Survivors of Beirut port blast ‘determined to achieve justice’ 3 years on

Survivors of Beirut port blast ‘determined to achieve justice’ 3 years on
"We will ask for justice until our last breath, because this is our country," Paul Naggear, whose daughter Alexandra was killed in the explosion, said on Friday.
3 min read
04 August, 2023

Three years on, families of the victims of the devastating Beirut port explosion vowed that they would never give up their quest for justice for their loved ones, as they addressed thousands gathered on Friday at the site of the explosion to commemorate the third anniversary of Lebanon's biggest man-made disaster in peacetime.

Starting at the nearby Karantina neighborhood fire brigade, thousands of demonstrators carrying pictures of the blast victims and slogans demanding justice marched to the port.

At 6:07, the exact moment of the blast three years earlier, a minute of silence was held. Then, families of the victims of the blast read out the name of each victim.

Individual family members gave speeches to the crowd, demanding the international community open an international investigation into the explosion, naming specific Lebanese officials responsible for obstructing the domestic investigation and promising they would not give up their fight for justice.

The 4 August, 2020 Beirut port explosion killed at least 250 people, wounded over 7,000 and destroyed half of the capital city. To date, no one has been charged in connection with the port blast.

“We are here to appeal again and again to the UN Human Rights Council and the international community to table a resolution for an independent investigation into the port blast,” Mireille Khoury, the mother of Elias Khoury who was killed at 15 by the blast, said to the emotional crowd on Friday.

“Three years have passed and you have turned a deaf ear to our requests. This hurts a lot and exacerbates our pain … Justice delayed is justice denied,” Khoury said.

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Justice on hold

Lebanon’s domestic investigation into the port blast has been obstructed since December 2021, as officials sued the investigative judge for “political bias.”

The probe cannot be resumed until the lawsuits are resolved, but the Lebanese government has yet to assign judges to the court which deals with those cases

International rights organisations have accused the Lebanese state of “using every tool at their disposal” to block the domestic investigation, and have reiterated the call for an international fact-finding mission.

“If we had justice in Lebanon and things were normally progressing, we wouldn’t be asking for an [international investigation]. What other recourse do we have to get justice for our daughter?” Paul Naggear, whose 3-year old daughter Alexandra was killed in the blast, told The New Arab.

In March, Australia and 37 other countries issued a statement at the UN Human Rights Council urging Lebanese authorities to allow the domestic investigation to continue unhindered, but stopped short of calling for an international probe.

Naggear urged countries to support a resolution for an international probe at the UN, so that “they would be on the right side of history.”

Other protesters were more radical with their demands, with the founding member of the Lebanese Student Union, telling TNA that a true investigation into the port blast could not proceed without a completely new government in power.

“If this regime is the one that contributed to the explosion, then all of its participants carry a responsibility for it. An independent investigation cannot truly happen without the fall of this regime,” Bassim Jouni, a founding member of the Student Union, told TNA on Friday.

The speeches of the victims’ families were interrupted by back-and-forth political chants, but the speakers urged the crowd to “not let the political class divide us.”

“Let an investigation decide who is guilty, who is a terrorist. We are here today for justice,” William Noun, an activist said on Friday.

The demonstration ended with the families of the victims vowing to continue their fight for justice, regardless of the obstacles ahead.

“We are a people who blew up, but did not die. We will ask for justice until our last breath, because this is our country. We will not allow our children to live in danger,” Naggear said on Friday.