Lebanon's parliament approves army's broad state of emergency powers

Under the state of emergency, civilians can be tried in military court for "breach of security."

al-monitor Lebanese security forces hold their position during clashes with protesters in downtown Beirut on Aug. 8, 2020, following a demonstration against a political leadership they blame for a monster explosion that killed more than 170 people and disfigured the country's capital.  Photo by JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images.

Aug 13, 2020

Lebanon’s parliament granted a broad set of powers to the government today, approving a state of emergency in the aftermath of the deadly Beirut blast. 

The day after the explosion, Lebanon’s Cabinet declared a two-week state of emergency, which after eight days was subject to parliamentary approval. Authorized by the parliament today, the state of emergency is set to end Aug. 21 but can be renewed. 

The army has extensive powers over civilian affairs under the order, including the ability to set curfews, censor media, ban public gatherings, make house arrests and prosecute civilians in military court for “crimes related to breach of security.” 

Last week’s deadly explosion of ammonium nitrate in the Lebanese capital killed at least 172 people and injured over 6,000. Several dozens of people are still missing. 

The government has said it will hold to account those responsible for improperly storing a stockpile of the explosive ammonium nitrate for six years at Beirut’s port. But protesters put the blame squarely on Lebanon’s ruling elite.

Some 10,000 anti-government demonstrators poured into Beirut’s Martyrs' Square over the weekend, demanding an independent investigation into the explosion and a complete overhaul of the political class. Under the state of emergency, the army would have the authority to suppress any future gatherings. 

By Monday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced the government’s resignation, although Diab and his ministers were asked to stay on by President Michel Aoun until a new government is formed.

The Beirut explosion, which left hundreds of thousands homeless and caused billions of dollars in damage, came as Lebanon was already dealing with its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. Foreign governments have also condemned the Lebanese leadership for failing to carry out much-needed economic and political reforms. 

During his visit to the damage last week, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would push for reform in a  “new political pact” and ensure that French aid doesn’t fall into “corrupt hands.”

Senior US diplomat David Hale traveled to Beirut today to discuss “ending endemic corruption, bringing accountability and transparency, and introducing widespread state control through functioning institutions,” according to a State Department statement. 

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