Amnesty International Blasts Lebanese Authorities Over Excessive Force Against Protesters

Amnesty International has issued a demand to Lebanese forces that they cease the use of excessive force on peaceful protesters in Beirut.

The human rights organization stated in a press release Saturday that Lebanon security forces were beating protesters, chasing them at gunpoint, and using large amounts of tear gas on crowds that had gathered in major cities to protest political corruption and call for economic and social reforms.

Lebanon Protest Amnesty International
Lebanese Protesters were dispersed following Prime Minister Hariri's speech on Friday. Amnesty International has demanded Lebanese security, end the use of excessive force. Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty

Protests in Lebanon began in early October, with many moved to act by the country's growing economic crisis, trash pileup, and failing power grid. Security forces began to break up protesters, after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri gave his opponents 72 hours to find a solution to the country's economic crisis, as CNN reported. Many protesters have called for Hariri's removal.

Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East research director, said in the statement: "We call on the Lebanese authorities to respect the right of protesters to freedom of peaceful assembly and investigate the excessive use of tear gas as well as the beatings and harassment at gunpoint of protesters that took place last night."

She also remarked: "Promises by government officials to address protesters' grievances ring terribly hollow and deceitful when security forces are given free rein to prevent the Lebanese people from voicing their anger in what was until then a largely peaceful manner."

Maalouf called the security force's actions not just an abuse of force, but also a violation of the people's right to a peaceful protest: "The intention was clearly to prevent protesters gathering – in a clear violation of the right to peaceful assembly."

The organization reported several accounts of violence from protesters, including stones and tear gas bombs being thrown at protesters resting in tents Another protester told Amnesty International: "Army forces followed us and they started hitting and arresting whoever they laid hands on. We were all peaceful protesters. They were hitting people on their heads and bodies with their hands, rifles and batons," following the entrance of army vehicles to evacuate the area.

According to Amnesty International, over 60 protesters were hospitalized and 70 were arrested, despite the protest being peaceful prior to authorities' use of excessive force.

Maalouf stated that authorities must aim to "reduce tension" rather than exercise force. She also demanded an investigation into the authorities that used excessive force against the protesters. "The authorities must also signal their commitment to respecting peaceful protest by immediately and effectively investigating all report arbitrary and abusive force against protesters and allegations of ill-treatment of those arrested."