Beirut, Lebanon The Lebanese parliament has approved a state of emergency that gives power to the military, citing extraordinary circumstances in the country following a massive explosion in Beirut last week.
The cabinet had declared a two-week state of emergency on August 5, a day after the Beirut bombing that left at least 200 dead and about 6,000 injured. Parliament on Thursday voted on the eight-day emergency declaration as required by law, though it could have voted on it as well.
The state of emergency allows the military to curb free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press, as well as to enter homes and arrest anyone considered a security threat.
Litigation will take place in the country’s military courts, which Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have shown do not meet standards for due process.
Rights groups have raised serious concerns about the state of emergency, saying it would allow security forces to attack an enraged public outraged against the ruling class after the blast.
The huge explosion – one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history – was triggered by about 2,750 tons of hazardous chemicals left in storage at the port of Beirut for nearly seven years, with the knowledge of senior security and political officials.
Citing “state militarization,” MP Osama Saad was the only one of the 119-member chamber, a number reduced after nine lawmakers resigned since the blast, to oppose the state of emergency.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri responded that the military had not taken steps that people feared, nor had it suppressed television. [channels] and despite the chaos in the media it did not intervene and left room for protest “, according to local media. The sessions are not televised and, therefore, the statements of the legislators are carried by the local media.
But the Lebanese army, Internal Security Forces and armed clothing officers were observed using excessive force against anti-establishment protesters on Saturday.
About 728 people were injured, many were left with serious injuries that required urgent surgery. About 12 journalists were also attacked, including at least four who were attacked by soldiers, one of whom was an Al Jazeera reporter.
‘Check the roads’
The state of emergency is set to last until August 21, but can be renewed.
Karim Nammour, a member of the NGO Legal Agency, told Al Jazeera that the state of emergency was completely unnecessary to address the aftermath of the Beirut bombing, given that the country was already in a state of “general mobilization”. “due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This general mobilization already allows cabinet forces to mobilize the armed forces and control shops and issues of a strategic nature, including controlling the prices of things like glass and wood, as well as to erect ruins and provide relief. for people, “he said Nammour.
“The only real reason we can see for a state emergency is to give the security forces the power to control the roads as much as possible – to provide legal coverage for things that would otherwise be impossible. , “he said.
“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.”