BEIRUT — Dozens of activists held a sit-in Monday morning in front of the Beirut Justice Palace to call on the UN to intervene as the Lebanese investigation into the deadly Beirut port explosion of Aug. 4, 2020 continues to stagnate due to political and judicial maneuvers.
Responding to a call from the "Noun" collective, the protesters expressed their anger at the Prosecutor General at the Court of Cassation Ghassan Oueidat, who initiated proceedings against the investigation's head, Judge Tarek Bitar, at the end of January. Queidat in January also released all the suspects detained in the probe, rekindling the anger of the relatives of the more than 220 dead and 6,500 wounded in the tragedy that devastated swathes of Beirut.
"Lebanon is being held hostage by a criminal political system supported by its security and judicial system"; "Justice and accountability are being held hostage at the courthouse," read placards held up by protesters.
Others read: "The public prosecutor at the Court of Cassation has obstructed the investigation by allowing suspects to flee"; "He is a criminal judge and an agent. For Ghassan Oueidat should be sacked!" "Justice is stronger than you and your weapons," read another sign, displaying a portrait of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.
"Nabih Berri protects the accused MPs," read yet another. Relatives of the parliament speaker and former ministers Ghazi Zeaiter and Ali Hassan Khalil are implicated in Bitar's investigation.
The activists also urged "the UN Human Rights Council to intervene to ensure that justice is done," saying that "the explosion at the port of Beirut is a crime against human rights."
‘Crime against human rights’
Speaking on behalf of the Noun collective, Nawal Meouchi said, "Justice in Lebanon is not only violated by the political and security authorities, but also by judges, including Ghassan Oueidat."
She also said that "justice in the investigation into the explosion of Aug. 4, 2020 has been taken hostage by a group of politicians who control the country."
"We call on organizations concerned with human rights, including Humans Rights Watch, and its director for the Middle East and North Africa Lama Fakih, to act on this crime against human rights," pleaded Meouchi, lamenting that it appears the ruling class wants to avoid accountability.
Fakih, who was also present at the sit-in, deplored that "the violations of the investigation continue, while the families have the right to know the truth." She urged the UN Human Rights Council to work for justice.
Monika Brogmann, widow of the activist Lokman Slim, an opponent of Hezbollah who was assassinated two years ago, who was also present outside the Justice Palace and called for the creation of a fact-finding committee that would come to investigate in Lebanon.
Lawyer Cecile Roukoz, who lost her brother on Aug. 4, 2020, meanwhile said, "We still trust the judiciary, but the political class continues to create obstacles. That's why we are looking abroad."
Last Saturday, relatives of the victims and activists mobilized in Paris and Beirut to commemorate the tragedy and denounce the obstructions of the investigation.