At least one person has died and more than 220 have been injured in protests on Wednesday night in the Lebanese city of Tripoli (north) against the confinement decreed by the Government against the coronavirus pandemic.
According to information collected by the Lebanese state news agency, NNA, the deceased is a 30-year-old man who had been admitted to a hospital in Tripoli after clashes between protesters and security forces in the city.
The incidents have also resulted in five detainees, while official sources have indicated that there are around 30 soldiers among the injured.
A group of protesters gathered at the gates of the Government headquarters in central Tripoli to protest against the absence of economic aid, while businesses are forced to close due to restrictions due to the pandemic, which has already left in the country almost 290,000 infections and more than 2,500 deaths.
The clashes broke out when a group of protesters tried to access the government headquarters, to which the security forces responded by firing tear gas, with the use of water cannons, and even, according to some local media, with live fire .
Far from dissolving the protests, the situation has continued with the throwing of stones and other objects on the police and military, as well as the construction of improvised barricades to prevent access to Al Nur, the central square in Tripoli where they were having place the shocks.
For its part, the Lebanese Red Cross has reported on its Twitter account that 35 people have been transferred to various hospitals in the area, while another 67 have been treated in their mobile units. In the days before, nearly 80 other people were also injured.
The demonstrations have been replicated in the last hours in several cities in Lebanon – which is facing its worst economic crisis since the civil war (1975-1990) -, such as Sidon, in the south of the country, where dozens of protesters blocked roads in support of the protests in Tripoli, or in the capital, Beirut, where containers have been burned and barricades have been created in the central square of Riyadh el Solh, near the Parliament.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has indicated that the protests may have been fueled by “parties seeking to send political messages,” while stressing that the authorities must support poor families in the face of confinement due to the coronavirus.
“Parties seeking to send political messages could be behind the protests in Tripoli and there could be parties exploiting the pain of the people and the economic difficulties of the poor and people with low incomes,” he said through his Twitter account.
“Certainly, there is no justification for attacks against private properties, markets and official institutions under the pretext of opposition to confinement, but that does not negate the fact that there are groups of people who are looking for a livelihood for the day to day,” he has manifested.
Thus, Hariri has pointed out that “it is not correct for the State to sit idly by and not adopt initiatives to compensate poor families and those in need”, before asking the country’s population to “take a position against an exploitation of their living conditions “.
“I ask all relevant ministries to use all available means to reduce poverty and hunger and to create social pillars so that citizens are committed to confinement,” he said.
Along these lines, he has insisted that the restrictions “seek to protect citizens from the dangers of the coronavirus” and has argued that “respecting them is a responsibility.” Finally, he has asked for “a clear plan” so that “the confinement is applied in the appropriate way.”
Lebanon has been without a government since August following the resignation of Hasan Diab days after the explosions in the port of Beirut, which left more than 200 dead and 7,000 wounded, further hitting a precarious economic situation already battered by fault. of endemic corruption and the coronavirus crisis.
Hariri was appointed to the task in October 2020, about a year after resigning from the position amid another wave of popular mobilizations against his Executive due to the bad economic situation in the country, in the absence of agreement on another candidate after the resignation of Diab, who is in office until the formation of the new Executive.
CRITICAL AMNESTY OF FRANCE
The new incidents have taken place after the non-governmental organization Amnesty International criticized France for the sale of riot control equipment and other weapons that have been used “unnecessarily or excessively” by the Lebanese security forces to repress protests in the country.
“France has for years supplied security forces with security equipment that is used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations, most recently during the October 2019 protests,” said Aymer Elluin, from the team on transfer of Amnesty weapons in France.
“In line with its obligations under international, regional and national laws, we ask France to ensure that there are no further sales until the Lebanese authorities have acknowledged their past violations and, most importantly, take steps to deter their recurrence. “, has held.
Thus, he has denounced that “the Lebanese security forces are operating in a climate of impunity” and added that “there are no effective investigations into the illegal use of weapons, including those manufactured in France, against peaceful protesters and not a single member of the security forces have been accountable to the judicial authorities. ”
Amnesty recalled that at least a thousand people were injured during the protests that broke out in October 2019 against the Hariri government due to the economic crisis, high unemployment and corruption, and those that followed each other in March and August 2020.
In this way, it has highlighted that in the twelve months after the October 2019 protests, at least 40 complaints were filed on behalf of the injured, without the authorities having investigated the actions of the security forces.
Likewise, it has denounced the excessive use of tear gas during the protests and has emphasized that on many occasions “the purpose was clearly to disperse a peaceful protest, which violates the right of assembly.”
On the other hand, it has stressed that it has documented cases in which the security forces fired tear gas canisters directly at the protesters, as well as the firing of rubber bullets at the chest, causing serious injuries.
“The French authorities must inform the Lebanese security forces that exports will only resume once they demonstrate that the equipment is used in line with international law and standards on the use of force,” reiterated Elluin, who has emphasized that “one way to demonstrate this is to show that there has been total accountability for past abuses and compensation for their victims.”
Lastly, he argued that French President Emmanuel Macron’s commitment to supporting the Lebanese people “must extend to the promotion of Human Rights, accountability and the rule of law, rather than putting French equipment in the hands of of those responsible for serious human rights abuses “.