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Middle East Environmental Law


Lebanon is an Arab country by allegiance and identity, and is a founding member of the Arab League. Lebanon is a parliamentary democracy with a liberal economy that promotes and guarantees personal freedom. It won its independence in 1943 from France. Lebanon officially recognizes eighteen religious communities within the country. Its political system reflects these communities and the historical and cultural needs of its people. Under Lebanon's parliamentary democratic system, political authority is distributed among the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Powers.

While the Constitution explicitly sets as an ultimate national aim the abolition of political sectarianism, Lebanon is governed by a customary rule which provides that the three key positions in the State are distributed among the three main sects: The President must be a Christian Maronite, the Prime Minister must be a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the House must be a Shia'a Muslim. Although this rule has been in place since Lebanese independence in 1943, the constitutional amendment of 1990 altered the functions and authorities of each of the their positions in order to restore a balance in accord with the demographic evolution of the Lebanese population.


The population of Lebanon is about 4,254,583. Arabs form the vast majority of the population of Lebanon (94%), and various minorities make the rest of the population.

There are about 17 sects (groups) recognized in Lebanon with Islam forming the majority of the population (59.7%) and Christians (39%) and other, 1.3%.

The official language of the State is Arabic; however, French is considered as an alternative official language.

Political Institutions

The President of the Republic is the Head of State. The President is elected by a two-thirds majority of the deputies in the Parliament. If such majority is not secured during the first round of voting, then a second round is held, where candidates only need an absolute majority. The president is elected for a single six-year term. A President may run for office again after the lapse of 6 years from the end of his term. To alter the terms of this mandate would require an amendment to the Constitution.

The President promulgates the laws adopted by the Parliament. He may also negotiate international treaties on behalf the State, though such treaties must be ratified by either the Council of Ministers or Parliament before becoming effective. A symbol of unity for the nation, the president has the duty to maintain the respect of the Constitution, and to safeguard the independence and integrity of the country. The President is also the "Chef Supreme" of the Armed Forces, which come under the authority of the Council of Ministers. The President nominates the Prime Minister after mandatory deliberations with the deputies and the Speaker of the House. He also approves, with the Prime Minister, the composition of the Council of Ministers. Finally, the President may request the Council of ministers to dissolve the Parliament and to hold new elections.

Prime Minister

The Executive Power is held by the Council of Ministers (the Council) headed by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister presides over the Council and is its spokesman, and is responsible for the implementation of its policies. A collegial authority, the Council is empowered to deal with general political matters, to elaborate new laws, to issue decrees and prescribe their application, to nominate civil servants, and to dissolve parliament for specific reasons at the President's request. Decisions taken by the Council are by consensus or a majority vote of those attending. Nevertheless, a two-thirds majority of the total number of ministers is required for fundamental issues such as amending the Constitution, voting on the budget, and adoption of development plans.

The Council of Ministers (the Cabinet):

The Council of Ministers is in charge of the executive functions of the State. Its powers include: setting policies, implementing rules and regulations, appointing public servants, dissolving the Parliament based on the request of the president, and setting the budget. The Cabinet is considered dissolved by law in the following cases: resignation or death of the Prime Minister, loss of one third of its members, the start of a new presidential term, the start of a new parliamentary term, or impeachment by the Parliament.

Legislative Power  

The Legislative Power is held by a parliament comprised of 128 members, who are elected through a democratic system directly by the people for renewable four-year terms. The Parliament carries all the power and authority normally attributed to a parliamentary democratic system. The Legislative Branch consists solely of the Parliament, and it is in charge of legislation and the issuance of laws. The Constitution requires that the Parliament reflect the sectarian distribution. However, the Constitution provides that, once sectarianism is abolished, a Senate is to be created and comprised of congressmen without consideration of the distribution of various sects.

The Parliament convenes during two cycles. The first cycle runs from the first Tuesday after March 15 through May 31. The second cycle runs from the first Tuesday after October 15 through December 31. A majority of deputies (representatives) is required for a quorum. Decisions must be taken by 50%+1 of the votes. The deputy is granted immunity from court for the opinions he expresses and the ideas he promotes.


The Lebanese legal system is based on a combination of civil law, Islamic law, Ottoman legal principles, and the laws passed by the Lebanese legislature. Due to French influence, the legal system also borrows heavily from the French legal system. Lebanon is considered to be a civil law country and possesses its own set of codes. However, the courts in Lebanon often follow established precedents, which are usually established through rulings by the Court of Cassation. Additional precedent comes from rulings from France and Egypt, countries considered to have the most influence on the Lebanese legal system.[1]

The Judiciary is comprised of ordinary and exceptional courts. The ordinary courts are arranged in a hierarchy, and they are subdivided into criminal and civil departments.

The Civil Courts

Civil courts are divided into the Courts of First Instance, the Courts of Appeal, and the Supreme Court or the Court of Cassation.

The Courts of First Instance are organized into chambers of three judges each, although a single may adjudicate civil cases of lesser value or minor cases. The courts are in charge of examining civil law claims. The "one judge courts" usually examine claims of a lesser value than the ones examined by the "three judge panels."

The Courts of Appeal are based in each governorate (province), and serve as a second level court that reviews the decisions of the lower courts. The Courts of Appeal have both appellate and original jurisdictions over felonies. There are six Courts of Appeal, one located in each district. Each court is presided over by a First President, or Chief Judge, with supervisory and administrative duties.

