Responding to the news that Lebanon’s Cassation Court suspended the arrest warrant against former public works minister, Youssef Fenianos, who was charged in September 2021 with homicide and criminal negligence by lead investigator into the Beirut port blast, Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
“The suspension of the arrest warrant against Fenianos by Lebanon’s highest court is yet another nail in the coffin of justice and is a grim testament to the pervasive obstruction of the investigation into the devastating 2020 blast, which killed 235 and left more than 7,000 injured.
“Nearly three and a half years on from the tragedy, the Lebanese authorities brazenly demonstrate a relentless commitment to evading responsibility, employing all tools at their disposal to cripple the investigation and shield themselves from accountability.
“In January 2023, Lebanon’s top prosecutor illegally ordered the release of all suspects detained in the case; and now at least one of these arrest warrants – which the security forces never implemented – has been revoked. These successive blows underscore a disturbing truth: Lebanon’s judicial apparatus is ensnared in the service of the powerful, forsaking the rights of the public and the grieving families who lost their loved ones in one of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions ever witnessed.
With trust shattered in the prospect of a domestic inquiry, only an international, independent, and impartial investigative mission can uphold justice, truth and reparation for families of victims and survivors. We urgently call on the United Nations Human Rights Council to take decisive action and establish a fact-finding mission into the Beirut blast.Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa
“With trust shattered in the prospect of a domestic inquiry, only an international, independent, and impartial investigative mission can uphold justice, truth and reparation for families of victims and survivors. We urgently call on the United Nations Human Rights Council to take decisive action and establish a fact-finding mission into the Beirut blast.”
According to media reports, a former attorney general in the Cassation Court had also previously revoked the arrest warrant against former cabinet minister and current MP Ali Hassan Khalil, whose parliamentary immunity continues to shield him from judicial proceedings.
In 2021, Judge Tarek Bitar issued warrants against Fenianos and Khalil accusing them and two other former senior government officials of homicide with probable intent and negligence that led to one of the world’s largest non-nuclear blasts. Fenianos in turn asked for Bitar’s removal over “legitimate suspicion” of how he handled his case. Both Fenianos and Khalil refused to cooperate with the investigation or appear for questioning.
The domestic investigation into the Beirut Blast has been suspended since December 2021 due to a series of arbitrary legal challenges filed against Judge Bitar and other judges involved in the case.
When Judge Bitar attempted to resume the investigation in January 2023, Lebanon’s top prosecutor, Ghassan Oueidat, whom Bitar had charged in the case, filed a lawsuit against him, imposed a travel ban on him, and ordered the release of all those suspected of involvement in the explosion who remained in detention.