Ahead of the three-year anniversary of the catastrophic explosion in Beirut’s port that killed at least 235 people and damaged more than half of the city, Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
“The Lebanese authorities have had three years to investigate what caused the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port and to hold those suspected of criminal responsibility to account. Yet to this day, absolutely no one has been held responsible for the tragedy that unfolded on 4 August 2020.
Instead, the authorities have used every tool at their disposal to shamelessly undermine and obstruct the domestic investigation to shield themselves from accountability – and perpetuate the culture of impunity in the country.
The international community has repeatedly condemned the authorities’ blatant political interference in the domestic investigation, including in a joint statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council earlier this year. Today, over 300 Lebanese and international civil society groups, as well as survivors and victims’ families, are once again appealing to the Human Rights Council to urgently establish an international fact-finding mission to investigate the causes of the Beirut Blast and identify those responsible for the catastrophe.”
“The Lebanese authorities have had three years to investigate what caused the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port and to hold those suspected of criminal responsibility to account. Yet to this day, absolutely no one has been held responsible for the tragedy that unfolded on 4 August 2020.Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa
The domestic investigation into the Beirut Blast has been suspended since December 2021 due to a series of legal challenges filed against the lead investigator, Judge Tarek Bitar, and other judges involved in the case by politicians who have been targeted by the investigation.
When Judge Bitar tried to resume the investigation in January 2023, he was slapped with a lawsuit and a travel ban by Public Prosecutor Ghassan Oweidat, who was charged in the port investigation. Oweidat ordered the release of all detained individuals suspected of involvement in the explosion. At least one defendant has since fled the country.
Oweidat’s actions have been deemed illegal by the Beirut Bar Association and the Lebanese Judges Association. However, since then, there has been no progress with the investigation yet to resume.
In March 2023, Australia delivered a joint statement on behalf of 38 states at the United Nations Human Rights Council expressing concern that the domestic investigation into the explosion had been “hampered by systemic obstruction, interference, intimidation, and a political impasse.” The statement called on the Lebanese authorities to abide by their international human rights obligations and safeguard the independence of the judiciary, and to carry out a swift, independent, impartial, credible and transparent investigation.