Image: IOM/Muse Mohammed
New York: A cohort of independent UN experts has called on the Human Rights Council to launch an international investigation into the massive explosion in Beirut two year ago, with a view to securing justice for those who died and were injured.
The powerful blast, caused by a stockpile of ammonium nitrate in a port warehouse, occurred on 4 August 2020 and killed more than 200 people while decimating a vast swath of the Lebanese capital.
The explosion destroyed 77,000 apartments, wounded 7,000 people, displaced over 300,000 more, at least 80,000 of which were children, the experts noted, in a press release issued by UN human rights office, OHCHR.
‘The world has done nothing’
“This tragedy marked one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in recent memory, yet the world has done nothing to find out why it happened," the experts reported.
"On the second anniversary of the blast, we are disheartened that people in Lebanon still await justice, and we call for an international investigation to be initiated without delay."
The group of UN Human Rights Council-appointed independent experts have a mandate to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. They are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
Shortly after the 2020 explosion, 37 UN human rights experts issued a joint statement calling on the Lebanese Government and the international community to respond effectively to calls for justice and restitution.
Instead, the national investigation process has been obstructed several times, the experts said. Families of the victims have therefore appealed to the international community to establish an independent investigation under the Human Rights Council, hoping that it will produce answers that Lebanese authorities have failed to provide.
The explosion and its aftermath have further brought into focus systemic problems of negligent governance and widespread corruption in Lebanon, the experts said.
Rights experts who recently visited Lebanon found that responsibility for the explosion has yet to be established, affected areas remain in ruins and reconstruction funds from the international community, have barely begun to reach the rightful beneficiaries.
Access to food and other resources in crisis-wracked Lebanon, continues to be under serious threat.
Lebanon imports up to 80 percent of its food, and the explosion damaged the nation's main entry point and grain silo.
People in Lebanon are also struggling to access fuel, electricity, medicine and clean water; the currency has lost more than 95 percent of its value over the past two years, and the average inflation rate in June was about 210 per cent, the experts noted.
Some countries have promised to assist people in Lebanon after the blast but so far, have not done enough to deliver justice and initiate an international investigation, the experts said.