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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

'Impunity reigns' one year after Lebanon protests: Amnesty

Unprecedented protests broke out across Lebanon in October 2019 [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 October, 2020

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Amnesty International has urged Lebanese authorities to end harassment of activists and journalists, as well as the use of force against protesters
Amnesty International has slammed Lebanon's failure to address the demands of protesters who to took to the country's streets last year, as well as Lebanese authorities' increased repression of free speech and assembly.

The rights watchdog issued a statement on the October protests' anniversary on Friday.

"One year on from the start of mass protests in Lebanon, the authorities have not only failed to address people’s legitimate demands for their social and economic rights, but have also increasingly resorted to repressing the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression," the statement said.

Unprecedented mass protests broke out in Lebanon last year on October 17, when tens of thousands of people across the country took to the streets to decry state corruption and failing governance.

Authorities responded with force, using tear gas, rubber bullets and at times live rounds against the largely peaceful protesters. Hundreds were injured and rushed to hospital as a result, while others were subjected to severe beatings in detention.

The protests forced the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on October 29 2019, however the country's economic and political crisis continued to spiral.

Last month, when protests broke out following the devastating Beirut Port blast on August 4, security forces once again responded with force. Lebanon's army and security forces shot at crowds, injuring more than 230 people.

“Over the past year, protesters have again and again taken to the streets in largely peaceful demonstrations, despite the threat of being beaten, arrested or summoned from their homes,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“This past year has been marked by a succession of catastrophic failures on the part of the Lebanese authorities: their failure to respond to demands for basic economic and social rights, their failure to protect the right to peaceful assembly and free expression, their failure to protect protesters from non-state armed actors, and their failure to protect the right to life. One year on, protesters’ voices are still raised in anger, calling for their leaders to be held accountable,” Maalouf added.

In its statement, Amnesty urged Lebanese authorities to end harassment of activists and journalists, as well as the use of force against protesters.

The rights watchdog also called for officials and officers responsible for violations to be held to account.

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