A Parliament session to start the fall term ended abruptly Tuesday, without holding a legislative session that was meant to discuss a general amnesty law to release detainees from overcrowded prisons.
The Lebanese Forces’ Strong Republic bloc with 15 MPs withdrew from the legislative session, which meant that quorum was lost. The LF bloc had also boycotted the Sept. 30 session, citing the absence of necessary items on the agenda. The bloc stressed that the focus of the session should be on calling early parliamentary elections and not on passing new laws.
Parliament, in its session held at UNESCO Palace and headed by Speaker Nabih Berri, managed to elect two secretaries, three commissioners and members of the committees to replace eight MPs who resigned in the aftermath of the Aug. 4 explosion, which killed nearly 200 people and destroyed half the capital.
Prisoners have long demanded that a general amnesty law be passed for petty crimes including drug possession and involvement with hard-line groups. Roumieh prison for years has witnessed hunger strikes and riots by inmates against poor conditions in the facility.
Lebanon’s largest prison registered over 352 coronavirus cases among inmates in September. Roumieh prison houses more than 3,000 prisoners, with cells holding triple their capacity, and has long been infamous for the poor conditions in some of its blocks. There is also little health care and medicine available for prisoners.
The long-awaited general amnesty bill has faced obstacles, mainly over insistence by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement that “Israel’s agents,” or Lebanese who collaborated with Israel, should not be covered in the pardon proposal.
The draft law was last discussed in June, with no consensus reached among the parliamentary blocs on the articles in the text.