UN experts urge international probe into Beirut mega-blast

UN experts urge international probe into Beirut mega-blast

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GENEVA: A group of United Nations experts on Wednesday urged the UN Human Rights Council to launch an international investigation into the deadly 2020 Beirut explosion, saying its victims needed justice.

The August 4 mega-blast killed more than 200 people and destroyed thousands of homes in the Lebanese capital.

The explosion was blamed on a fire that ignited tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertiliser haphazardly stored for years at Beirut harbour.

“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 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 experts said the national investigation process had been repeatedly blocked.

The lead investigator, Tarek Bitar, who was chasing after some of the country’s top brass, has been barred from proceeding by a series of lawsuits filed by political leaders since last year.

The victims’ families therefore appealed to the international community to set up an independent investigation under the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

They hope that an inquiry mandated through the council would give them the answers the 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.

“Human 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 beneficiaries,” they said.

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