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Chibli Mallat

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Chibli Mallat

Chibli Mallat
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Chibli Mallat during a speech at the Salzburg Seminar in September 2007
Born (1960-05-10) May 10, 1960 (age 54)
Ethnicity Lebanese
Citizenship Lebanese
Education London University
Known for Human rights advocacy
Parents Nouhad Diab and Wajdi Mallat

Chibli Mallat (May 10, 1960) is a human rights lawyer and a former candidate for presidency in Lebanon.


Lawyer and law professor

In his law practice, he is best known for bringing the case of Victims of Sabra and Shatila v. Ariel Sharon et al., under the law of universal jurisdiction in Belgium, where his clients won a judgment on 12 February 2003 against the accused before a change in Belgian law removed the jurisdiction of the court.[1] Other cases against dictators included Saddam Hussein, who was the object of an international campaign initiated in 1995 by Mallat with officials in Kuwait, London and Washington that developed into INDICT, a nongovernmental organisation he helped found in Britain in 1996.[2] By 1998, INDICT had received open support in the American Congress and in the British Parliament, and was embraced by then US President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.[3] The campaign laid the ground for a case against Saddam Hussein in Belgium in 2002, and his eventual trial in Iraq in 2005. A third case was won against Muammar Gaddafi in Beirut courts for the families of the historic leader of the Shi'i community Musa al-Sadr and his two companions, journalist Abbas Badreddin and cleric Muhammad Ya`qub, who disappeared in Libya upon their official invitation by Gaddafi in August 1978.[4] Mallat also helped establish the Middle East regional office of Amnesty International in Beirut in 1999 for which his law firm has acted since as legal counsel. Led by directors Kamel Labidi and Ahmad Karaoud, both former prisoners of opinion in Tunisia, the regional office formed an inspiring precedent to a multitude of civil society organizations across the Middle East focusing on the promotion of human rights, accountability, and the abolition of the death penalty.

Founded by his father Wajdi Mallat in Beirut in 1949, Mallat Law Offices is one the oldest law firms in the Middle East, recognized for important successes in domestic litigation, including succession and estates, administrative, and business law.[5] The practise continued and was developed internationally upon Mallat's return to Beirut from London in 1995. In addition to victims of mass crime, the firm's clients include governments, embassies, multi-national companies and business and political leaders.

Academic career. Educated in Lebanon, the United States and Europe, Mallat received his PhD from the law department of London University's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 1990. He held research and teaching positions at the 'A Success Story' in 2007.

In 2006-2007, he spent one year at Visiting Professor of Law and Oscar M. Ruebhausen Distinguished Senior Fellow.

Human rights and politics

Mallat has been active in human rights and democratic advocacy since his high school days. His main focus since 1982 was Iraq as key to change in the Middle East, and he founded the International Committee for a Free Iraq (ICFI) in 1991 with Humam Hamoudi, and completed with the Committee a revision of the Constitution in October 2009.

Presidential campaign

In his native Lebanon, Mallat ran for president in 2005-2006 in an unprecedented challenge to the incumbent, Emile Lahoud, who had relied on the Damascus government of Bashar al-Asad to force an unconstitutional extension of his mandate. During the Cedar Revolution which was triggered by the assassination of the president's main opponent, Rafiq al-Hariri, Mallat was active in street protests and in the leadership, where his central advocacy was the establishment of an international, hybrid tribunal to arrest and try the assassins of Hariri and scores of other victims - eventually known as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and the removal of the 'coercively-extended president' from power.'[10] Mallat's campaign was initiated in November 2005 to push a fractured and direction-less revolution towards its active materialisation in a presidency 'that looked like the people who made it.'[11]

