The interim bylaws for the State of Greater Lebanon were issued by Decree No. 336 of 1 September 1920, the day after the proclamation of the State of Greater Lebanon by French High Commissioner General Gouraud (Decree No. 318 of 31 August 1920). The second part of Decree No. 336 defined “the central authority and the general services of the State” and stated in Article 14 that the “Department of Justice, Property and Endowments” was ranked third highest among the State’s seven services.
This service formed the first core agency of the Ministry of Justice, which was renamed “Directorate of Justice” in accordance with Decree No. 86 of 29 October 1920 issued by Major Trabaud, Governor of the State of Greater Lebanon.
This decree defined the mandate of the Directorate of Justice as follows: “an administration assigned, under the supervision of the French High Commissioner, to organise and manage the judicial services of the State, and communicate with the Technical Adviser to the High Commissioner. The Directorate of Justice receives from the latter, as commissioned by the Governor, all necessary regulations and instructions. It supervises the enforcement of the law, legislation and judicial instructions in full force and effect.”
It is the Director of Justice’s duty, “following a favourable opinion of the High Commissioner, to notify the Governor of the appointment and transfer of judges as well as employees such as: clerks, bailiffs and translators. The Director of Justice requires the magistrates and the public prosecutor to provide all information, and notifies, through administrative councillors in the various departments, all directives, orders and decrees issued by the higher authorities. The Director of Justice shall also prepare the administrative budget and submit it to the Secretary of State during the preparation of the government’s yearly budget.”
Charles Débbas was appointed as the first Director of Justice of Greater Lebanon under Decree No. 343 of 1 September 1920 issued by General Gouraud.
Later, the name “Directorate of Justice” was replaced by “Department of Justice” by virtue of Decree No. 589 of 20/12/1920 issued by High Commissioner Robert De Caix.
In 1924, the name was changed to “Administration”, after the “Council of Administrators” was established in accordance with the order (No. 2867 of 22 December 1924) issued by General Vandenberg, Governor of the State of Greater Lebanon. Thereupon, the chief officer was called “Administrator”.
In 1922, the Consultative Committee of Legislation was set up at the “Directorate of Justice” under Decree No. 1647 of 17/12/1922 issued by Governor Trabaud. The Committee was assigned to examine all draft legislative and regulatory texts. It was chaired by the Director of Justice and it included as members the President of the Court of Cassation, the President of the Bar Association and the Attorney General, and two professors from the “French Law School of Beirut”. According to Article 3 of the decree, the task of this Committee was limited to “re-formulating the first draft law and ensuring the compliance of the text with the laws in force, as long as the Committee had not been assigned by a special order from the Governor to prepare the first draft text”.
The Committee’s composition was amended by Decree No. 1787 of 2 March 1923 issued by Governor Trabaud. Thereafter, it came under the chairmanship of the Administrator of Justice and included two jurists appointed by the Governor and a professor of the French Law School. The members of this Committee were appointed by Decree No. 1614 of 10 April 1923 and were Antoine Mazas, Director of the French Law School of Beirut, and by Aouni Ishak and Jamil Houssami of the Beirut Bar Association.
After the proclamation of the Constitution (on 23 May 1926), the government adopted a new decree (No. 5 of 31 May 1926), concerning “the new regulations of the ministries of the Lebanese Republic and their powers.” This decree identified seven ministries, including and headed by the “Justice Ministry.”
The mandate of this Ministry was defined as follows: “it is responsible for the regulation and management of courts and tribunals in the State, for the supervision of the enforcement of the law, legislation and judicial investigations in place, and the promulgation of decrees relating to the exemption or the modification of the sanctions following its proposal.” This regulation also stated that the “State Council and the Islamic Courts were to be annexed to the ministry.”
Following the suspension of the Constitution (by Decree LR/55 of 9 May 1932), High Commissioner Henri Ponsot established “the Board of Directors” chaired by the Secretary of State who had replaced the Head of Government and was serving as acting Prime Minister. Thus, the names “Directorate of Justice” and “Director of Justice” were once again used to designate the Ministry of Justice. Sami El-Khouri was General-Director of Justice at that time and was thus in charge.
In 1939, Decree No. 10/LE of 22 November 1939 establishing the management of the State of Lebanon was promulgated. Article 3 of this decree abolished the Directorate of Justice as well as the role of the Director of Justice. The Department of Justice was annexed to the Ministry of Interior. The decree was signed by President of the Republic Emile Edde, Secretary of State Abdallah Bayhom and ratified by High Commissioner Puaux (No. 504/A9). It was later revoked on 1 December 1941, following the creation of Ahmad Daouk’s government.
