BEIRUT: Curfews imposed on Syrians in villages across Lebanon amount to a "violation of Lebanon’s international human rights obligations" and create a discriminatory and hostile environment for refugees, Human Rights Watch said in statement Friday.
The watchdog criticized municipalities for adopting the restrictive measures without coordinating with the central government.
In many cases, the curfews were introduced as knee-jerk reactions to the five-day battle between the Army and jihadists in Arsal and subsequent execution of three hostages abducted during the August conflict.
“The Lebanese government should instruct municipalities to stop imposing the curfews to protect Syrians in Lebanon from retaliatory measures,” HRW Deputy Middle East Director Nadim Houry said, noting that his organization identified at least 45 municipalities that had imposed curfews over the past year.
The NGO observed that vigilante groups had been formed in many towns to help municipal police enforce the curfews from sunset until sunrise, raising concerns about abuses.
The statement cited several incidents of abuse and discriminatory behavior, including restricting refugees' movement to purchase essentials such as medicine and food, and physical assault, including stabbings, when discovered in the streets after curfew.
Local officials often defend restrictions on the freedom of movement imposed on Syrians as necessary security measures, but those justifications often rely on stereotypes and contribute to a discriminatory climate, HRW said.
“Municipalities should cease imposing these curfews, which they have no authority to require, and end practices that feed into a climate of discrimination against and stereotyping of Syrians in Lebanon,” Houry added.
Lebanon now hosts close to 1.2 million registered Syrian refugees, scattered across informal camps throughout the country.
Anti-Syrian sentiments were fueled following the clashes between the Army and militants from the Nusra Front and ISIS in Arsal in early August in which 19 soldiers were killed and more than 30 abducted.
Hostility to Syrians further increased after militants executed three of the hostages.