By Labib Chemali
A shocking development is happening in Lebanon of late (yes there is more), anti-corruption activists are being rounded up for asking Lebanon’s chief judge Ghassan Ouweidat to prosecute at least 35 anti-corruption files that have been sitting on his desk for years.
Lebanon is going through a series of crises as of late; an economic meltdown, its currency has devalued 85% and decades old corrupt practices at the hands of politicians with no conscience and no shame just won’t stop. Banks fearing a run out have limited people’s access to their accounts (except for those same politicians who were able to transfer massive amounts offshore prior to this meltdown).
On October 17 2019, the people’s frustration boiled over and they took to the streets to vent their frustration at this corrupt ruling class, the revolution was going to rise up and liberate Lebanon and make way for the reformers to start their constantly obstructed work…. or so we thought. The revolution was quickly hijacked by the corrupt ruling class, sending their people to the streets under the guise of “revolutionaries’ and apparent “do-gooder” NGOs that were mysteriously well funded by foreign elements.
They attempted to divert Lebanon’s revolution in another direction by trying to put Lebanon’s reformers in the same basket as the corrupt ruling class and thereby derailing the revolution. Just as their momentum was waning and a forensic audit was about to take place on Lebanon’s central bank (to find out where the public funds were squandered), Lebanon’s port exploded in August 2020.
The explosion not only stalled reforms and the forensic audit, but also breathed life back into the derailed “revolution” with something else to use in their misdirection campaigns. Their momentum stalled again recently and now the genuine revolution is starting to rise again.
Recently clean judges have been starting to open and investigate corruption cases; two brave women Judge Ghada Aoun and Judge Amani Salameh have faced countless criticism, defamation campaigns, personal insults and threats for investigating cases deemed taboo to even go near in the past. The tragedy however, is that First President of the Court of Cassation in Lebanon, Judge Ghassan Ouweidat has been going out of his way to remove them from these cases and shut them down.
This is the same Judge Ouweidat that insisted on taking over the investigation of Beirut’s port explosion in its initial months, an investigation that too is stalling to uncover the truth.
This has prompted genuine anti-corruption activists to start raising their voices in a recent campaign titled “What have you done Ghassan?”. This is in relation to at least 35 corruption cases that have been sitting stalled across his desk for years.
Recently, 22 year old Charbel Razzouk was hanging up a banner asking Judge Ouweidat this question. The following evening one of Lebanon’s security agencies “The Information Branch” (that is seen to be controlled by the same political camp that appointed Ouweidat as a judge), raided this young man’s house abducting him in front of his parents and took him in for interrogation.
Activists immediately took to the streets and social media lit up in condemnation of such a move and Razzouk was released the following day. His laptop and mobile phone however are still remanded with this agency. The following day, activist Tony Oryan was arrested and later released for the same reason.
Now the corrupt ruling class are jumping at shadows with Lawyer Rami Ollaik, an activist who has been presenting corruption files to the judiciary being manhandled and arrested in front of his office in broad daylight. The footage obtained shows Ollaik being assaulted during his arrest without warrant in shocking scenes.
Renowned South African activist and judge Albie Sachs once wrote, “All revolutions are impossible until they happen; then they become inevitable.”. After a number of false starts, it looks like Lebanon’s actual revolution is finally happening.