Civil society condemns Lebanon's prosecution of protestors in military court
"Military courts have no business trying civilians, and Lebanon should end this troubling practice." https://t.co/XDNoBqBlRR— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) January 26, 2017
As previously covered in the CIVICUS Monitor, environmental concerns have been a driving force behind citizen mobilisation in Lebanon in recent months. In 2015, the #YouStink social movement spearheaded protests against Lebanon's rubbish crisis. At its height, the movement often clashed with security forces during its frequent protests; as activists called upon authorities to collect the piles of rubbish amassing on the streets of Beirut.
Those events have come to the fore again in early 2017, as 14 activists arrested for their role in #YouStink protests in 2015 face trial by military court on 30th January. If convicted, the defendants could face 3 years in prison. Their plight has drawn attention to the unwarranted use of military courts to prosecute civilians involved in any kind of confrontation with security forces. Military courts' overbroad jurisdiction enables authorities to use them as a tool of intimidation against dissidents. In a recent statement, Human Rights Watch noted:
'In recent years, the military prosecutor has brought charges against human rights lawyers and activists who have spoken out about torture by the Lebanese military. In another case, a military court found a woman guilty of “offending the military institution” for telling a journalist that she had been raped and tortured in military custody.'
Human Rights Watch also drew attention to the fact that such trials do not respect due process rights and violate international law. The group went on to note that even children have been tried in Lebanese military courts. Furthermore, there is credible evidence to suggest torture and ill-treatment during pre-trial detention. Civic activists in Lebanon and beyond await the outcome of the trial on the 30th January.