The Supreme Council of Judicial Bodies (SCJB) has proposed a draft law to restructure and reform the Libyan judiciary, but judges and prosecutors have refused this draft law as they believe that legislative and executive authorities should not intervene in judiciary affairs and structuring.

The Supreme Council of Judicial Bodies (SCJB) has proposed a draft law to restructure and reform the Libyan judiciary, but judges and prosecutors have refused this draft law as they believe that legislative and executive authorities should not intervene in judiciary affairs and structuring.

Despite the fact that SCJB has been fully autonomous since the revolution, as the justice minister has been ruled out from being SCJB chairman and its members have been limited to the Supreme Court, opponents of the draft law seek to restrict SCJB’s authority to only dismiss named judges after an elected restructuring.

They believe that it is better to reform the Judiciary Inspection Law, where all proposed articles of the draft law are already included. Judicial figures attribute their sector’s problems to the tight control of the state, social as well as political pressures suffered by judges and prosecutors and poor technical legislative qualifications of its staff.

The Libyan judicial system consists of a Supreme Court at the top of the judicial hierarchy followed by appeal courts, including criminal and administrative directorates, down to the court of first instance and summary courts at the bottom.

External dictations

According to Faraj Mansouri, a lawyer at the Public Advocacy Department, submission to “external dictations” and poor technical qualifications are the most prominent obstacles before the Libyan judiciary. “Obstacles before judiciary are defined by its submission to external dictations imposed either by the state or the social surrounding leading to the spread of interests culture among its staff, in addition to the poor technical qualifications due to favored selecting of courts’ heads and the uselessness of judicial training,” he explained.

Mansouri measures the judiciary’s supremacy by the activation of the Judicial Inspection Law which is, according to him, subject to “social norms” that have hindered its support to judiciary.

“Judiciary Purification criteria depends on deviation rather than work location since working at the People’s Court or the Public Prosecutor Office was not a choice under the former regime ,” he added.

Mansouri believes that SCJB  should allow citizens to file a complaint when any harm or prejudice is inflected by judiciary. The complaint, then, is investigated and when proven credible, the defendant judge or prosecutor is referred to civil service.

Neutral judiciary

“Judiciary’s reform depends on electing a council of judges and prosecutors to revise its structure and form its bodies,” Suleiman Zobi, member of the General National Congress (JNC) Justice and Judicial Bodies Committee, said.

Stressing the importance of non-interference of legislative and executive authorities in judiciary’s affairs to ensure its “neutrality”, Zobi suggested “judges reluctant” to this purification process since they fear exposing their “dirty” record.

He also emphasized that restructuring and purification processes should include judicial employees who by “receiving bribes” shook the citizen’s trust in the judicial system.

Employing pensioners

Justice Minister Salah Marghani believes that “integrity, competence, and independence” are prerequisites to the continuity of the Libyan judiciary, which is a must at this phase and that it should not fall as did the security institution for its bias to the former regime. He further asks the Libyans to have patience till the judiciary raises up, even though experiment has proven that “judiciary cannot be reformed by an outside party.”

Demanded patience is not endless since he stressed that “The judiciary development committee has established the standards and measures for judiciary’s reform on the short and long terms and presented them to SCJB.”

The minister stated that Justice Ministry established an office to receive citizens’ complaints against “Dishonest practices of judges or prosecutors” to be referred to SCJB.

Marghani believed that retired professional judges should be put in service again to use their competences in order to help develop the process.

Without compliment

Head of Tripoli Bar Association Abdel Raouf Guenbej stressed the importance of judicial reform “without compliment”.“People do not trust some judges and prosecutors who abused their position by either carrying arms against the revolution or reciting statements of support to the former regime,” he added.

Such figures, denounced Guenbej, “are clearing former regime defendants involved in criminal crimes, in  violation of human rights. They are still on duty as judges and prosecutors.”

Guenbej said many citizens filed complaints before the attorney general against members of judicial bodies involved in corruption, but no investigation was performed. “A journalist published in a daily at Tripoli names of judges and prosecutors involved in corruption. He however was arrested by the order of the attorney general and was questioned while his provided information was ignored,” he explained.

Guenbej downplayed the impact of poor competence and professionalism since Juridical training were enough to improve technical level of the judicial bodies. He however had reservations with regards to the judicial inspection.

Sharia-based judiciary

Islamists have been also calling for judiciary’s reform since the revolution. Some of them even called for a Sharia-based judiciary and suspended the work of Jebel Akhdar Appeal Court in Derna on the pretext that it did not rule according to Islam and its work was restricted to documenting deaths and divorces.

With the approach of the issuance of the Transitional Justice Law which will be enforced by the judiciary , demands increase to reform this body whose members will supervise the long phases of legal proceedings which require great capacities and competences as well as integrity and bona fide intentions.