Human Rights Watch dubbed Lebanese authorities’ responses to escalating sectarian violence as “weak,” and urged for measures to disarm gunmen who have killed tens in recent clashes.
“With battles going on in Tripoli and with people being targeted, beaten, knifed, and killed, the Lebanese government can’t afford to sit on its hands,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch in an statement issued on Friday.
“It needs to start arresting and prosecuting the people behind the violence in Tripoli and confiscate their weapons.”
Dorment tensions between Lebanon’s multi-confessional population was recently fuelled by the next-door raging civil war in Syria where more than 100,000 have been killed since it first sparked in 2011.
Battles between mostly-Sunni rebels and troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s government have spilled over in Lebanon, precisely in the neigbourhood of Jabal Mohsen in the northern city of Tripoli where Alawite residents, supporting Assad, and Sunni residents siding with rebels, have engaged in their own clashes.
Over the course of a year, more than a 100 people were killed in Tripoli which has an estimated population of 500,000 and is only 30km away from the Syrian border. This prompted the government on December 2 to place the country’s second largest city under the army’s control for six months.
HRW says that several attacks targeting the Alawite’s community of tens of thousands in Jabal Mohsen have gone without investigation or arrests.
Calling for probes into those responsible for the attacks and holding them accountable, HRW also urged international donors to back Lebanese authorities in confiscating weapons used by gunmen including mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and automatic weapons.
“Here is no quick fix to the rampant violence in Tripoli or to resolving decades-long grievances, but addressing the problem of impunity of gunmen is absolutely key,” Stork said.
“Lebanese authorities should expand security in the short-term while developing reconciliation processes to achieve lasting solutions to the violence in Tripoli.”