Today the ICJ condemned the response of Lebanese security forces to predominantly peaceful protests that erupted across Lebanon on 17 October following the government’s attempt to introduce a daily tariff on voice calls made through applications such as WhatsApp.
The ICJ called on the Lebanese authorities to respect and protect the right of protestors to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression; to refrain from using unlawful force to disperse protests and ill-treatment of protestors and; to effectively investigate and ensure accountability for any abuses committed in connection with the protests.
Security forces in Lebanon have employed excessive and unlawful force against protestors, amid nationwide dissent over Lebanon’s worsening economic crisis.
NGOs and video footage circulating on news and social media platforms document a number of disproportionate measures used to disperse crowds and quell the unprecedented protests, including by firing tear gas, beating protestors and forcefully removing them from their peaceful sit-ins.
“The Lebanese authorities must ensure the effective investigation and prosecution of all abuses committed in the context of these protests by State or Non-state actors, including the arbitrary use of force, arrests and ill-treatment,” said Said Benarbia.
With respect to the use of force, the Lebanese authorities are bound by international law and standards, which stipulate that the use of force by law enforcement officials is only permissible when it is a last resort, is strictly necessary and is used to the extent required for the performance of their duty.
Attacks by armed groups affiliated with the Amal Movement and Hezbollah have also been reported by local organizations and media.
At least 15 protesters were injured in Nabatieh and six persons in Riad al-Solh and admitted to hospital. Additional violent attacks on protesters, allegedly attributed to the Amal Movement, also took place in the city of Soor.
The protests purportedly broke out in response to years of rampant corruption, unemployment and poverty.
By 18 October, protests were characterized by calls to oust governmental authorities perceived as Lebanon’s ruling elite, including the president, government and legislative authority, and fundamental change to the sectarian political system.
In an attempt to diffuse the increasingly tense situation and appease protestors, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced the adoption of a raft of economic reforms on 21 October.
Anti-government protests however, which have now entered their ninth consecutive day, have gained considerable momentum.
Lebanon is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Arab Charter on Human Rights. Both of these treaties require the State to guarantee and protect the rights to freedom expression and freedom of assembly and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including through the unlawful use of force.
Lebanon-Protests-News-web story (story in Arabic, PDF)