Lebanon’s parliament has approved a state of emergency that grants sweeping powers to the army, citing the exceptional circumstances in the country following a massive explosion in Beirut last week.
The cabinet had declared a two-week state of emergency on August 5, the day after the Beirut blast that left at least 200 dead and some 6,000 injured. Parliament on Thursday voted for the emergency declaration eight days in, as is legally required, though it could have also voted it down.
The state of emergency allows the army to curb free speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press, as well as to enter homes and arrest anyone deemed a security threat.
Judicial proceedings are to take place in the country’s military courts, which Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have shown do not conform to standards on due process.
Rights groups have raised serious concerns about the state of emergency, saying it would enable security forces to crack down on a public raging with anger against the ruling class following the blast.
The huge explosion – one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts in history – was fueled by some 2,750 tonnes of dangerous chemicals left in storage at Beirut’s port for nearly seven years, with the knowledge of top security and political officials.