Beirut, Lebanon – The Lebanese parliament has approved a state of emergency that grants extended powers to the military, citing the exceptional circumstances in the country after a massive explosion in Beirut last week.
The cabinet declared a two-week state of emergency on August 5, the day after the Beirut explosion that left at least 200 dead and some 6,000 injured. Parliament voted in favor of the emergency declaration eight days later on Thursday, as the law requires, although it could also have rejected it.
The state of emergency allows the military to restrict freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press, as well as to enter homes and arrest anyone considered a threat to the community. security.
Legal proceedings are due to take place in the country’s military courts, which Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups have shown did not meet due process standards.
Rights groups have raised serious concerns about the state of emergency, saying it would allow security forces to crack down on a public angry with the ruling class after the explosion.
The huge explosion – one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history – was fueled by some 2,750 tonnes of dangerous chemicals kept in the Port of Beirut for nearly seven years, with the knowledge of top politicians and security.
‘Make way for protest’
Citing the “militarization of the state”, parliamentarian Osama Saad was the only one among 119 members, a number reduced after the resignation of nine deputies since the explosion, to oppose the state of emergency.
Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri replied that the military had “not taken measures that people fear, nor cut television. [channels] and despite the chaos in the media, he did not intervene and gave way to protest, ”according to local media. The sessions are not televised and, therefore, statements by lawmakers are broadcast by local media.
But the Lebanese army, internal security forces and armed officers in civilian clothes were observed using excessive force against anti-establishment protesters on Saturday.
Some 728 people were injured, many of whom left with serious injuries that required emergency surgery. A dozen journalists were also assaulted, including at least four who were assaulted by soldiers, one of whom was an Al Jazeera journalist.
‘Control the streets’
The state of emergency is expected to last until August 21, but it can be renewed.
Karim Nammour, member of the legal NGO Legal Agenda, told Al Jazeera that the state of emergency was totally unnecessary to deal with the aftermath of the Beirut explosion, given that the country was already in a state of ” general mobilization ”due to the coronavirus pandemic. .
“This general mobilization already gives the cabinet the powers to mobilize the armed forces and control stores and business of a strategic nature, including controlling the prices of things like glass and wood, as well as lifting rubble and to help people ”, told me Nammour.
“The only real reason we can see for a state emergency is to grant security forces the power to control the streets as much as possible – to give legal cover to things that would otherwise be impossible,” he said. -he declares.
“The ruling regime knows it is weak and unpopular on the streets, and they are afraid because their fingers are pointed at them, and there are calls for revenge. “