HRW condemns Lebanese army's brutal Tripoli demonstration crackdown, which left protester dead

HRW condemns Lebanese army's brutal Tripoli demonstration crackdown, which left protester dead
HRW has said the Lebanese government should hold security forces accountable for the killing of a protester.
3 min read
29 April, 2020
Samman was killed by Lebanese soldiers this week [Twitter]
Lebanese authorities should hold security forces to account for the brutal crackdown on protesters in Tripoli this week, which left one person dead, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

Protesters marched through the streets of northern city of Tripoli on Monday night against falling living standards with the main demonstration taking place in Nour Square.

As protesters moved to the home of independent Tripoli MP, Faysal Karameh, bodyguards fired into the air with live fire, beginning the assault on the demonstration by the army.

Soldiers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds into the crowds, HRW reported, when protesters moved back to Tripoli's Nour Square.

Protester Fawaz Fouad Al-Samman was killed by security forces - with initial reports suggesting that he was hit with live rounds.

One witness told HRW that the army fired indiscriminately into the crowd of men, women and children with tear gas and rubber bullets indiscriminately.

"I could see people falling down all around me," one witness said. 

"I went to the middle of the square to help the people who were injured and move them away, but the army didn’t respect that and kept shooting," another witness told the human rights group.

Protesters were fired on by troops as they fled the violence in the square into neighbouring alleyways.

One man was left with chest injuries and fighting life in a critical condition, while dozens more were seriously hurt.

HRW has called for an investigation into the brutality and hold those responsible for the death and injuries to account.

"People demanding to live in dignity should expect protection, not lethal force, from Lebanon's army," said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at HRW.

"The death of a protester should prompt the army to re-evaluate its security strategy and operations, as well as strengthen its accountability systems."

Activists in Lebanon have held protests across the country against government's inability to tackle the weak lira and deteriorating living standards.

The situation is particularly bad in Tripoli, where more than half the working population is unemployed.

Much of the protesters' anger has been directed at the banks, which have restricted access to accounts and dollars, while the plunging lira meaning inflation could reach 27 percent in 2020.

Lockdown measures enacted during the Covid-19 epidemic have also caused huge damage to the economy.

Earlier in April, HRW warned that the deteriorating economic conditions could mean that half of Lebanon's population could go hungry, unless robust assistance plans are rolled out.

The violent crackdown on protesters demanding government action to remedy the situation must not be repeated, the rights group said .

"Tripoli is one of the most impoverished cities in the country, and the Lebanese government has failed to guarantee people's right of access to food and other basic necessities," said Majzoub.

"The army's unjustified use of lethal force has further enflamed the situation and cost the life of one young man who was demanding his rights."

HRW demanded that Beirut meet its obligations and conduct an effective, transparent and independent investigation that examines the conduct of the entire military operation in Tripoli, including the role and responsibility of senior officers.

"The government should make public the findings and all measures of accountability, including criminal liability," HRW wrote in a press release.

The value of the Lebanese pound plummeted on the black market, prices have risen, and many businesses have been forced to slash salaries, dismiss staff or close.

Lebanon is one of the most indebted countries in the world, with a public debt equivalent to 150 percent of its GDP.

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