The central government issued its first regulation on the Ministry of Justice under Decree No. 797/K of 6/03/1944. According to the decree, the Ministry was to consist of: the Directorate; the Department of Judicial Affairs and Legislation; the Committee of Litigation; The Department of Islamic Courts; and the Department of Administrative Affairs.
This regulation remained in effect until 10 March 1953, when Decree No. 50 establishing the Service of forensic medicine was promulgated. This decree renewed the Ministry of Justice’s central administration while increasing the scope of the Department of Litigation and Legislation’s services after changing its name to “Committee of Legislation and Litigation”. Article 41 of Legislative Decree No. 12 of 5/01/1955 (Organisation of Public Administration) stipulated that Legislative Decree No. 50 would represent a regulatory decree adopted by the Cabinet.
The official gazette and the judicial newsletter were established under the management the “Committee of Litigation and Legislation”, which had the task to print and distribute the official gazette, as well as the judicial newsletter, the legislative texts and the other completed official publications.
However, in 1959 the management of the official gazette was transferred to the Presidency of the Cabinet by Decree No. 2870 of 16 December 1959 and handed over to the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Cabinet. The latter took over “the management of the official gazette and the publication, printing, distribution and archive of texts to be integrated.” (Article 7-d) Accordingly, Article 9 of this decree cancelled all laws opposed to its provisions or incompatible with its content.
The name “Justice Ministry” remained valid under the regulation of the public administration based on Decree No. 12 of 5/01/1955. However, the denomination “Ministry of Justice” was adopted a year later pursuant to Legislative Decree No. 111 of 12 June 1959.
The administration of prisons was transferred from the Internal Security Forces to the Ministry of Justice by Decree No. 17315 of 28 August 1964. This decree created an administration known as the “Directorate of Prisons” answering directly to the Minister of Justice. Amended Article 29 of Legislative Decree No. 151 of 16 September 1983 on the organisation of the Ministry of Justice states that the Directorate of prisons shall: “be in charge of the prisoners’ affairs; look after them; rehabilitate them; implement the regulations on penal institutions systems; determine their functions and powers, as well as their staff regulations, by virtue of the decree issued by the Cabinet upon the suggestion of the Minister of Justice, provided that this directorate be chaired by an official to be appointed by virtue of a decree upon the recommendation of the Minister of Justice.”
It should be noted that, to this date, the above-mentioned decree has not been put into effect, which explains why in practice the administration of prisons is still under supervision of the Internal Security Forces and thus, the Ministry of Interior.
Amendments were made to the Statute of the Ministry of Justice afterwards and until 16 September 1983, when Legislative Decree No. 151 was adopted, thereby annulling all previous regulations and replacing them with new provisions.
According to this legislative decree, which is still in force until today, the Ministry of Justice is responsible for: “the organisation of judicial matters; ensuring effective law enforcement and the application of the related regulations; the preparation of bills and statutory texts which have been assigned to it, as well as the expression of views on the matters presented to it; the representation of the government before the courts; and the organisation of detainee and juvenile delinquent affairs. It is also responsible for all affairs related to notaries, experts, trustees and liquidators.”
The structure of the Ministry of Justice now includes: the General Directorate, as well as the Courts and the Administrative Tribunals. The General Directorate of the Ministry of Justice is constituted of the following departments:
- Committee of Legislation & Consultations
- Committee of Litigation
- Institute of Judicial Studies
- Directorate of Judges & Employees’ Affairs
- The Chancellery
- Directorate of Prisons
- Department of Delinquent Juveniles Rehabilitation
- Department of Forensic Medicine and Criminal Evidences
Since the Ministry of Justice’s creation in 1920, 65 Ministers have been appointed and 11 officials have served as Director-General of the Ministry.
|Department of Justice, Property and Endowments
||Decree No. 336, Dated 1/9/1920
||French High Commissioner, General Gouraud
|Directorate of Justice
||Decree No. 86, Dated 29/10/1920
||Governor of Greater Lebanon Trabaud
|Department of Justice
||Decree No. 589, Dated 20/12/1920
||French High Commissioner, Robert de Caix
|Bureau of Justice
||Decree No. 601, Dated 30/12/1920
||French High Commissioner, Robert de Caix
||Decree No. 2867, Dated 22/12/1924
||Governor of Greater Lebanon, Vandenberg
||Decree No. 5, Dated 31/5/1926
|Directorate of Justice
||Decree No. LR/55, Dated 9/5/1932
||French High Commissioner, Henri Ponsot
||Decree No. K/797, Dated 6/3/1944
|Ministry of Justice
||Legislative Decree No. 111, Dated 12/6/1959