Beirut port blast anniversary marked by grief, frustration

Beirut port blast anniversary marked by grief, frustration
The families of the victims of the Beirut port explosion have called for an international probe into the 2020 blast
3 min read
04 August, 2022
Protesters call for an international investigation into the Beirut port blast on its second anniversary. [William Christou - TNA]

Thousands gathered in front of Beirut’s port today to commemorate the second anniversary of the blast which killed over 230 people and wounded over 7,000.

Families of the victims of the explosion gave speeches decrying the failure of the government to hold anyone accountable for the crime. To date, no one has been charged in connection with the August 4 mega-blast.

"We will never forget the explosion on 4 August. We are moving forward, we will know the truth, and we will achieve justice and accountability," Diane Assaf, a Lebanese lawyer, said at the commencement of the march towards the port of Beirut.

The march began from the Justice Palace and continued towards downtown Beirut before making its final stop on Charles Helou Avenue outside the port, parts of which are still in ruins. 

Anger was palpable among the families of those killed, and shouts erupted as the 231 known victims were read aloud. The protests did not turn violent however, in contrast to last year, which saw drawn out clashes between protesters and police near parliament. 

As the victims' families gave speeches to commemorate the tragedy, a large part of the port grain silos collapsed for the second time in a week, releasing a huge cloud of smoke. A fire has burnt in the silos since early July, which authorities say is due to the fermentation of remaining grain stocks along with soaring summer temperatures.

Families of the victims asked the international community to support an international investigation into the explosion through the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The families read statements in French, Italian and Spanish, requesting the ambassadors of these countries to support such a resolution in the UNHRC.

Attendees signed their names on a large Lebanese flag, calling for this probe. 

Human rights organisations have said that the main obstacle to an international investigation into the blast has been France – Lebanon’s former coloniser. Although French President Emmanuel Macron initially said he would support an international probe, he has made no move to do so in practice.

Lebanon’s domestic investigation was halted in December 2021, and has faced a myriad of roadblocks. The investigative judge has issued summons for the highest echelons of Lebanon’s political class – including former prime minister Hassan Diab and head of general security Abbas Ibrahim.

In response, politicians have filed over 25 lawsuits to get the judge removed for harbouring 'political bias.'

Since the Beirut port blast, Lebanon has spiraled into what the World Bank has called one of the world’s worst economic crises since the 1850s. Over 2/3 of the population has been thrust into poverty and the country’s youth has emigrated in droves.