Lebanon: Authorities must protect protesters from violent attacks by government supporters

Responding to the attacks carried out by non-state actors over the past two nights against peaceful protesters in the capital Beirut and the southern city Sour, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director said:

“The images of the men carrying flags of two of the political parties in government Hizbullah and Amal, armed with steel batons, knives and stones, chasing and beating protesters in alleyways, setting alight tents and destroying private property in the past two days are extremely worrying and warrant the authorities’ firm and immediate action.”

But the past two days’ seemingly coordinated attacks could well signal a dangerous escalation. The authorities must act immediately to protect protesters and uphold the right to peaceful assembly.
Lynn Maalouf

“This is not the first time that supporters of these two parties have attacked a site of protest. Since the beginning of protests, Amnesty International has documented similar attacks in Nabatiyeh, Sour and Beirut. In some instances, protesters were attacked with weapons. As far we know, no one has been held accountable let alone arrested.”

Military and security forces have a duty to ensure that the right to peaceful protest is upheld and to protect all individuals from violent attacks by rival protesters and armed individuals
Lynn Maalouf

“But the past two days’ seemingly coordinated attacks could well signal a dangerous escalation. The authorities must act immediately to protect protesters and uphold the right to peaceful assembly. This must include holding accountable perpetrators of human rights abuses, such as these violent attacks. Military and security forces have a duty to ensure that the right to peaceful protest is upheld and to protect all individuals from violent attacks by rival protesters and armed individuals.”

Background:

Over the past two nights (24 and 25 November), groups of men riding motorcycles and carrying flags of Amal and Hizballah have roamed various major roads in the capital Beirut and in Sour, chanting anti-protest slurs, including statements inciting to violence against protesters. They entered in groups into Beirut’s Martyr’s Square and Sour’s Alam Square, where protesters have been gathering over the past month. On 24 November, the attackers threw stones and used knives against protestors gathered at the Ring bridge in Beirut. The army responded by throwing tear gas canisters to disperse attackers and protesters and deployed a human shield to separate the two groups.

The attackers then continued chasing after fleeing protesters into neighbouring streets, destroying cars and store windows on the way, before destroying – for the second time in less than one month – protesters’ tents in Martyrs’ Square. Civil Defense reported ten protesters injured. The next night, the motorcycle convoys attacked the Alam Square in Sour, destroyed and burnt several tents, while other similar convoys paraded massively in Beirut and in front of its protest sites.