Lebanon's parliament fails to pass general amnesty law, session postponed due to lack of quorum

The next parliamentary session was postponed until October 20, when the general amnesty law is now supposed to be discussed and adopted

  
Lebanese members of parliament attend a parliament session in downtown Beirut, Lebanon January 27, 2020.

Lebanese members of parliament attend a parliament session in downtown Beirut, Lebanon January 27, 2020.

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT: Parliament Wednesday failed to approve a draft general amnesty law that has been anxiously awaited by families of thousands of convicted prisoners in Lebanon, as the evening session was rescheduled because of a lack of quorum.

The next parliamentary session was postponed until Oct. 20, when the general amnesty law is now supposed to be discussed and adopted.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri formed a committee comprised of MPs representing the main blocs to discuss and finalize a text agreed upon by all sides for the general amnesty draft law, which was set to be discussed during the second parliamentary session of the day before it was once again postponed.

The law was scratched from the Parliament's morning agenda after parties voiced their opposition to the text of the draft including former Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Independent Center bloc and the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc of the Free Patriotic Movement, which were leaning toward skipping the session.

However, Berri withdrew the draft law from the agenda, which then led to the Strong Lebanon bloc, comprised of 25 MPs, to attend the session.

The Lebanese Forces’ Strong Republic bloc with 15 MPs Tuesday announced it would be boycotting the 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.

In addition to the LF MPs, the eight resigned MPs would also be absent from the session.

Parliament convened for a two-day legislative session to discuss pressing bills such as illicit enrichment, which passed in the morning’s assembly.

Among other laws passed in the morning session, was a law that establishes a special credit line for parents who have kids studying abroad to be able to send them funds of up to $10,000 at the LL1,515 exchange rate.

Meanwhile, family members of prisoners protested near the UNSECO Palace, where the session was held, demanding the passage of the general amnesty law, which they had been seeking for years.

Lebanon’s largest prison has registered over 352 coronavirus cases among inmates. 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.

Prisoners have long demanded a general amnesty law be passed for petty crimes including drug possession and involvement with hard-line groups. The prison for years has witnessed hunger strikes and riots by inmates against poor conditions in the facility.

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 .

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