Lebanon’s security forces shot at unarmed Beirut protesters: Amnesty International

More than 200 protesters were injured as security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and pellets, Amnesty International said.

al-monitor Firecrackers thrown by protesters explode in front of riot police amid clashes in the vicinity of the parliament in central Beirut on Aug. 10, 2020, following a huge chemical explosion that devastated large parts of the Lebanese capital. Photo by Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images.

Aug 11, 2020

The Lebanese army and security forces shot at unarmed protesters during largely peaceful demonstrations in the wake of the deadly Beirut port explosion, Amnesty International found.

Tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets over the weekend, demanding the removal of a government widely blamed for the blast at the port last week. On Monday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced he and his ministers would be resigning.

As protesters called for reform on Saturday, security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and pump-action pellets into the crowds, Amnesty International said. The rights group compiled its report using testimony from victims, eyewitnesses and physicians.

The group also verified video of security forces that showed a “punitive shoot-to-harm use of force.” The analysis also confirmed security forces dressed in civilian clothes had fired into crowds.

“Instead of meeting its basic responsibilities toward the thousands of people left homeless and impacted by the blasts, the state seems to be on the attack against its population,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East research director.

Doctors told Amnesty International they’ve treated at least six eye injuries from pellets. All lost sight to varying degrees, and one man’s eye had to be removed entirely.

Amnesty International noted that a small number of protesters engaged in violence but said the incidents did not justify the use of force by security forces.

“Lebanon’s security forces fired a range of weapons in a way that was solely intended to harm people. To do this in the aftermath of a national tragedy is just cruelty beyond belief,” Maalouf said.

Amnesty International has also called for an independent investigation into the Beirut explosion, a key demand of the protesters after it was revealed that Lebanese authorities had for years improperly stored a massive stockpile of ammonium nitrate at the country’s most vital port. The highly explosive chemical detonated last Tuesday, setting off an explosion that killed at least 220 people and injured some 7,000.

Widespread anti-government protests in Lebanon erupted in October, triggered by massive unemployment, perceived government corruption and mismanagement, and a flailing currency. Donor governments have demanded Beirut undertake painful political and economic reforms before receiving a financial bailout.

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