Denigrated by some as 'quixotic',[12] the campaign was received in the local, regional and international media as a breakthrough for Arab democracy in its direct, people-based nonviolent challenge to dictators for life.[13] Over a period of seven months, Mallat's team took its message to several cities and villages of Lebanon, and was supported by unprecedented mobilisation of the Lebanese diaspora, especially in the US. Internationally, the campaign culminated in a Security Council Presidential Statement that undermined the legitimacy of Emile Lahoud, and translated in a mass popular meeting on 14 March 2006 with a single motto: 'Lahoud must go'.[14] As 'the primary architect' of Lahoud's demise,[15] Mallat joined with the leadership of the March 14 coalition to develop his constitutional, nonviolent plan to replace Lahoud by a freely elected president.[16] Despite his agreement at the time with key Lebanese 14 March leaders, especially Walid Jumblat, his plan was scuttled by their hesitation, and by the pro-Syrian speaker's call for a dialogue in which presidential change was drowned amongst several secondary issues. With the political deadlock that ensued, Mallat predicted a new bout of 'immense violence' descending on the country.[17]

When the war against Israel was triggered by Hizbullah on 12 July 2006, Mallat was forced to interrupt his campaign on the ground. He denounced the attack of Hizbullah and debated its foreign affairs representative on television in the midst of the bombardments. Soon after the ceasefire, which he had helped engineer through an active collaboration with the Lebanese government’s acting foreign minister, Tareq Mitri, he accepted an offer by Princeton University and left for the US with his family. At Princeton, he completed six books, including two on the campaign.[18]

Middle East Nonviolent Revolution

Mallat remains actively engaged for Middle East democracy as scholar and activist. In pursuit of radical nonviolent change, he founded in 2009 In February 2011, he was asked by the Bahraini leadership and opposition, and the US State Department, to assist in efforts to jumpstart the political process by producing a 'Constitutional Options' paper.[21] The trip to Manama to restart the dialogue was interrupted on 13 March 2011 as he was boarding the plane.[22] Amidst an increase of tension on the street, the hardliners in government had decided to go for an all out repression of the Pearl Revolution.

Over the years, Mallat developed a theory of nonviolence combined with his work as a lawyer seeking accountability for the most heinous political crimes known as crimes against humanity. In addition to the case against Sharon, which showed for the first time to an Arab and international audience that nonviolence through international law may be a far more effective tool than war, he helped expand the field of judicial accountability as an important avenue for victims to stand up against dictators and bring them to account. With international action against Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Omar Bashir yielding tangible albeit uneven results, the scene was set for the generalised call for the trial of former Egyptian president Husni Mubarak[23] and the falling dictators of the Middle East Revolution.


Mallat is the author or editor of over thirty-five books, and has published dozens of scholarly articles and book chapters in English, French and Arabic around the world.Line of Fire during the Hizbullah-Israel war in July–August 2006. He views himself as the eclectic disciple of a number of twentieth century 'maverick thinkers'.[25] He draws on the encyclopaedic, articulate understanding of society by French banker and sociologist Robert Fossaert;[26] the conceptualisation of the courts' role in society in the works of John Hart Ely and the American constitutional tradition,[27] the progressive humanism of Lebanese leader Kamal Jumblat; the aggiornamento of the Islamic legal tradition by the Iraqi Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr; and Gilles Deleuze's creative, multi-layered philosophy.

Collaborative work

Academic collaborative work has seen him serving as a joint founder and general editor of the Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, now at Brill,

Islamic and Middle Eastern law

In his work on Islamic and Middle Eastern law, he has engaged scholarship from the West and from the Middle East in a search for a common language of human rights and the rule of law to be conveyed from within the uniquely rich legal tradition of the Middle East from Najaf.


European and international law

In European and international law, his writings have focused on the formation of the European Union with a particular attention to the shortcomings of the institutional structure in the EU's democratic deficit, the deadlocks of the exit mechanisms for nonconforming countries, including the Euro, and the rise of ‘the Euro-Mediterranean continent’.[34] In international law, he uses the Middle East as the privileged terrain for an understanding of the interaction between international criminal law, diplomacy and politics, especially through his representation of victims of crimes against humanity in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine and Libya.

