'No justice' six months after horrific Beirut blast: HRW

'No justice' six months after horrific Beirut blast: HRW
The stalled Lebanese investigation into the Beirut blast has been riddled with serious problems, HRW has reported.
2 min read
03 February, 2021
The Beirut explosion killed more than 200 people and injured more than 6,000. [Getty]
Lebanon's political leaders have been accused of "stalling" an investigation into a massive blast that destroyed large parts of the country's capital and left over 200 people dead, half a year since the tragedy took place.

"The stalled domestic investigation, riddled with serious due process violations, as well as political leaders’ attempts to stop the investigation reinforce the need for an independent, international inquiry," Human Rights Watch said in a statement published on Wednesday.

The Beirut explosion injured more than 6,000 people and caused a mental health crisis, with many homes still badly damaged.

The investigation into the disaster has been stalled since December 2020 after concerns regarding the judge investigating the case.

HRW has described the process of appointing 
Fadi Sawan to oversee the case as "opaque" and "shrouded in allegations of political interference".

"Sawan has, since August, brought charges against 37 people, 25 of whom are detained under conditions that appear to violate their due process rights,” the rights group said.

HRW said in their investigations that the lawyers of those detained were not informed by judges on the charges against them and citing a lack of transparency on the part of authorities.

The rights group said this could amount to "indefinite detention", illegal under international law.

"Lebanese authorities publicly promised that the investigation into the blast that killed more than 200 people and devastated half the city would take five days, but six months later, the public is still waiting for answers," said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch. 

"Denying defendants due process does nothing to achieve justice for the victims of the blast. An international, independent investigation as well as urgent reforms to Lebanon's judicial processes, are the best guarantee that the people will get the answers they deserve."

It is thought that the Beirut blast was caused by a fire that ignited nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate improperly stored at the port's warehouse.

The force was recorded as one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history, throwing people across rooms and slicing them with glass.

Windows and doors were blown out miles away from the epicenter of the explosion.

Even in a country that has seen many wars and bombings, never had so many people - tens of thousands - directly experienced such a traumatising event at the same time.

It came on top of the stress that Lebanese were already feeling from multiple crises, including an unprecedented economic meltdown, the coronavirus pandemic, with nationwide protests against corruption that failed to achieve their goals.

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