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Lebanon: prime minister signs bill lifting Beirut blast immunity

October 7, 2021 at 10:42 am

Prime Minister Najib Mikatin Beirut, Lebanon on 2 August 2021 [LEBANESE PRESIDENCY/Anadolu Agency]

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati told Sky News Arabia on Wednesday that he has signed a bill that lifts immunity on “everyone” who might have borne responsibility for the Beirut port blast, Reuters has reported. “They must be held accountable,” insisted Mikati.

The disastrous explosion on 4 August last year left more than 200 people dead and devastated swathes of the Lebanese capital. The investigation into the explosion, one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts in history, has made little headway amid a smear campaign against investigation Judge Tarek Bitar and pushback from powerful Lebanese factions.

Mikati pointed out that Lebanon’s constitution stipulated that senior government officials must be tried in front of a special tribunal. He added that the government will extend help to the families of the blast victims, and that a plan has been formulated to reconstruct the port, a vital lifeline for the Lebanese economy.

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Many in Lebanon, particularly families of the victims of the blast, are furious that no senior official has yet been held accountable more than a year later. Bitar’s efforts to question former and serving state officials — including the prime minister at the time of the blast, ex-ministers and senior security officials suspected of negligence — have been blocked repeatedly.