Sectarianism and the Judiciary in Lebanon and Syria
Dr Jinan Al-Habbal is examining how the lack of judicial independence hinders democracy in Lebanon and Syria. Although the Constitution of both countries stipulates the principle of separation of powers, certain constitutional articles and laws contradict this principle and allow the executive to manipulate and control the judiciary. The research focuses on how Lebanon’s confessional system assigns certain sects to specific posts and gives sectarian political elites the right to appoint key judges and prosecutors, leading to an inept clientelist judiciary.
The Lebanese case will be compared to the Syrian judiciary which is controlled by the president as a means to entrench his regime. Even though Syria’s judiciary is not based on sectarian identities, the current absence of state institutions in some areas has led to the formation of various forms of de facto judiciary, many of which are organised around confessional identities, such as tribal and Shari‘a courts. The study will highlight how sectarian power-sharing agreements and politicians’ intervention in the judiciary impede prospects of accountable governance and democracy. The research will also include the Iraqi judiciary at a later stage.
Constitution Writing process
The process of writing a new constitution for post-war Syria is an important means of building political legitimacy, countering sectarianisation, and helping citizens reach a consensus on the state they desire. It is equally important that such a process and debate widens the question of legitimacy among citizens, civil society actors, and external policymakers. Moreover, constitution writing that incorporates citizens’ perspectives and needs is part of the reconciliation process, as learned from the experience of many countries, such as South Africa, rather than focusing solely on the figurehead of the state.
The research will investigate the process of constitution writing in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq and the role of foreign powers and civil society in this process. It will also explore how the post-war Lebanese and Iraqi constitutions were shaped by identity politics and power-sharing agreements and their role in sustaining sectarianism, dysfunctional institutions, and the threat of renewed conflict. Considering the different political contexts, the comparative analysis aims to conclude lessons learned from the three cases.
Dr Mohamad Hasan is conducting a comparative analysis between the Syrian and Iraqi constitutions and researching the Kurdish constitutional demands in Syria and the constitutional and non-constitutional guarantees for the rights of Syrian Kurds.
A website will also be created which will contain resources and materials regarding the Syrian constitutional process.