Nonviolence and law

In his more theoretical work on law and nonviolence, Mallat seeks to articulate the difficult relation between the inherent violence of the democratic state and the search for Kantian perpetual peace. This search is informed by nonviolent practise in the 2005 Lebanese Cedar Revolution and in subsequent mass upheavals of the Middle East: from the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009 to the revolutions that began in Tunisia in January 2011. Only in Libya did he support the call for a no-drive zone when the forces of Gaddafi had regained lost ground and threatened a massacre in the city of Benghazi, but he criticised the Libyan opposition for taking up arms in the first place. He continues to seek success in nonviolence in Syria, Bahrain and Iran through a declared involvement with oppositional leadership, human rights colleagues, and decision-makers across the world, some organised through Right to Nonviolence. To enhance effective nonviolence as 'the midwife of history', his writings and advice focus on the need for a representative opposition anchored in nonviolent thought and practice; the revolutionaries' open and active recognition and support internationally; the conceptualisation of dictatorship as crime against humanity; and the creation of safe havens against large-scale repression.

Literature and poetry

Mallat grew up in a family steeped in a tradition of literature and law. His namesake grandfather was known across the Arab world as 'the Poet of the Cedars'. His granduncle Tamer Mallat was a judge and a poet, whose decisions and poetry he rediscovered and published; he also edited a selection of his father's writings in a bilingual French and Arabic book. With his son Tamer, he published an illustrated book for children in 1997, .

Private life

He is the son of Nouhad Diab and Wajdi Mallat, the first president of the Lebanese Constitutional Council (Arabic المجلس الدستوري) of Lebanon, from 1994 to 1997, and has three sisters, Manal, Raya and Janane. He currently divides his time between the United States and the Middle East. He is married to Nayla Chalhoub, and they have two adult sons, Tamer and Wajdi.



Introduction to Middle Eastern law, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2007, paperback edition with new preface, Oxford 2009.

Iraq: Guide to law and policy, Aspen/Kluwer Law International, Austin, 2009.

March 2221. Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution- An essay on justice and non-violence, [Lir], Beirut, 2007.

Democracy in America, Dar al-Nahar (in Arabic), Beirut, Dar al-Nahar, 2001.

Presidential choices, Beirut 1998, published in Arabic at Dar al-Nahar (Al-ri’asa al-lubnaniyya bayn al-ams wal-ghad), French (Défis présidentiels), and English.

The Middle East into the 21st Century, Garnet, Reading 1996. (paperback published in 1997; US edition in 1998; serialised in part in Arabic dailies).

The renewal of Islamic law: Muhammad Baqer as-Sadr, Najaf, and the Shi‘i International, Cambridge University Press (Middle East Library), 1993, paperback 2004. Also published in Arabic, Bahasa Indonesian and Turkish.

Books from the presidential campaign

Presidential talk, Dar al-Jadid, Beirut, 2008. Major speeches, interviews and lectures on the campaign trail (November 2005-June 2006).

Presidential Papers, 2nd ed. Beirut January 2006. (issues, policies, achievements)

Al-barnamaj al-ri’asi (Presidential program), in Arabic, French and English.

Free and fair presidential elections, dossier published online.

An international tribunal for all, dossier published online.

A Compelling presidency, The Mallat campaign in world news, Beirut, April 2006. (compilation of profiles in Arab and international press).

Choice of edited books

Aux antipodes de l’Union Européenne: l’Islande et le Liban (with David Thor Bjorgvinsson), Beirut and Brussels, Bruylant, 2008.

From Baghdad to Beirut: Festschrift in honor of John Donohue (with Leslie Tramontini), German Orient Institute, Beirut 2007, 502pp.

L’Union Européenne et le Moyen-Orient: Etat des Lieux, Beirut, Presses de l’Université Saint Joseph, 2004.

Dossier sur l’Abolition de la peine de mort, Beirut, Université Saint-Joseph, 2003.

Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, Vols. 1-5: 1994-98 (with E. Cotran), Kluwer Law International

Water in the Middle East: Legal, Political and Commercial Implications (with J.A. Allan), I.B. Tauris, July 1995.(Arabic translation, Damascus 1998)

Islamic Family Law (with Jane Connors), Graham and Trotman, London, 1990.

Islamic Law and Finance, Centre of Near and Middle Eastern Studies, S.O.A.S., April 1988; new enlarged edition, Graham and Trotman, London, September 1988.


External links

  • Mallat Law Offices Homepage
  • Global Justice Project: Iraq
  • Right to Nonviolence
  • Constitutional Revolution & the Arab Spring Podcast of Chibli Mallat speaking at a conference by the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society, Oxford
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