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Over 300 I/NGOs, Activists, Survivors & Families of Victims Issued a Joint Letter Urging the UNHRC to Take Action on Beirut Explosion Investigation

Accountability & Rule of Law - Lebanon - Advocacy

On the 3rd anniversary of the explosion, justice and accountability remain elusive for the catastrophe that resulted in significant damage to Beirut and claimed at least 236 lives, including nationals from various countries.

The letter addressed to the Permanent Representative of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council, signed by Lebanese and international organizations, survivors, families of victims, and activists calls for support in adopting a resolution at the 54th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, establishing an international, independent, and impartial fact-finding mission concerning human rights violations linked to the Beirut port explosion of August 4, 2020.

The domestic investigation has been hindered by interference, obstruction, and political challenges from Lebanese authorities. Over 25 requests have been filed to dismiss lead investigator Judge Tarek Bitar and other judges, suspending the investigation since December 2021.

Judge Bitar’s attempt to resume the investigation in January 2023 was met with obstacles, including a lawsuit filed against him by Lebanon’s top prosecutor, Ghassan Oueidat, who had been charged in the case. Political interference bypassed the ongoing criminal investigation and even led to the release of suspects.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Margaret Satterthwaite, condemned political interference and noted ongoing attempts to discredit Judge Bitar, who faced credible death threats and required military protection.

A joint statement by Australia and 38 states at the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council expressed concern over obstruction of the domestic investigation and called for a swift, independent, impartial, credible, and transparent inquiry, urging Lebanon to uphold human rights obligations.

Despite this, the Lebanese authorities have not taken steps to advance the investigation or ensure judicial independence in line with international standards.

The families and survivors request the following from UNHRC:

  1. Establish the facts and circumstances of the explosion, attributing responsibility to both state and individuals.
  2. Identify human rights violations stemming from Lebanon’s failure to protect the right to life.
  3. Recognize obstacles hindering the investigation, which violate the state’s duty to thoroughly probe gross violations of international human rights law.
  4. Identify infringements on victims’ rights to justice, effective remedies, and reparation.
  5. Formulate recommendations for justice and reparations for affected families.

The findings of an international, independent investigation, conducted according to high international standards, would assist Lebanon’s investigation and efforts in third countries to hold accountable those responsible.

Survivors and victims’ families have sent letters to the Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, while 43 members of the Lebanese Parliament have also supported an international investigation.Despite opportunities, Lebanese authorities have demonstrated evasion of accountability, perpetuating a culture of impunity through legal and extra-legal means.

UNHRC member states have the responsibility and opportunity to support calls for accountability, rule of law, and human rights protection in Lebanon.

Uncovering the truth of the 2020 explosion is crucial to prevent future tragedies and provide redress for the devastation caused.

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