The appearances of Judge Tarek Bitar can be summed up in a photo, a sober portrait where there is no slight smile, pinned on the posters of his supporters and his detractors in Lebanon. His discretion is notorious among his peers who salute the independence, integrity and hard work of this 47-year-old magistrate with an exemplary career. However, since he was responsible for investigating the deadly explosion at the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, Tarek Bitar has unleashed passions. Symbol of an independent justice and of the fight against a political class hated for some, it is the man to kill for the political leaders who refuse to be made face up to their responsibilities in this emblematic affair.
“This personification is problematic. The word of law is no longer audible, itself has become a symbol of polarization. We are not in a peaceful justice ”, comments a judicial source, which denounces a “Intentional politicization of the case” by the leaders involved and their respective political camps. This judge, on whom no partisan or community allegiance seems to have taken hold, disturbs. The virulence of the attacks against him testifies to this. The families of the victims and civil society place their last hopes on the magistrate, who shows unwavering determination to complete the investigation and put an end to the regime of impunity enjoyed by the caciques in power since. over thirty years.
When he resumed the investigation in February 2021, Tarek Bitar knew he was in minefield. His predecessor, Judge Fadi Sawan, had just been dismissed from the case by the Court of Cassation following a complaint in legitimate suspicion as to his impartiality filed by indicted officials. As in August 2020, when his name was first proposed by the then Minister of Justice, Marie-Claude Najm, the magistrate accepted with a certain reserve. “If you have someone else to take the file, go ahead, otherwise I’ll be willing to do it”, he would have said in substance. This time, the Superior Council of the Judiciary has given its approval, as required by the procedure for appointing to the Court of Justice, an exceptional tribunal.
In the heart of the storm
This Christian magistrate, originally from Akkar, in northern Lebanon, already had solid experience. After a brilliant career as a judge and then as an attorney general near the North Lebanon Court of Appeal, he was appointed head of the Beirut Criminal Court in 2017. “He is meticulous, shows total impartiality and respect for the rights of the defense”, congratulates himself a colleague who wishes to remain anonymous. He is a discreet person, too discreet even. He has no relationship with politicians or religious. “
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