BEIRUT — The lawyers' collective Mouttahidoun criticized on Sunday the decision of the banking sector to reopen on Monday, saying that depositors' response to the "abuses of the banks" will be "through actions." The collective's comments come after a week of closure following a series of bank holdups by depositors demanding access to their own money.
"The response to the abuses of the banks, that have gone too far, will be through actions, which are being prepared by depositors, after consulting the final position of the judiciary" on this kind of actions, such as holdups, warned the lawyers' collective founded by activist Rami Olleik. Mouttahidoun officially claimed involvement in the Blom Bank holdup in Sodeco by depositor Sali Hafez. Depositors launched a series of similar holdups across the country.
The Association of Banks in Lebanon announced Sunday that bank branches will resume work on Monday to provide basic services, but will adapt their procedures to the security situation.
Responding to this announcement, Mouttahidoun said in a statement that this resumption is "a denial of the rights of depositors, their suffering and the tragedies that banks continue to cause, despite everything that has happened."
The collective denounced the absence of any proposal to restore the rights of depositors, while the banks "have no qualms about stealing from them and even continue to do so, driven by unprecedented greed and authoritarianism."
Since 2019, banking institutions have imposed ad hoc illegal restrictions on accounts and cash withdrawals, amidst a severe economic crisis in Lebanon. The Mouttahidoun collective further condemned the fact that "banks have lost all the trust that had been granted to them," pointing to practices "that violate human rights, the Constitution and the laws."
No fewer than seven bank branches were attacked by depositors nearly two weeks ago.
The banks condemned these actions, while some among the public, as well as depositors' associations, supported them. The banking restrictions in Lebanon can be compared to those imposed in Cyprus or Greece during the recent financial crises that hit these countries. The problem is that in Lebanon the restrictions are not endorsed by any law, but the the central bank has indirectly validated them through circulars, and the authorities have allowed the situation to continue for three years.