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On Hezbollah’s Issue with Justice

On Hezbollah’s Issue with Justice

Wednesday, 20 October, 2021 - 11:45

It is no longer a secret that Hezbollah has an issue with courts. The party hates and fears them. The reasons can be traced back to actions that many see as legitimate causes for suspicion. However, there is another dimension to Hezbollah’s hatred for and fear of justice: it lies in the makeup of the party, which makes it hostile to courts of any sort. In other words, it is hostile to justice, the paths it takes, and the frameworks it works within.

We could recall, selectively, incidents that inform our understanding of the relationship that ties justice and its institutions to the parties that resemble Hezbollah and the regimes Hezbollah fancies. With this recollection, we conclude the following: empowered totalitarian or pseudo-totalitarian parties cannot coexist with empowering justice. It is either or.

We didn’t hear, during the Soviet era, for example, of illustrious Soviet lawyers, and we do not hear about distinguished Chinese, Iranian or Syrian jurists today.

These things don’t happen, as in places with revolutionary rather than electoral legitimacy, where the judiciary is subordinate to the executive and there is a cause considered sacred, a cause for the sake of which any action can be justified, the emergence of illustrious lawyers or distinguished jurists is impossible. Amalgamating powers, as opposed to separating them, does not allow for that; indeed, it negates any justification for it.

The fact is that such regimes’ conception of justice, and so of courts and trials, is based on their constant pursuit to subvert them and replace them with some kind of “revolutionary justice,” a form of “justice” that serves particular ideas and furthers a particular segment of society’s interests. That is, it is injustice.

True, regimes that did not emerge through revolution and do not brag about being a form of resistance could undermine the law and the judiciary. However, those regimes do not have a theory opposed to the application of justice. They deviate from their descriptions of themselves as being committed to justice and working in accordance with it. Though they negate it in practice, they do not refute it in principle.

While the “supreme court” is the pride of liberals’ thought, as it can overturn parliamentary votes signed by presidents, the pride of totalitarian thought is silencing those who object to the leader and his ruling party’s decisions. The silencing could be forever.

Bolshevik Russia set the precedent: “revolutionary justice” was, in practice, a tool to weed out “class enemies.” With the abolition of the preceding judicial system, the secret police, the Cheka, took on some of these tasks, and the rest were left to “people’s violence” against the “enemies of the people.” The Bolsheviks swiftly brought back the courts, but their vengeful nature shaped how they operated and the decisions of their ideologized, lightly trained judges.

Per the Chinese constitution, the judicial system is independent of administrative apparatuses, public organizations and individuals. However, the Chinese Communist Party’s “Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission” is responsible for “coordinating”, and it is granted the power to “directly oversee” all of this judicial system’s work. It is for this reason that Hong Kong insisted, when it became part of China, on maintaining its own legal system as part of the “one country two systems” principle.

The notion of “human rights” was seen by the first generation of China’s communist rulers as a bourgeois notion that should be circumvented. The second generation rose to this challenge by developing a theory that distinguishes “our human rights” from “their human rights.” Only over the last few decades, as it opened up to the outside world, was this nonsense put an end to.

With the 1959 Cuban revolution’s victory, lawyers fled the country in droves. Among the first instructions given by Fidel Castro, himself a lawyer, was that youths should avoid studying law and study science, engineering and medicine instead. The socialist system needs building, not establishing the facts, as they are already established, and there is no conflict in a socialist paradise. In 1962, Fidel Castro proposed the establishment of “popular tribunals.” Since then, there have been many positive changes, some of which were made under pressure imposed by opening up to the world and intentions to improve ties with the United States and Spain. Some were made in response to the changing times and the difficulty of maintaining the previous frameworks. However, to this day, lawyers cannot work independently and have to be part of a collective body tied to the political power.

In Iran, imitating the Soviet-style, the first courts that emerged after the revolution were created to serve a particular purpose: punishing enemies, taking revenge from the supporters of the Shah’s regime, and getting rid of those who could pose a threat to the new regime. The early trials were inaugurated by Hojjat Al-Islam Sadegh Khalkhali: death sentences were issued quickly and Khomeini swiftly approved them.

Today, despite more than 40 years having gone by since the revolution, elite circles in power continue to argue about the “necessity” of generalizing “revolutionary court” laws to all matters, without exception. For one of the prevalent criticisms levied at penal courts is that they are too soft and lenient.

“Revolutionary court” trials, on the other hand, are held without a jury, and one judge can issue a verdict, once and for all, on the defendant’s fate. It is held behind closed doors, and only the court has the right to reveal what transpires behind those doors.

These are the models that Hezbollah is inevitably keen on imposing a replication of in its country.

Will Lebanon be dragged into this situation under the pretext that justice, as it currently stands, is politicized and serves foreign powers? Most probably, something of this sort is already underway.

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