Groups call for UN investigation into massive explosion in Beirut in 2020

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BEIRUT (UKTN) – Lebanese and international organizations on Wednesday called on the UN Human Rights Council to send a fact-finding mission to investigate the blast in the port of Beirut two years ago as a domestic investigation continues to falter.

The appeal from groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International came as the Lebanese investigation has stalled since December following legal proceedings by indicted and accused officials against the judge leading the investigation. The blast on August 4, 2020 killed nearly 220 people, injured more than 6,000 and caused extensive damage in Beirut.

The call also came amid concerns that many of the port’s giant grain silos, shredded by the massive explosion, could collapse days after a smaller portion fell after weeks of fires of fermented grain ignited by the scorching summer heat. Lebanese authorities have closed a main road outside the port and diverted traffic to inner streets as a precaution.

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The northern block of the silos has been tilting slowly for days since the other part collapsed on Sunday.

A group of UN experts also called for an international investigation on Wednesday, saying: “This tragedy marked one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in recent history, but the world has done nothing to find out why it happened.”

The organizations called on the UN Rights Council to table a resolution at its upcoming council meeting in September that would send “promptly an independent and impartial fact-finding mission” into the explosion.

They believe the mission would establish the facts surrounding the explosion, including the root causes, without political intervention. This would support the victims’ campaign for an effective investigation, they said. The groups want to establish state and individual responsibility and support justice for the victims.

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Many have blamed the long-standing corruption and mismanagement of the Lebanese government for the tragedy considered to be one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history when hundreds of tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, a material used in fertilizers, exploded into the air. harbor exploded.

Official correspondence between political, security and judicial officials shows that many were aware of the hazardous materials unloaded at the port a decade ago without taking meaningful action to remove them.

After the blast, port, customs and legal documents revealed that the ammonium nitrate had been shipped to Lebanon on a worn-out Russian ship in 2013 and had not been properly stored in a port warehouse since.

Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the Lebanese investigation, has charged four former senior government officials with willful murder and negligence that led to the deaths of dozens of people. He has also charged several top security officials in the case.

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None of them have been arrested and two of the accused were re-elected to parliament in May.

An initial investigation by Human Rights Watch points to the possible involvement of foreign companies and senior political and security officials in Lebanon.

“It is now, more than ever, clear that the domestic inquiry cannot bring justice,” the groups said, adding that the creation of an international fact-finding mission commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council is “all the more urgent”.

The group said previous calls from survivors of the explosion and families of the victims went unanswered.

“While Lebanese authorities continue to blatantly impede and delay the domestic investigation into the port explosion, the only way to ensure justice is served is an international investigation,” said Diana Semaan, acting deputy director at Amnesty International.

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