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Beirut port explosion

Rights groups urge international probe into Beirut port blast

First responders rush to care for an injured person amid the devastation of Aug. 4, 2020. (Credit: João Sousa/L’Orient Today)

BEIRUT — More than 140 human rights groups, survivors and relatives of victims of the Lebanon port blast called Wednesday for a UN-backed international, independent and impartial probe into the disaster.

The explosion of hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer on the Beirut dockside on Aug. 4 of last year killed at least 218 people, injured thousands and ravaged entire neighborhoods.

It emerged later that officials had known that the highly volatile substance had been left to linger unsafely at the port for years, in a warehouse close to residential neighborhoods.

Lebanese politicians have rejected previous calls for an international probe into the disaster, but have also hampered the progress of a local investigation at every turn.

The signatories — which include Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, Lebanese rights groups, survivors and relatives of the victims — called on member states at the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish “an international, independent and impartial investigative mission, such as a one-year fact-finding mission.”

“The failures of the domestic investigation to ensure accountability dramatically illustrates the larger culture of impunity for officials that has long been the case in Lebanon,” they said.

A first lead investigator was removed by a court in February after he charged former Prime Minister Hassan Diab and three ex-ministers with “negligence and causing death to hundreds.”

The second, Judge Tarek Bitar, has also faced obstructions, including Parliament refusing to lift the immunity of former ministers who are also lawmakers so he could question them.

Bitar in August subpoenaed Diab for interrogation on Sept. 20, but the ex-premier has flown to the United States to see his family.

Diab’s government resigned in the wake of the blast, but remained in a caretaker capacity until last week, when a new government was finally formed after 13 months of political wrangling.

The powerful Hezbollah group and former prime ministers have accused Bitar of “politicizing” the investigation.



BEIRUT — More than 140 human rights groups, survivors and relatives of victims of the Lebanon port blast called Wednesday for a UN-backed international, independent and impartial probe into the disaster.

The explosion of hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer on the Beirut dockside on Aug. 4 of last year killed at least 218 people, injured...