The killing of peaceful protester Alaa Abou Fakhr is a human rights violation that should be investigated by civilian and not military prosecutors, Amnesty International said today. Abou Fakhr’s death was mourned by Lebanese protesters in vigils held across the country on 13 November.
“Alaa’s family has the right to know the full truth of what happened to him and to see those responsible for his killing brought to justice. Only a fully independent court can bring justice to Alaa and his family, sending a signal that nobody is beyond accountability as protests continue.” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Regional Director.
“We call on the Lebanese authorities to immediately refer the investigation to the civilian justice system.”
On 12 November, an army vehicle drove past a crowd of peaceful protesters in Khalde, a coastal town south of the capital Beirut. At one stage, an army personnel shot into the air and subsequently shot Alaa Abou Fakhr in the head, a 39-year old protester and father of three children. Abou Fakhr was taken to hospital but died shortly thereafter. Later that evening, the Lebanese Armed Forces Command announced that the military prosecutor had ordered an investigation into the case. The following day they issued a second statement stating that military intelligence had investigated and referred First Adjutant Charbel Hajeel to the “competent justice system.”
In a separate incident that took place on 26 October in the city of Beddawi in north Lebanon, military forces used rubber pellets and live ammunition to disperse a peaceful sit-in that had been blocking a main road, seriously wounding at least two protesters. Later that day, the military issued a statement stating that they had fired live ammunition “in self-defence” against attacks by protesters “with stones and fireworks,” leading to the injury of five of its forces. The military then said that it had opened an investigation into the incident before the military court.
Under the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, security forces are obligated to use non-violent means before resorting to force and must then "exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence." Firearms can only be used in “in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury” and the “intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.”
Under international human rights law, the jurisdiction of military courts over criminal cases should be limited to trials of military personnel for breaches of military discipline. If the offence is “criminal” in nature under human rights law, fair trial rights must be respected. In addition, access to military court sessions is restricted and the right to appeal is limited.
“The killing of Alaa Abou Fakhr and the injuries at the protest in Beddawi are human rights violations that should only be investigated by the civilian justice system. The right to trial by an independent and impartial tribunal would be undermined should the military justice system investigate one of its own,” Morayef said.