Antoine Klimos: A man of principles

Prestige issue 298, Oct-Nov. 2019

 

Devoted to his homeland and his family, Me Antoine Klimos has always been faithful to his love and his convictions. Trainee lawyer in the cabinet of Amid Raymond Edde, armed with courage and determination, he strives to apply his principles. He advocates the defense of public freedoms and human rights. Crucial steps have marked his brilliant legal career, particularly during his tenure as President of the Bar Association and at the head of the Maronite League. Attorney at law, Antoine Klimos opens his heart the time of a meeting in the offices of Prestige.

 

In the offices of Prestige, Me Antoine Klimos in front of the famous mosaics by Anachar Basbous.

 

Your legal career is brilliant. Why did you choose to study law?

When I was in school, at the College de la Sagesse, I decided to study law.  Our neighbor was a lawyer specialized in criminal law, and I was the happiest of men every time he took me to attend his pleadings. I studied law at the USJ and obtained two Bachelors’s in Lebanese law and in French law. In the third year, I was elected general secretary of the Law Students Association. This is where I met Amid Raymond Eddé in 1968. My fellow students and I were active in favor of Amid’s electoral machine. He called for patriotism and true democracy. My relationship with him continued when he asked me to join his firm as a trainee lawyer.

You did your internship at Amid Raymond Eddé’s office. Which principles of the leader marked their imprint on you mostly?

I keep precious memories of this period, and especially of the Amid’s principles. They are always vivid in my mind. Raymond Edde had a sense of perfection, idealism and legal logic. He declined all positions, refused to be committed to a party or a foreign country. The Amid never agreed to create a political party, aiming to conquer power first. He refused to be President of the Republic to the detriment of his homeland. His action was national rather than political.

 

Me Antoine Klimos visiting Amid Raymond Eddé in Paris. © Archives Antoine Klimos.

 

 

What pushed you to be a public figure?

I discovered public life first of all at La Sagesse. I was imbued with the «Lebanese» atmosphere that reigned in the College and left a deep mark on me intellectually and politically. At that time, we were very far from religious discrimination or sectarianism. I was very active both in sport and politics. The taste for public affairs was subsequently strengthened and consolidated with Amid Raymond Eddé. He told me: «The public thing is sacred. Be wary of financial, sexual and moral spoliation. It will strip you and undermine you, and you will be an easy target.»

Your wife Sonia is also a lawyer. What are the advantages to be in a couple, sharing the same background?

I knew Sonia, born Feghali, before she joined my law office. I met her at friends’ house while she was a law student. And it was love at first sight … I told her that she was marrying «with a virgin heart». Our common legal background helped her to better understand the difficulties of the profession. Sonia inspired me with a lot of solutions for the cases I was in charge of. She is my life companion.

 

1997- Sonia Klimos congratulating her husband who comes to be elected President of the Bar Association. © Archives Antoine Klimos.

 

 

Would you encourage your children to pursue a legal career?

I have never interfered in the choice of my children’s career. My first advice for them was to distinguish between the ambitious man and the unscrupulous ambition. The former makes every effort to succeed in life, while the climber ventures to exploit everything to achieve his ends. I always tell them that the future does not belong to the one who succeeds, but to the one who excels.

The eldest Elie, holder of a Master in diplomacy and strategic negotiations and graduated from the Sorbonne, chose to be a lawyer. He is married to the charming Dr. Céline Nohra and gave me a precious gift, my granddaughter Chloe who changed the whole atmosphere of the family. For his part, Karl, still single, opted for the advertising field. He studied at Alba, and continued in London, with a Master in Graphic Design from the LCC, and an MBA Corporate IE in Madrid. Currently, he is in Toronto.

 

2016- Me Antoine and Me Sonia Klimos with their sons Karl and Elie. © Archives Antoine Klimos.

 

 

An ideal hero or man in your life?

On the local scene, I very much appreciate the personality of President Camille Chamoun, who is a leader. I also like the personality of Amid Raymond Eddé, his honesty … At the international level, I will quote General Charles de Gaulle. He said, «To govern is to foresee»…

In your opinion, how could we fight corruption in Lebanon?

The fight against corruption is a continuous operation. It goes from top to bottom, as we clean the stairs.

 

13 September 2016. End of the Congress on Syrian refugees. President Antoine Klimos, Ministers Gebran Bassil and Rachid Derbas, UN Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag, and EU Ambassador Christina Lassen. © Archives Antoine Klimos.

8, 9 and 13 September 2016. League Congress on the theme: “Syrian refugees … the way back”, which has had wide echoes at the national level. The president of the Maronite League Antoine Klimos was the first to launch the call to face the migration of Syrians in Lebanon.

Lawyer, President of the Bar Association of Beirut, president of the Maronite League, president and founder of the firm Klimos & Associés … Which period was the richest for you?

The richest period was my term as president of the Bar Association. It allowed me to advocate for freedoms and gave me the courage to say things out loud as they are. As in 1997, when I announced a three-day general strike to protest against the government decree banning demonstrations, and arresting activists who demanded the «prohibited» interview with General Michel Aoun. Prime Minister Rafik Hariri asked me if I would give up the strike in case he released the detainees. I replied: «I defend the freedom of belief and expression, not a particular person. The decree prohibiting demonstrations is unconstitutional.»

 

HE David Satterfield visiting the president Antoine Klimos in 1998. © Archives Antoine Klimos.

 

 

You were a member of the Bar Association before becoming president. Tell us about it …

In 1987, for the first time, I was elected a member of the Bar Association, followed by two other successive terms. During that time, I stayed away from the pleadings of my firm, not to abuse my position for personal purposes.

In 2016, you were elected President of the Maronite League … Which achievements are you most proud of?

I have been elected president of the Maronite League unanimously and I am proud of all my achievements at the head of the League. In the election of the new Executive Council on March 19, 2016, I announced the theme of my mandate: To realize the plan of recovery and attachment to the native soil.

 

October 8, 2016. At the entrance of Baalbeck, banners welcoming the president of the League, Antoine Klimos. © Archives Antoine Klimos.

 

On October 19, 2016, after the bombing of the Qaa region in Bekaa, a fundraising campaign was conducted by the League to support the region and the sons of the martyrs. Eleven orphaned children benefited from the collected funds. Interview Conducted by Marcelle Nadim

 

 

Me Antoine Klimos in the lush green gardens of Prestige.

 

 

What are your hobbies? Sport, especially football and basketball, since my childhood.

Your favorite book? «L’homme, cet inconnu» by Alexis Carrel.

Your favorite author? Amin Maalouf.

Your best movie? Gone with the Wind.

Your dream? Health for all, success for my children, and the indescribable joy of living surrounded by my family.

Your favorite quote? Alexandre Dumas said: «There are some great services rendered  that they are payable only through ingratitude.»

The secrets of success? Ambition, excellence …

Your best childhood memory? The beautiful moments spent in the garden of the family house in Achrafieh. Son of the mayor of Rmeil, Eid Klimos, I spent most of my time in this green place next to the Jesuit garden.

Your future project? Live happily, surrounded by my family.