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UN experts and rights groups call for international probe into Beirut Port explosion

August 4, 2022 at 12:26 pm

Relatives of those who lost their lives in the Beirut port blast on August 4, 2020, stage a protest in front of the Beirut Palace of Justice, demanding justice, on January 17, 2022. [Houssam Shbaro – Anadolu Agency]

Independent UN experts and human rights groups have called on the UN Human Rights Council to launch an international investigation into the 2020 Beirut Port explosion. The call has been made on the second anniversary of the massive blast that killed more than 200 people and wounded thousands more.

The explosion on 4 August 2020 was apparently caused by a stockpile of ammonium nitrate in a port warehouse. A large area of the Lebanese capital was damaged by the blast.

According to the experts in a press release issued by the UN OHCHR office, the explosion destroyed 77,000 apartments, wounded 7,000 people and displaced over 300,000 more, at least 80,000 of whom were children.

“This tragedy marked one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in recent memory, yet the world has done nothing to find out why it happened,” said the experts. “On the second anniversary of the blast, we are disheartened that people in Lebanon still await justice, and we call for an international investigation to be initiated without delay.”

Human rights experts who visited Lebanon recently found that responsibility for the explosion has yet to be established, affected areas remain in ruins and reconstruction funds from the international community have barely begun to reach the intended beneficiaries. Moreover, according to Anadolu, lead investigator Tarek Bitar, who was chasing after some of Lebanon’s senior officials, has been prevented from proceeding after politicians he summoned for questioning filed a series of lawsuits against him.

The victims’ families have appealed to the international community to set up an independent investigation under the Human Rights Council in Geneva. They hope that such an inquiry will give them the answers that the Lebanese authorities have failed to provide, explained the experts, who do not speak for the UN but report their findings to the international organisation.

As the next Human Rights Council session starts on 13 September, the rights groups and experts stressed that it should “pass a resolution… to create an impartial fact-finding mission into the Beirut Port explosion.” NGOs including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International insisted that, “It is now, more than ever, clear that the domestic investigation cannot deliver justice.”

Lebanon: international support group ‘concerned’ at lack of progress in blast investigation