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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Amnesty slams France over ‘shameful’ use of weapons against Lebanon protesters

Lebanese security forces have used tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 January, 2021

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Amnesty International has condemned French sales of law enforcement weapons to Lebanon, saying they had played a ‘shameful’ role in suppressing peaceful protests

Amnesty International on Thursday urged Paris to halt weapons sales to Lebanon, saying French-manufactured rubber bullets, tear gas grenades and launchers had been used to quell peaceful demonstrations

The human rights groups said that French weapons had played a “shameful” role in suppressing non-violent protests.

"France has for years been supplying Lebanese security forces with law enforcement equipment that they then used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations," Amnesty said in a statement.

"We call on France to ensure that there are no further sales until the Lebanese authorities have acknowledged past violations," said Aymeric Elluin, advocacy officer on arms transfers at Amnesty International France.

"Lebanese security forces are operating in a climate of impunity."

French-manufactured rubber bullets, tear gas grenades and launchers have been used repeatedly since the start of an unprecedented anti-government protest movement in October 2019, according to the rights group.

Read more: Setbacks and subtle victories - One year of Lebanon protests

They were also used in 2015 to disperse protests over a waste management crisis that saw trash pile up across the capital, it added.

Amnesty said its findings were based on analysis of more than 100 videos of protests in Beirut, as well testimonies and medical records collected by researchers on the ground.

It accused security forces of firing tear gas cannisters directly at protesters, as well as shooting rubber bullets at chest-level, sometimes from close range, between October 2019 and August 2020.

This "excessive use of force" has led to serious injuries to the head, eyes and upper body, the group said.

Amnesty said that Lebanese prosecutors had failed to investigate complaints raised by protesters against security forces regarding severe injuries inflicted by security forces.

Security forces were also using armoured vehicles made by France, it added.

"There has been no effective investigation of the unlawful use of weapons, including those made in France, against peaceful protesters, and not a single security officer has been held to account by judicial authorities," Elluin said.

This week, Lebanese security forces have used tear gas and rubber bullets against anti-lockdown protesters in the northern city of Tripoli, injuring scores of people.

The country is facing an economic crisis exacerbated by corruption and the coronavirus and thousands of people have fallen into poverty.

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