HRW calls for sanctions against corrupt , incompetent Lebanese ruling authorities

Families of Port Blast’s victims show portraits of their beloved ones near the Palace of Justice in Beirut, November 25, 2021. Relatives of victims call for an independent judiciary to achieve justice. © 2021 Elisa Gestri/Sipa USA via AP Images


Families of Port Blast’s victims show portraits of their beloved ones near the Palace of Justice in Beirut, November 25, 2021. Relatives of victims call for an independent judiciary to achieve justice. © 2021 Elisa Gestri/Sipa USA via AP Images

– The corrupt and incompetent Lebanese authorities have deliberately plunged the country into one of the worst economic crises in modern times, demonstrating a callous disregard for the rights of the population, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2022.  

The impact of the economic crisis on residents’ rights has been catastrophic and unprecedented. Almost 80 percent of Lebanon’s population now lives under the poverty line, with 36 percent in extreme poverty – up from 8 percent in 2019. Yet, Lebanese authorities have stubbornly refused to carry out any reforms to mitigate the impact of the crisis, and they have repeatedly delayed promised social protection plans.

“The clear indifference of Lebanese policymakers to the suffering of the population amid one of the worst economic crises in modern times borders on the criminal,” said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The international community should use every tool at its disposal to pressure Lebanese policymakers to put in place the reforms necessary to pull Lebanon out of this crisis, including by imposing sanctions against leaders responsible for the ongoing grave human rights violations.”

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created and taken on August 8, 2020 shows Lebanese political figures hanging from gallows nooses erected in downtown Beirut during a demonstration against a political leadership they blame for a monster explosion that killed at least 219 people and disfigured the capital Beirut, showing (top R to L) leader of Lebanon’s Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, Parliament Speaker and Shiite Muslim Amal movement leader Nabih Berri; (bottom R to L) foreign minister Gibran Bassil, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, and Lebanese Forces executive chairman Samir Geagea. (Photos by – / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

In the 752-page World Report 2022, its 32nd edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries. Executive Director Kenneth Roth challenges the conventional wisdom that autocracy is ascendent. In country after country, large numbers of people have recently taken to the streets, even at the risk of being arrested or shot, showing that the appeal of democracy remains strong. Meanwhile, autocrats are finding it more difficult to manipulate elections in their favor. Still, he says, democratic leaders must do a better job of meeting national and global challenges and of making sure that democracy delivers on its promised dividends.

The Lebanese pound has lost 90 percent of its value since October 2019, eroding people’s ability to access basic goods, including food, water, health care, and education. Fuel shortages have caused widespread electricity blackouts, lasting up to 23 hours a day. Private generators – a costly alternative – have not been able to fill the gap, leaving large portions of the country in complete darkness for several hours a day.

FILE – In this Aug. 4, 2021 file photo, a monument that represents justice stands in front of towering grain silos that were gutted in the massive August 2020 explosion at the port that killed at least 219 people , wounded over 7,000, destroyed a large section of the capital and left 300, 000 homeless in Beirut, Lebanon. Hezbollah and and its allies are trying to fire Judge Tarek Bitar who is probing the blast and were able to suspend his investigation several times . a move that outraged the relatives of the victims of the blast . Hezbollah is reportedly concerned over being exposed for its role in acquiring, storing and using of the ammonium nitrate that exploded at the port (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

No one has been held accountable for the catastrophic explosion in Beirut’s port on August 4, 2020, which killed at least 219 people and devastated half the city. A Human Rights Watch investigation found evidence that strongly suggests that some government officials foresaw the death that the ammonium nitrate’s presence in the port could cause and tacitly accepted the risk. This amounts to a violation of the right to life.

Yet, Lebanese leaders have continued to obstruct and delay the ongoing domestic investigation. Families of the victims and local and international rights groups have called for a UN Human Rights Council-mandated international, independent investigation into the Beirut Blast. 

Meanwhile, officials cracked down on freedom of opinion and speech. There has been no meaningful progress on the investigation into the assassination of the prominent intellectual and Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim. The authorities use the inherently unfair military courts to intimidate people or retaliate against critical speech or activism.