The Lebanese authorities must launch an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into the deaths of two Palestinian men during clashes with Lebanese soldiers in a refugee camp in the north of the country, Amnesty International said.
On 15 June, clashes erupted following a law enforcement incident and soldiers opened fire leaving 18-year-old Ahmed al-Qasim dead and several people injured. Three days later, the army again opened fire during unrest following Ahmed al-Qasim’s funeral, killing another Palestinian man, 42-year-old Fouad Muhi’edeen Lubany.
“Following these deaths at Nahr al-Bared it is crucial for the Lebanese authorities to ensure a full and impartial investigation is carried out to determine what happened and to bring anyone responsible for abuses to justice,” said Ann Harrison, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Programme Director at Amnesty International.
Local sources – including one direct eyewitness – told Amnesty International that on 15 June Lebanese soldiers had asked a man in the Nahr al-Bared area for the documentation for his motorcycle. They then went to his home where a female family member was reportedly pushed by the soldiers. As a consequence, local people became enraged and pelted the soldiers with stones.
The witness told Amnesty International that the soldiers opened fire in an attempt to disperse the crowd, shooting dead Ahmed al-Qasim and injuring seven others.
Three days later, mourners buried al-Qasim at Khalid al-Waleed cemetery, which is located alongside the army’s base inside Nahr al-Bared.
A group of the mourners approached the Lebanese Army base throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. The witness said they had become violent after noticing that an army officer was filming the funeral gathering on his mobile phone.
The army responded with gunfire, killing Fouad Muhi’edeen Lubany – who was reportedly trying to placate the more aggressive group – and injuring five other men, including one who remains in hospital in a critical condition.
The Lebanese Army has also said that their base in Nahr al-Bared was attacked following the funeral on 18 June with stones and Molotov cocktails, leaving three soldiers injured. The Lebanese Army claimed that they initially fired “smoke bombs, rubber bullets and anti-riot weapons” before using live ammunition against the protesters who tried to break into the army’s base.
According to the 1969 Cairo Agreement, the Lebanese Army does not usually enter Palestinian camps, where Palestinian factions have traditionally provided internal security.
But Nahr al-Bared camp has endured a stringent security environment since 2007, when heavy fighting broke out between Lebanese troops and Fatah al-Islam, an extremist Islamic group that had moved into the camp. The violence caused considerable destruction to the camp, forcibly displaced the camp’s 30,000 residents and led to at least 400 deaths, including 42 civilians and 166 Lebanese soldiers.
Amnesty International wrote to Lebanon’s then-Prime Minster Fouad Siniora as well as the Minister of Defence expressing concern that alleged violations committed by the Lebanese Army in Nahr al-Bared in 2007 – subject to internal army investigations – were not independently and impartially investigated.
The ongoing security measures have added to the social and economic hardships of the Palestinians living there, many of whom still await the reconstruction of their homes since the violence in 2007.
Some 30,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants live at Nahr al-Bared camp, which was set up in 1949 near the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.