Lebanese judges to end months-long strike on Monday

Decision comes after an agreement over new financial aid for judges, but details on the source of financing are sparse

The Justice Palace in Beirut. Reuters
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Lebanese judges are set to end their five-month strike after an agreement on financial assistance was reached.

Judicial work should resume progressively on Monday, The National has been told.

The deal struck with the judges’ mutual fund for financial assistance aims to improve judges' purchasing power after their salaries were slashed by more than 95 per cent amid a sharp currency depreciation.

Lebanon's unprecedented economic crisis, described by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history, has taken a huge toll on judicial staff — and all the public sector’s professions.

Judges started a strike in mid-August to protest against the decline of their salaries and the deterioration of their work conditions.

This led to paralysis of the judicial system, with some of the nation’s top courts completely halting their activities, including for urgent judiciary matters.

Last week, the general assembly of judges agreed on new financial support, “ranging between $500 and $1200 per month, which will be financed by the Ministry of Finance, through the judges’ mutual fund”, a judicial source told The National.

This is a type of monthly bonus, and not a salary increase, because “this would have implied a revaluation of the end-of-service indemnities”, the person said, who was not involved in the negotiations.

Following the decision, the Supreme Judicial Council called “judges to return to the exercise of their duties, in a way that secures the continuity of the judicial public service”, in a statement published on Thursday.

It is not known how the cash-strapped country will finance this new financial support in dollars, as details remain sparse.

A Ministry of Finance representative said they did not have information on the mechanism and The National could not reach the Ministry of Justice for comment.

In early July, Lebanon's central bank implemented an informal mechanism allowing judges to withdraw their salary at a preferential exchange rate, on a voluntary basis. The measure was met with harsh criticism in the legal world, with some denouncing the mechanism's lack of transparency and describing it as attempted bribery.

The government was forced to back down a few weeks after the news was leaked in the media.

“This time the central bank is not involved”, the judicial source stressed.

The collapse of the national currency is said to have crushed judges’ pay to around $90-$210 on the parallel market rate.

Courthouses are collapsing amid a general crumbling of the country's public infrastructure. Some magistrates are reporting a lack of running water and electricity, and having to pay for cleaning services and internet access.

Updated: January 08, 2023, 8:49 AM
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