On 28 July 2021, the head of the bar association issued a decision to form a committee headed by the undersecretary/deputy head of the bar. Its membership includes 13 lawyers, some of whom occupy syndicate positions, whether in the structural hierarchy of the bar council (board) or subsidiary heads.
The substantial content of the resolution is to censor, monitor and evaluate what lawyers publish on the Internet, especially on social media.
The resolution starts with an angry introductory note and ends with an explicit threat to exercise oversight and censorship through a mechanism that lacks independence and that violates the law in terms of jurisdiction and evidence.
The following points highlight the most important features of this committee, how it works and how it poses a danger to freedom of expression, as well as its usurpation of the powers/roles of oversight bodies entrusted with the investigation of crimes.
An angry prelude leads to encroachment on the law and the rules of justice:
As a justification for an exceptional decision whose prelude is also exceptional, it carries a measure of anger and lacks the necessary amount of respect for the law; such as, but not limited to, the following phrase: “because it has failed all the efforts that I personally made for a year and a half to put an end to such offences, verbal insults, lies, and obscenities and bring them back the right way…. but these attempts failed….and this encouraged others not to implement prompt justice…which is what can no longer be continued nor tolerated….”
The resolution’s prelude refers to a certain incident where the head of the bar association failed to hold those responsible accountable in accordance with the law; a complaint/report, a technical investigation, filing or shelving a criminal case, a direct prosecution, a criminal judgment/ruling, or referral to a disciplinary body. Such a failed course in a specific case- or cases- leads to the violation of the law!
The danger here lies in the idea of inclining to seek or take revenge instead of implementing justice, from an institution that showed honorable stances in defending the law, its sovereignty and the values of justice.
Objective, mechanism, proof and punishment:
The decision set a goal for the aforementioned committee: “to monitor the insults, slander, libel and defamation subjected by any lawyer (male or female) or any individual, and that are published on the Internet and social media websites alongside newspapers or any audio publications.”
According to the resolution, the committee’s role is represented in “submitting a printed copy of a certain incident monitored on social media or a newspaper, or any audio or visual publication to the bar association’s disciplinary department, which, in turn, receives complaints from lawyers or individual people and submits a note to the head of the bar”.
The penalties stipulated in the resolution:
The resolution said that that the applicable article here is Paragraph 5 of Article 13 of the Advocates Law (Lawyers’ Law), which states “He should be of good conduct, good reputation, worthy of the due respect for the profession, and that no disciplinary judgments are issued against him or that his relationship with his job, profession is cut off for reasons related to his suitability for the job he was occupying.” The decision interpreted this article as follows: “According to what was stated in the last paragraph of the same article, not meeting any of the aforementioned conditions or the eight items mentioned in the abovementioned article…” the lawyer’s membership in the bar association will be cancelled by force of law from the date of not meeting of any of these conditions” ….. Hence the penalty will be the most severe- cancelling his membership”!