Facing the abyss, Lebanon takes a leap forward

Lebanon, Statement

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Since the deadly massive blast at the port of Beirut on 4 August, the “October Revolution” demonstrations against endemic corruption and political mismanagement in Lebanon, which erupted in October 2019, have continued unabated. On 13 August, the protests have been met with the Parliament’s decision to give extensive power to the military in the state of emergency, now extended until 18 September.

Militarising the policing of protest is a dangerous leap forward as it gives the army the authority to impose curfews, limit freedom of expression, ban assemblies, silence the press by imposing censorship, and arrest anyone perceived as a ‘security threat’. The fact the law does not define what constitutes a security threat can lead to silence dissent. This also increases the risk that demonstrators face ill-treatment and torture in detention in violation of the 2017 Anti-Torture law, while reducing prospects for accountability. Judicial proceedings may take place in military courts, which do not meet international standards on fair and due process.

Furthermore, the Lebanese army and armed officers in plainclothes have used excessive force against demonstrators with live ammunition, teargas, rubber balls. Hundreds of people were injured, many with serious wounds. Journalists have also been regularly assaulted, and the military now has the power to block any publication considered as a threat to national security. This alarming move threatens the freedom of the press whose role is to hold the authorities to account.

EuroMed Rights calls on the Lebanese authorities to instruct security forces to stop using violence in policing the protests, bring human rights violations perpetrators to justice, and reinstate the rule of law by preventing cases of civilians facing proceeding to be brought before military courts.

EuroMed Rights calls on the European Union and its member states to:

  • Urge the Lebanese authorities to immediately refrain from using excessive force against protesters, respect the rule of law, and protect the freedom of the press,
  • Ensure their humanitarian aid to Lebanon aimed at healing the wounds left by the explosion, does not fall in corrupt hands,
  • Investigate whether their support in the framework of bilateral partnerships is not used by abusive security force units, and if so, to stop providing such support immediately and review their programmes to hold the authorities accountable for any misuse of funds.