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(Beirut) – Lebanese authorities’ policies toward Syrian refugees and the impunity for security forces are harming Lebanon’s human rights record, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2016.

Security forces committed abuses during security operations and while dispersing protests over a garbage crisis. Footage of excessive use of force against protesters and abuse of detainees galvanized the Lebanese public but failed to end the culture of impunity. Authorities imposed restrictive and costly residency renewal regulations for Syrian refugees in January 2015, causing many to lose their legal residency and increasing their risks of exploitation.

“As security challenges in Lebanon mount, so do concerns about the government failing to adequately protect human rights,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director. “Protecting the rights of the Lebanese as well as Syrian refugees is the right thing to do, and the best way to ease the tensions in the country.”

In the 659-page World Report 2016, its 26th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that the spread of terrorist attacks beyond the Middle East and the huge flows of refugees spawned by repression and conflict led many governments to curtail rights in misguided efforts to protect their security. At the same time, authoritarian governments throughout the world, fearful of peaceful dissent that is often magnified by social media, embarked on the most intense crackdown on independent groups in recent times.

The government’s failure to provide basic services, including garbage removal, led to a wave of protests starting in August. While authorities allowed the protests, security forces used excessive force against protesters in a number of instances, including rubber bullets, teargas, water cannons, rifle butts, and batons on August 22 and 23, in downtown Beirut, causing serious injuries.

Lebanon’s state prosecutor tasked a military court judge to investigate the violence, but results of the investigation remain unclear. Such investigations in the past have usually been inconclusive.

Some people detained during security operations were held in lengthy pretrial detention and reported to Human Rights Watch that security forces beat and tortured them, including with sticks, cigarettes, batons, and rifle butts. In June, two videos surfaced on social media showing several Internal Security Forces officers beating prisoners following an April prison riot at Roumieh. Charges were brought against five members of the Internal Security Forces, but the status of the investigation remains unclear.

Lebanon has not yet established a national preventive mechanism to visit and monitor places of detention, as required under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which it ratified in 2008. Legislation to create such a body has stalled in parliament for several years.

The situation for Syrian refugees in Lebanon has grown more precarious. Lack of legal status has left many vulnerable to a range of abuses, including labor and sexual abuse, arrest, and lack of protection from authorities. The Lebanese authorities have imposed new regulations on those seeking to enter the country.

Lebanon’s longstanding human rights concerns – such as discrimination against women in personal status laws, rights of Palestinian refugees, treatment or of migrant domestic workers – remained unaddressed. The Labor Ministry opposes attempts by domestic workers to set up their own labor union.

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