Use of excessive force against protesters in Lebanon must be investigated – Amnesty Intl.

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Amnesty International calls for an investigation into the use of excessive force, including live fire, to disperse protesters in northern Lebanon, seriously injuring at least two people. Eyewitness testimony and analysis of verified video footage corroborated the evidence gathered by Amnesty International.

In the single most violent episode since the mass protests began, the army opened fire against dozens of protesters staging a sit-in the Beddawi area of Tripoli on 26 October. At least two protesters suffered gunshot wounds.

“The Lebanese army’s excessive use of force in Beddawi, as well as the security forces’ failure to protect peaceful protesters, are deeply worrying and must be immediately investigated in an independent, impartial and transparent manner,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International.

“Security forces have a clear obligation to protect peaceful protesters from harassment, intimidation or violent attacks, and must ensure they take the necessary steps so as to be able to intervene in an adequate manner to stop such attacks in the future and ensure the protection of peaceful protesters,” said Maalouf.

During the incident on 26 October soldiers from the army and army’s intelligence branch first began to beat protesters using sticks and rifle butts, in an attempt to open the Beddawi road that had been blocked by protesters. The protesters responded by throwing rocks at the soldiers, prompting the army to open fire with live ammunition and tear gas grenades. At least two people were wounded.

The Lebanese army said in a statement that soldiers attempting to clear the road in Beddawi came under attack from protesters who threw stones and large firecrackers at them causing five injuries in their ranks and prompting them to respond with tear gas and later to shoot rubber bullets and live fire into the air causing a number of injuries. The statement also said the army has opened an investigation into the incident.

The Lebanese armed forces also violently dispersed protests in Saida and Abdeh and army and other security forces failed to intervene effectively to protect demonstrators in Beirut from violent attacks by supporters of political groups over the past week.

Amnesty International has also documented the excessive use of force to disperse protesters in two other locations. In the northern town of Abdeh, the army attacked a group of peaceful protesters who were blocking the roads on 30 October.

In the southern city of Saida, more than 100 protesters who had blocked the main highway were forcefully dispersed in the early hours of 28 October which also resulted in three people hospitalized for injuries.

Amnesty International also documented how Lebanese security forces failed to effectively intervene to protect peaceful protesters who came under attack by supporters of Amal and Hezbollah at the Ring Highway in Beirut on 29 October. The attackers armed with sticks beat and chased demonstrators and set fire to their tents.

Eyewitnesses said the Internal Security Forces (ISF) present on the scene tried to protect protesters but were vastly outnumbered by around up to 300 “thugs” who attacked the demonstrators.

Several witnesses said ISF failed to arrest any of the attackers. (Source: Amnesty International)

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