Lebanon’s Hezbollah suspends official over Parliament spat

Hezbollah's top commanding body suspended the political activities of a leading legislator because of his spat with rival politicians in Parliament last week. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 February 2019

Lebanon’s Hezbollah suspends official over Parliament spat

  • Musawi's comments violated a Hezbollah policy to avoid internal arguments with other groups
  • Earlier this week, Musawi did not attend the weekly meeting of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc

BEIRUT: Hezbollah's top commanding body suspended the political activities of a leading legislator because of his spat with rival politicians in Parliament last week, a Lebanese politician said Saturday.
Legislator Sami Gemayel, who heads the Christian Phalange party, said last week that Hezbollah's wide influence was seen when it got its ally elected president in 2016.
Hezbollah legislator Nawaf Musawi responded saying "it's an honor" for the Lebanese that President Michel Aoun came to his post alongside "the rifle of the resistance," a reference to the militant group, and "not on an Israeli tank."
Musawi's last reference was to late President-elect Bashir Gemayel who was assassinated in 1982 days after being elected during Israel's invasion of Lebanon.
Gemayel's son, Nadim, an MP, called Musawi's statements "unacceptable."
Two days later, the head of Hezbollah's 13-member bloc in parliament, Mohammed Raad, apologized during a meeting of the legislature saying that Musawi "crossed lines."
The politician who is familiar with Hezbollah's internal affairs spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hezbollah, said Musawi will be suspended from taking part in parliamentarian and the group's internal meetings for one year. He will also not be permitted to speak to the media, it said. The paper added that Musawi's comments violated a Hezbollah policy to avoid internal arguments with other groups.
Earlier this week, Musawi did not attend the weekly meeting of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc. He was also not present on the day that Raad issued his apology.


‘Jury still out’ on new Lebanon government, says rights chief

Updated 24 January 2020

‘Jury still out’ on new Lebanon government, says rights chief

  • The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said it was too early to say if the new government would be any better than its predecessor
  • Kenneth Roth: We’ve seen in Lebanon a government that can’t even clean up the garbage, they can’t deliver electricity, they can’t provide the most basic services

DAVOS: The “jury is still out” on whether the new government in Lebanon will be any different to the old one, the head of Human Rights Watch told Arab News on Friday.

Lebanon has been convulsed by demonstrations since October, when people took to the streets to protest against corruption, unemployment, a lack of basic services and economic problems. Political veteran Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister so that a new cabinet could be formed, but it took time to assemble a coalition.

The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said it was too early to say if the new government would be any better than its predecessor. He warned, however, that the early signs were not promising.

“We’ve seen in Lebanon a government that can’t even clean up the garbage, they can’t deliver electricity, they can’t provide the most basic services,” Roth told Arab News on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. “It’s not at all clear that the more technocratic government that has been put in place is going to be responsive to the needs of the people and able to deliver. The jury is still out on that. While the government has responded to the protesters’ demand on a political level by changing personnel, the security forces on the ground have often responded violently, and in repeated instances used excessive force rather than respect the rights of the protesters to petition their government to appeal for a government that is more respectful of their needs and accountable to their desires.”

According to Amnesty International, Lebanese security forces’ unlawful use of rubber bullets last weekend left at least 409 protesters injured, some seriously, in the most violent weekend since the protests began on Oct. 17.

“The protesters in Lebanon are upset by what they see as a dysfunctional and unaccountable government, I mean they are the most basic services that are not being provided,” Roth said, adding that the government was getting “increasingly intolerant.”

He also expressed concern about the plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The rights’ group says there are around 1.5 million of them in the country and that 74 percent lack legal status. “Authorities heightened calls for the return of refugees in 2018 and municipalities have forcibly evicted thousands of refugees,” the group said in a report.

“Syrian refugees obviously do impose a burden on Lebanon, but nonetheless there are legal obligations and the government really led by President (Michel) Aoun rather than former Prime Minister Hariri has been trying to make life more miserable for the refugees in the hope of forcing them back to Syria despite the fact that Syria remains completely unsafe,” Roth said.

Aoun and his son-in-law, former foreign minister Gebran Bassil, head the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) which has the biggest parliamentary bloc. Aoun and Bassil have repeatedly claimed that Syria is now a safe and peaceful country and that the refugees should go back.

“It is not safe to force anybody back, the Lebanese government knows this in the sense that they are not putting guns to people’s heads and forcing them back, but they’re doing the metaphorical equivalent by making life so miserable that many refugees feel that despite the risks to their lives, they have to go back to Syria because there’s nothing for them in Lebanon,” Roth added.