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October 10, 2012

Lebanese Soldiers Accused of Attacking Migrants

by Kim Lewis

Human Rights Watch said it is calling on Lebanese officials to investigate and prosecute Lebanese army and intelligence officials who were responsible for the beating and abuse of 72 male migrant workers on October 7, in the Beirut neighborhood of Geitawi. 

The human rights group said 45 Syrians, 20 Egyptians and seven Sudanese migrant workers were apparently beaten by Lebanese soldiers after they barged into the rooms where the migrants lived.

“This happened in the evening, after dark, they were at home in most cases in their living quarters, though in one or two cases, they were assaulted on the street.  These are people who have been living there for a good long time, years, in some cases, and Lebanese army soldiers, uninvited, burst in, rounded them up, put them on the floor, in one case took them to the roof of the building, made them lie down and beat them,” explained Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. 

Human Rights Watch reported they saw bruises that were consistent with the description of the beatings that the migrants endured.  They said one Syrian worker feared one of his ribs had been broken because he was beaten so badly. 

Human Rights Watch said neighbors told them they tried to intervene on behalf of the migrants, but the soldiers yelled at them to go back indoors.

Stork said there needs to be an investigation to determine why the abuse took place.

“It seems to be a bit of xenophobia, anti-migrant.  Some of the insults and questions related to the political beliefs of these people, the Syrians in particular, whether they were supporters of President Assad and Syria, or the opposition.  Frankly, we don’t know.  We are talking about several different attacks happening on the same evening,” said Stork.

As of last night the Lebanese army has not put out any type of statement regarding the attacks.

Stork said Human Rights Watch hopes Lebanese authorities would agree with their recommendation that they should undertake an investigation into the attacks on the migrants. 

To listen to entire interview click on audio.