Calls for a UN-led international investigation are multiplying as a Lebanese investigation fails to account.
Human rights groups, survivors and family members of the victims of the Lebanon’s port explosion are urging the United Nations to support an international, independent and impartial investigation, avoiding a local investigation that has not yet yielded significant arrests or even identified a culprit.
A total of 145 signatories, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, called on the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday to establish “an international, independent and impartial fact-finding mission, as a one-year fact-finding mission.”
In a joint letter, the signatories argued that the internal investigation has been repeatedly obstructed and “did not meet the parameters, based on international standards, established by the UN Special Procedures.”
UN Special Procedures experts issued a statement in August 2020 setting benchmarks, based on international human rights standards, for a credible investigation into the explosion.
“The failures of the national investigation to ensure accountability dramatically illustrates the broader culture of impunity for officials that has long been the case in Lebanon,” they said.
Today 145 survivors of the #BeirutBlast, families of victims, organizations and individuals made another urgent appeal to @UN_HRC establish a body to investigate the explosion, such as #Lebanon leaders continue to obstruct the national investigationhttps://t.co/QhX1YGpk2U https://t.co/8LcUCFnoni
– Aya Majzoub (@Aya_Majzoub) September 15, 2021
The letter follows a similar letter sent by 115 rights groups, survivors and families of the victims in June 2021.
The detonation of tons of ammonium nitrate on August 4, 2020 in the port of Beirut was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. It killed at least 214 people, injured thousands and devastated entire neighborhoods.
A year later, many residents who lived in the port area remain in limbo, unable to rebuild their lost homes. An estimated 77,000 buildings were damaged in the blast.
Human Rights Watch and other organizations have said that the evidence suggests that high-level government officials were aware of the significant threat to life posed by ammonium nitrate and have hampered the progress of a local investigation.
A first principal investigator was removed by a court in February after he accused former prime minister Hassan Diab and three former ministers of “negligence and causing the death of hundreds of people.”
The second, Judge Tarek Bitar, has also faced obstacles, including Parliament’s refusal to lift the immunity of former ministers, who are also legislators, in order to question them.
Bitar summoned Diab in August for questioning on September 20, but local media reported that the former prime minister had flown to the United States to see his family.
Diab’s government resigned in the wake of the explosion, but remained interim until this week, when a new government finally took office after 13 months of political wrangling.