The Supreme Court or Court of Cassation is the court of last recourse, reserved to review only the most important cases. Decisions of the Courts of Appeal may be appealed in this court. The Supreme Court is situated in Beirut and presided over by a First President. In addition to hearing appeals from the lower courts, the Supreme Court adjudicates disputes between exceptional and ordinary courts, or between two types of exceptional courts.  

The Constitutional Council

The Constitutional Council reviews laws to ensure their compliance with the Constitution, and to consider and rule upon any claims related to parliamentary or presidential elections.

The Administrative Court

The highest administrative court is the Shoura Council, which assists in drafting and reviewing the legislation promulgated by the Legislature, and serves as the highest administrative court in charge of reviewing the decisions of the lower first-degree administrative courts.

The Criminal Courts:

The Criminal Courts have the same structure as the Civil and Commercial Courts, but, they only hear criminal matters. The first-degree courts are in charge of examining felonies and misdemeanors subject to review by the Court of Appeal.

The Personal Status Courts:

Personal status courts are made up of members of the clergy and are in charge of ruling on personal status cases exclusively for the members of their own sects. The rulings of the Personal Status Courts and their decisions are subject to the review of the higher Civil Courts.

Environmental Law in Lebanon

The main law governing environmental management in Lebanon is the "Law on the Protection of Environment (Law 444/02)," which sets out the general principles for biodiversity protection. The law provides for the preparations of environmental impact assessment for projects that might have an impact on the environment, and for the preparation of strategic environmental assessment in order to incorporate environmental considerations into public decisions regarding plans and program development.

Pursuant to Law 216/1993 the Ministry of Environment is responsible for setting out the general policies and executive regulations in matters concerning the environment.

The legislative framework set up according to the Environment Law is complemented by other national and international legislation on water protection, air protection, nature protection, solid waste management, hazardous material management. Some of the relevant laws and regulations include:

• The law 64/1988 which sets the basis for licensing of facilities for the disposal of hazardous waste, and gives the MoE authority over the licensing and monitoring of these facilities.

• Law 387/94 which ratified the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste.

• The Law No. 6/68 on the control of pesticides manufacturing, importing, distribution and use.

• The Law No. 360/94 which ratifies the Convention on Biological Diversity.

• Law 432 on the ratification of the Stockholm Convention.

Lebanese mountains

Overview of Environmental Issues in Lebanon:

The geo-morphological regions in Lebanon are characterized by highly varied soils, precipitation, and temperature. Thus, Lebanon is particularly biodiverse. According to the Fourth National Report of LEBANON to the Convention on Biological Diversity , there are 9,119 known species in Lebanon, roughly equally distributed between fauna and flora species. The soils of Lebanon are typical of Mediterranean soils.

Deforestation, soil erosion, desertification, air pollution, costal water pollution, and soil degradation represent the main challenges to the environment in Lebanon. These problems are caused by natural and human-induced factors.

In its first and fourth national report on the conservation of biodiversity Lebanon identified the following problems resulting from industrial and urbanization practices:

• Fresh water ecosystems seriously threatened by chemical and thermal pollution, over-harvesting and habitat modification.

• Extreme losses to land resources due to excessive overgrazing and excessive use of chemical fertilizers. In addition, soil erosion by wind and water due to poor agricultural practices and sporadic excavation for the production of construction material.

• Land degradation due to pollution from various sources. Sources include industrial discharges and uncontrolled dumping of solid and toxic wastes.

• Deterioration of marine resources due to exploitation of marine resources and sea water pollution resulting from oil spills. In 2006, an estimated 10,000 tons of heavy fuel oil spilled into the Lebanese sea, causing severe adverse effects on marine fauna. The spill affected more than 80 miles of beaches along the coast killing fish and turtles.

• Atmospheric pollution from industrial emission in addition to over-grazing.

• Deforestation caused by fires during the civil war and from dry and hot summers.

• Decreases in fauna due to industrial activities leadings to the destruction of habitant as well as hunting practices resulting in significant reductions in different species. While a hunting was issued in 2004 (Law 580/04) to regulate the hunting season, the type of species allowed to be hunted and the issuance of hunting permits, its effectiveness is has been reduced by a lack of enforcement mechanisms.

• Lebanon does not have any legislation concerning GMOs or the import of seeds. More importantly, almost nothing is known about the potential presence of GMOs in cultivation varieties or in food products on the Lebanese market. Products enter the country without their potential impacts on other living organisms

National Strategies and Action plan

While Lebanon plans to tackle pollution and biodiversity[2], it has a poor track record in data management and national statistics to support effective monitoring and enforcement. According to the Ministry of Environment fourth national report, Lebanon lacks:

• Specific data on the quantity of chemicals that enters the country,

• Knowledge sharing among different institutions,

• Adequate infrastructure in rural areas (such as wastewater treatment plants),

• Qualified employees,

• Prioritization of biodiversity issues,

• Proper funding of different projects.

These issues impede the development of a sound management to prevent environmental pollution to plans.


Ministry of Environment :

Convention on Biodiversity, First National Report:

National Implémentation report on Persistent Organique Pollutants:

A Guide to the Lbanon, GlobalLex, Omar Sial, Hauser Global Law School Porgam, 2006,



[2] Such strategies include: National Reforestation Plan (2001), Strategy for agricultural development (2004), Desertification National Action Plan (2009)