Human Rights Watch says Lebanon-led probe into port explosion flawed

Topics Lebanon | explosion

A leading international human rights group on Thursday said a Lebanon-led probe into the devastating port explosion in Beirut this summer has been marred by political meddling and lack of judicial independence, resulting in failure to yield credible results two months later.

Human Rights Watch called for a United Nations-led inquiry into the causes of the blast to determine responsibility. The New York-based watchdog called on international supporters of Lebanon, lead by France, meeting next week to press the Lebanese authorities to accept an independent probe.

The massive Aug. 4 blast killed nearly 200 people and injured more than 6,000 when some 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical, detonated at Beirut's port. It also devastated several neighborhoods, shattering thousands of residential, historic and other buildings.

Everyone in Beirut has had their life turned upside down by the catastrophic explosion that devastated half the city, and they deserve justice for the disaster inflicted on them, said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at HRW. The Lebanese authorities' failings over the past two months have shown that an international investigation is the only avenue for the people of Lebanon to get the answers and the justice that they deserve. "

It is still not known what ignited the chemicals, which were stored at the facility for six years. Local media say that 25 people have been detained and 30 charged in the explosion, mostly port and customs officials.

Majzoub said authorities are pretending to carry out a credible investigation pointing to fundamental weakness and flaws in the process she called opaque. The probe began with political wrangling over the naming of the lead investigator, included military threats to jail leakers and raised concerns over whether the panel appointed along sectarian lines could be fully impartial.

HRW said the role of foreign investigators was unclear, calling on France and the United States to clarify their mandate and make public any attempts to obstruct justice. Earlier this month, the judge investigating the explosion received a report from the FBI about the bureau's own probe, but no details have emerged from it. The French and British have yet to present their own findings.

Majzoub said there was no transparency in sharing evidence or charges, while no senior official was named in the probe. Reports showed government officials at the highest level were informed of the dangerous chemicals in the port.

HRW said the focus on administrative port and customs officials raises concerns that politicians suspected of being implicated in the blast may escape accountability. There were also concerns of possible tampering with the crime scene, following the eruption of two fires at the port since the explosion in September.

Families of the dead and survivors of the blast called on the U.N. Security Council for an international investigation, but Lebanese officials rejected such calls as a waste of time.


(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


Dear Reader,


Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel