Lebanon parliament approves Beirut state of emergency, grants military power | News | DW | 13.08.2020

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Lebanon parliament approves Beirut state of emergency, grants military power

Convening for the first time since Beirut's devastating explosion, Lebanese MPs have approved a two-week state of emergency. The law would give extensive power to the military to suppress resurging protests.

Lebanon's parliament on Thursday gave the green light to impose a two-week state of emergency amid ongoing street protests. The decision comes ten days after Beirut's deadly chemical explosion that killed at least 171 people, wounded at least 6,500 others, and pushed the country's cabinet to resign.

In the first legislative session since the blast,  Lebanon's parliament speaker called for a quick formation of a new government.

Human rights groups have warned that the state of emergency law will give the Lebanese military extensive powers to quell protests.

Under the law, the army can ban gatherings deemed threats to national security, shut down assembly points, and expand the jurisdiction of military courts over civilians. 

Read more: Lebanese people in Germany want justice after Beirut blast

Protesters try block session

A dozen or so protesters gathered on a street near the parliament in an attempt to prevent lawmakers from entering the meeting but security forces outnumbered the demonstrators, French news agency AFP reported. 

Roads to the UNESCO Palace on the outskirts of Beirut — an earlier venue where parliament met during the coronavirus pandemic — were blocked with metal gates ahead of the protest. 

The government had already imposed a two-week state of emergency on August 5, the day after the blast, but as the measure lasts more than eight days, Lebanese law requires that it be approved by parliament, according to human rights NGO The Legal Agenda.

US envoy David Hale is expected to join later in the afternoon to push for government and financial reforms. The US embassy urged Lebanon to end its endemic corruption and called for transparency. French Defense Minister Florence Parly is also expected to attend.

Read more: Beirut explosion: What makes ammonium nitrate so dangerous?

Lebanese demand end to corruption

Many Lebanese are infuriated by the country's ruling political class who they blame for the catastrophic explosion, accusing them of mismanagement and negligence. 

"They are all criminals, they are the ones who caused this catastrophe, this explosion," Reuters cited Lina Boubess, a 60-year-old protester who was trying to reach the palace, as saying. 

Up until a day before the explosion, officials had exchanged warnings over the massive shipment of the chemical ammonium nitrate which was stored for six years in a port warehouse, according to AFP. 

mvb/rt  (AFP, Reuters)