Lebanese forces used excessive force in blast protests – Middle East Monitor

Lebanese security forces used excessive force, including firing live ammunition, against anti-government protesters after the Beirut port explosion, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

It called for an investigation into the abuses.

The Aug. 4 detonation of highly explosive material stored unsafely for years killed at least 180 people, injured about 6,000 and damaged swathes of the city, and fuelled outrage at a political class already blamed for an economic meltdown.

In angry demonstrations four days after the blast, some protesters stormed government ministries and hurled stones at security forces. Reuters journalists heard shots fired.

The Red Cross said some 170 people were injured, including policemen wounded by stones.

U.S.-based HRW said security forces had on Aug. 8 fired live ammunition, metal pellets, and projectiles such as rubber balls, including at health workers. It said police deployed excessive quantities of tear gas and security forces threw stones at protesters and beat them.

READ: Lebanon is one long tale of disaster and crisis

“Such unlawful and excessive force against mostly peaceful protesters shows the callous disregard of the authorities for their own people,” HRW deputy Middle East director Michael Page said in a statement.

An Interior Ministry official had no immediate comment.

HRW called on the public prosecutor to open an independent investigation, and urged international donors to Lebanese security forces to “investigate whether their support is going to abusive units, and if so, halt it immediately”.

The now-caretaker government, which resigned over the blast, declared a state of emergency in Beirut, which activists criticised as an attempt to suppress dissent.

The Aug. 8 protests were the biggest since October when thousands of people took to the streets to demand an end to corruption and bad governance they blame for a deep financial crisis that has ravaged the currency, seen banks freeze depositors out of their savings and sent unemployment soaring.

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