BEIRUT — On the second anniversary of the Aug. 4, 2020, port explosion, the families of the 10 first responders who lost their lives in the blast as they tried putting out the initial fire sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council, asking them to establish "a professional and independent commission” into the explosion.
Here’s what know:
• In their letter, the relatives Elie Bou Saab, Karlen Hitti, Elie Mallahi, Maria Fares, Safaa Kaaki, William Noun, Mohamad Hawa, Rita Karam, Georges Hitti, Nancy Khouzami said that since the port explosion, the Lebanese investigation has been hampered. “Several former Ministers (and current Members of Parliament) have been indicted, they and their political parties have successfully managed to hinder the investigation through the blatant abuse of the political and judicial processes,” the relatives wrote. “The current investigative magistrate, Judge Tarek Bitar, has been prevented from carrying out his duties since December 2021 through spurious legal challenges,” they said. "Unfortunately, these concerns have proven all too well founded. Two years after the tragedy, neither truth nor justice are forthcoming," they also said, adding that they “have been more than patient in awaiting the outcome of the Lebanese judicial process.”
• The signatories of the letter also said that “The United Nations and the international community must now recognize that the local process is irremediably flawed and cannot lead to truth or justice.”
• The relatives of the victims asked the Security Council to intervene “within 90 days” from the date of their letter if Bitar is not fully reinstated in his functions and does not confirm that he is in a position to publish a final report. They said they also "respectfully request the Security Council to consider and, if appropriate, to adopt resolutions:
• “Establishing and providing funding for a professional and independent commission with a mandate to investigate the causes of the Beirut Port Explosion and determine responsibility for this tragedy; and
• "Directing the Government of Lebanon, the investigative judge, and all other parties in Lebanon to turn over to the commission all information, documents and data in their possession regarding the Beirut Port Explosion and otherwise to cooperate fully with the independent commission.”
• The family members’ letter also takes the form of a petition, which others may sign.