UN experts, NGOs urge international investigation into Beirut blast ahead of two year anniversary
The August 4, 2020 mega-blast killed more than 200 people and destroyed swathes of the Lebanese capital, after a stockpile of haphazardly stored ammonium nitrate fertiliser caught fire at the port.
Relatives of blast victims have pressed for justice and accountability for two years but the local probe has been paused since December due to political pressure.
"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 six UN experts said.
"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 blast shocked a population already reeling from an unprecedented economic crisis, and is widely blamed on the negligence and mismanagement of Lebanese authorities.
The lead investigator, Tarek Bitar, who was chasing after some of Lebanon's top brass, has been barred from proceeding after politicians he summoned for questioning filed a series of lawsuits against him.
The victims' families have appealed to the international community to set up an independent investigation under the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
They hope such an inquiry would give them the answers that Lebanese authorities have failed to provide, said the experts, who do not speak for the UN but report their findings to it.
The explosion and its aftermath have brought into focus systemic problems of negligent governance and widespread corruption, the experts said.
The next Human Rights Council session starts on September 13.
The Council "should pass a resolution... to create an impartial fact-finding mission into the Beirut port explosion", said 11 local and international NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
"It is now, more than ever, clear that the domestic investigation cannot deliver justice," the NGOs said in a joint statement.
Lawmakers of the Lebanese Forces, the biggest Christian bloc in parliament, also pressed the UN on Wednesday to launch an international probe.
In Rome, Pope Francis extended his sympathy to Lebanese ahead of the blast anniversary.
"I hope that Lebanon, with the help of the international community, will continue on the path of rebirth," he said.