BEIRUT: Universal, inalienable, irreducible – those principles are at the core of human rights. By definition, rights should be applicable to all human beings, and cannot be withheld or altered.
As efforts to eliminate human rights violations remain minimal, Lebanon’s human rights situation is largely seen as inconsistent with this definition, according to the international agency monitoring rights.
Human Rights Watch released its annual World Report 2020 documenting the global human rights situation for the year 2019 earlier this week, showing comparatively very little improvement in the Lebanese government’s response to human rights issues.
“The legal system in Lebanon hasn’t changed in the last couple of years, and we’ve seen very little legal reform,” Aya Majzoub, Lebanon's researcher at HRW told Annahar.
“A lot of the issues we document in Lebanon are longstanding issues, like laws that discriminate against women, or the absence of a legal framework regulating the work of migrant domestic workers,” added Majzoub.
The report covers various human rights advancements and violations, stratified by country and categorized into different factions of human rights.
The legal status of Lebanese women is a prominent item on the report, specifically because it has remained constant throughout the years. The document refers to child marriage, the nationality law, and discriminatory personal status laws.
The ongoing protests are also discussed in relation to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, which have been infringed upon in several instances since October 17.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen the economic situation get more and more difficult. People are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet,” Majzoub said citing the worsening economic conditions and their impact on the population.
“Politicians didn’t respond to people’s needs and decided to impose new taxes, which truly was the straw that broke the camel’s back and drove people down to the streets,” explained Majzoub.
The report documents the authorities’ predominantly violent response to the protests, specifically pointing out the use of rubber bullets and large amounts of tear gas against protesters on October 18.
“We’re seeing politicians horse-trade over seats in the cabinet, as they did before, as if there’s no pressing economic crisis that needs to be dealt with,” Majzoub told Annahar. “Despite not dealing well with the economic crisis nor responding to people’s demands, they’ve resorted to the excessive use of force against protesters."
The document also highlighted illegal detainment and the use of physical violence by security forces on several occasions during the protests.
“Although the Ministry of Interior promised that an investigation will be conducted into the reports of excessive use of force, we haven’t seen any evidence that these investigations are taking place and whether anybody has been held accountable,” said Majzoub.
Additionally, HRW addressed arbitrary arrests and the interrogation of activists for certain statements or publications by several security agencies, and the overall decline in the right to free speech.
Majzoub explained that the response by security forces has remained similar, but the main shift seen on Wednesday was the attacks on the media.
“Before there were some sporadic attacks on the media, but journalists said that they were able to do their jobs. That changed on Wednesday,” she added. “Several journalists said that they don’t feel safe doing their job anymore because they were specifically targeted.”
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