From Human Rights Watch (HRW) by Lama Fakih
Spontaneous anti-government demonstrations broke out across Lebanon last week, sparked by the announcement of a slew of new taxes. Thousands took to the streets to express anger against the entire political establishment, whom they blame for the country’s dire economic situation and endemic corruption.
The largely peaceful protests took an ugly turn on October 18th when the army used excessive force to clear areas of Beirut while the Internal Security Force’s riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at fleeing protesters. Security Forces reportedly detained over 100 protesters.
In response to protester’s demands, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri set a 72-hour deadline for the government to develop an economic plan to respond to their grievances. Today he announced the plan as protesters assembled in cities across the country.
The plan includes reforms to overhaul the failing electricity sector, a federal budget for 2020 that does not include new taxes on individuals, lower salaries for government officials including ministers and parliamentarians, and higher taxes on banks, alongside other reforms. Whatever the reforms might do to address some of the protesters’ grievances, they ignore calls for holding corrupt politicians to account.
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