Challenges to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly in Lebanon

As a border-sharing neighbor, Lebanon was the first or only option for many Syrians escaping violence in Syria. The Government of Lebanon (GoL) estimates that there are 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Although a precise figure does not exist, official United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) figures of registered refugees are estimated at around 800 thousand. The population makes up the world’s highest number of refugees per capita. In 2015, UNHCR suspended the registration of Syrian refugees in line with the GoL’s request leading to a lack of accuracy regarding the true figure of refugees in the country and confusion surrounding their categorization. The refugee population is alienated, violated, and deprived of numerous basic rights. In response, Syrian refugees have increasingly resorted to peaceful means of activism to express their grievances and defend their human rights. For instance, Syrian activists have on many occasions organized and participated in peaceful assemblies outside UNHCR offices in Zahle, Tripoli, and Beirut.

Recent weeks have witnessed unprecedented levels of human rights violations against Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The UNHCR has continuously ignored growing grievances and recent cases of hostility, violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and forced deportation against Syrian refugees. This report highlights the status quo situation of Syrian refugees and the harsh circumstances they are conditioned to in Lebanon. Further, the report focuses on the grievances articulated by Syrian refugees in a series of peaceful sit ins and other forms of protest outside the UNHCR office, and how in a number of cases, the right to peaceful assembly was violated by security forces who harassed, verbally assaulted and arrested Syrian refugees. In doing so, the report aims to highlight these violations and how other communication channels like UNHCR’s complaint resolution mechanisms have failed. The report concludes by offering a legal analysis of the right to peaceful protest in Lebanon and stresses recommendations to ensure the protection of refugees and their human rights.

To read the full report:

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