BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Cabinet Thursday agreed to abolish lists of wanted individuals dating back to Syria's occupation that were put together based on material gathered from informants, fulfilling a recent demand of residents from the northern city of Tripoli.
“The Cabinet decided to ... cancel all lists issued by security agencies until this date and tasked the interior, defense and judicial ministers to reconsider the procedures governing the collection of information,” Information Minister Ramzi Joreig told reporters after the end of the Cabinet session.
The lists first emerged during Syria’s tutelage over Lebanon, when security agencies would collect information about individuals via informants. The lists primarily targeted suspected Israeli collaborators and spies as well as opponents of the Syrian government and were used to arrest people arbitrarily without the legally required judicial warrant.
Describing it as an important step to strengthen the security plan currently in effect in Tripoli and other regions, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi commended the Cabinet’s decision.
“This is one of the most important steps in the security arena, because no informant should control people’s lives,” he said. “This is no longer a police state, we are now a state of the judiciary and this was a fundamental move to correct the path of the security plan.”
The cancellation meets a key demand of protesters angry about a crackdown authorities launched in Tripoli in April to restore law and order following several rounds of sectarian fighting over the crisis in Syria. Security agencies apprehended dozens of suspects based on judiciary warrants, but some others were detained according to the controversial lists.
Residents in Lebanon’s second-largest city have over the past few months accused security agencies of conducting arbitrary detentions that target the Sunni community while ignoring Hezbollah’s practices. They point in particular to the party’s military role in Syria alongside President Bashar Assad.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, who spoke to reporters after the end of the session at the Grand Serail, said that he and Rifi had submitted the request to the Cabinet.
“I along with Minister Rifi suggested to eliminate all lists of wanted individuals issued by the Lebanese Army and all lists by General Security that are not based on judicial warrants,” he said.
“The Cabinet agreed to that given that such a move would relieve residents and [agreed] any new name of a wanted individual should go through the judiciary first.”