a number of lawyers who objected to the changes to be heard, saying they might be removed from the board.
In this regard, Skyline emphasizes that the Bar Council's actions and the appellate decision approving the amendment of Lebanon's professional ethics system amount to a grave and unprecedented violation of both the Lebanese Constitution and international law, particularly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee the right to freedom of expression without restrictions.
At the same time, Skyline warns that this violation could spread to other parties and unions, especially since the beginning was made with the people entrusted with the protection and defense of justice, and expresses concern about the low level of freedoms that the country has reached.
In order to ensure that any changes to rules and laws are not in conflict with Lebanese law, particularly the Constitution and International Law, Skyline concludes its statement by urging the Beirut Bar Council to reverse its decision to change professional ethics. It emphasizes that the court decision endorsing these modifications is merely a legal pretext for a violation that is inadmissible in all respects.