BEIRUT: Human Rights Watch Friday stressed Lebanese authorities needed to step up their action regarding ongoing violence in the northern city of Tripoli and urged them to arrest gunmen and seize their weapons.
The New York-based watchdog also said authorities should better protect the Tripoli neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen where the minority Alawites is increasingly coming under attack by Sunni gunmen.
Two separate clashes in Tripoli earlier this week have disrupted the fragile peace in the city despite heavy Army deployment.
“Sectarian tensions between the Alawite Jabal Mohsen neighborhood and surrounding Sunni neighborhoods have led to increasing targeted attacks against Alawites in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli,” HRW said in a report.
It said the Lebanese authorities’ response “has remained weak even as the conflict in Syria has seriously aggravated tensions there.”
“Lebanese authorities should take all feasible steps to protect Tripoli residents by confiscating weapons that have been used to kill residents such as mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and automatic weapons, arresting and prosecuting gunmen, and maintaining an active security presence in all communities.”
“With battles going on in Tripoli and with people being targeted, beaten, knifed, and killed, the Lebanese government can’t afford to sit on its hands,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“It needs to start arresting and prosecuting the people behind the violence in Tripoli and confiscate their weapons,” he stressed.
HRW said the government’s new security plan for Tripoli should specifically include measures to protect Alawite residents and their property.
“It should include a plan to stop attacks that are underway, investigate incidents, and arrest and prosecute those responsible, while respecting the rights of all, including anyone detained,” the report said.
“ Sunni gunmen and arsonists have attacked and burned numerous shops belonging to Jabal Mohsen residents in other Tripoli districts. Sunni militants have also beaten Alawites on the streets of Tripoli outside of Jabal Mohsen. Some gunmen from the Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh have forced Alawite shop owners to pay protection money,” it added.