BEIRUT — A petition by Beirut port blast victims' families to launch an international probe into the disaster has been signed by a "majority" of Lebanese deputies and will soon go to the UN Security Council, the families announced Monday.
So far, around 70 members of Parliament have signed the petition, which was launched two months ago, William Noun, whose brother Joe Noun was killed in the 2020 blast, told L'Orient-Le Jour.
"Other petitions are circulating, of course, but this one is specifically meant for presentation to the UN," he added.
‘It will cost nothing to the Lebanese state’
"We will not accept the dilution of the investigation, the distortion of the truth, and the concealment of evidence. We have asked all deputies to sign a petition requesting the creation of an international fact-finding commission," the families' statement said.
It also calls on the Lebanese authorities to "provide the documents they have" regarding the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion, in which thousands of tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate were detonated. The blast killed more than 200 people — including children, the elderly and foreign workers — and destroyed swathes of Beirut close to the port.
"The petition does not oppose the creation of a national investigation committee; it complements it," the victims' families added in their statement Monday. "It will cost nothing to the Lebanese state, and it is not about an international tribunal. This proposal also does not oppose the petition submitted to the Human Rights Council."
The victims' relatives also highlighted that the European Parliament expressed support for such a commission on Aug. 3.
"Today, we have a petition signed by a majority of Parliament members, and we will present it to Lebanese officials at the United Nations, embassies and members of the UN Security Council," the statement promised.
The families of victims also mentioned countries whose citizens perished in the explosion, such as Australia, the Netherlands and Germany. "We will ask for their help in spreading and supporting the petition at the United Nations," they added.
The victims' families routinely denounce the lack of progress in the domestic investigation, led by Judge Tarek Bitar. That investigation has been stalled and hindered by political interference, even though Bitar has attempted to resume it several times.
In March 2023, during the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, 38 member states and observers signed a joint statement strongly condemning the interference of Lebanese officials in national investigations. This document was considered a first step toward a resolution that would be adopted during a future Council session, aiming to create an international fact-finding commission. However, no progress has been made since.
Fact-finding missions of the sort demanded by the port blast victims' families are mandated by the UN "to address situations of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law," according to the Human Rights Council's website. "They aim to promote accountability for these violations and to combat impunity."
They typically consist of three to five members who must have "recognized expertise, as well as demonstrated deep knowledge and extensive experience in international human rights law," in addition to "the principles, norms, and methodology of information collection and investigations, and demonstrated experience in this field."