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Sharp decline in Lebanon human rights, says HRW

Syrian kids are seen in a refugee camp in Tripoli, Lebanon on 3 January 2021 [Mahmut Geldi/Anadolu Agency]
Syrian kids are seen in a refugee camp in Tripoli, Lebanon on 3 January 2021 [Mahmut Geldi/Anadolu Agency]

Human rights in Lebanon have seen the most drastic deterioration in decades, according to the Human Rights Watch's (HRW) World Report 2021.

The country's poverty rate doubled in 2020 as a result of an unprecedented economic crisis, the coronavirus pandemic, and the 4 August Beirut port explosion.

"With each passing day, the lives of Lebanon's citizens, migrants, and refugees is becoming more unbearable," said Aya Majzoub, HRW's Lebanon researcher.

The collapse of Lebanon's currency, compounded by rapidly rising food and goods prices, has decimated people's ability to afford basic necessities, including food, shelter and health care, the report said.

Marginalised communities, including low-income families, people with disabilities, migrants, refugees and LGBTQ people, were found to have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

While 88 per cent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon were found to be living in extreme poverty.

The human rights watchdog blames many of Lebanon's woes on the government which, the report claims, has failed to develop a "timely, robust, or coordinated assistance plan" to the country's problems.

"The political elite are still haggling over how to divide the shrinking spoils to enrich themselves while impoverishing the country," Majzoub said.

READ: Interpol issues red notice for arrest of Beirut blast ship captain, owner

The government has failed to pay hospitals the funds it owes them, according to the report, diminishing medical professional's ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The failure to reimburse hospitals with much needed funds and the country's currency collapse has prevented medical centres from importing enough medicine to satisfy the population's needs.

Lebanon's authorities, the report added, have failed to protect women and girls from violence and discrimination.

The government has also fallen short in its obligation to protect migrant domestic workers, which number more than 250,000 in Lebanon.

A new migrant worker contract, which would have replaced the long-criticised kafala system, was suspended in late October.

The new contract would have codified the rights of foreign workers, who are excluded from labour laws, in Lebanon.

The court said the decision to suspend the planned implementation of the contract was taken because it could inflict "huge harm to the worker recruitment sector".

HRW also condemned Lebanese authorities for their excessive use of force against anti-government protesters and continuing attacks on freedom of speech.

"Instead of holding law enforcement officials accountable, security agencies blamed each other for abuses," the report claims.

The 761-page report went on to call on US President-elect Joe Biden to champion global human rights efforts during his four-year term in a way "more likely to survive future US administrations that might be less committed to human rights."

READ: Lebanon to receive $246m emergency aid from the World Bank

HRWInternational OrganisationsLebanonMiddle EastNews
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