REVIEW - One Year After Devastating Port Blast, Beirut Still Awaiting Justice


REVIEW - One Year After Devastating Port Blast, Beirut Still Awaiting Justice

BEIRUT (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 04th August, 2021) A national day of mourning and demonstrations mark the one year anniversary of the Beirut port explosion that killed 280 and injured over 6,000.

On August 4, 2020, a massive explosion in a warehouse storing 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate wiped out much of the port and surrounding neighborhoods.

Shorty after the tragedy, the authorities promised a swift investigation. Interior Minister Mohamed Fahmi pledged that those responsible would be held accountable within days.

However, one year since the blast, the government is still promising to do "everything possible" to assist the investigation.

"I pledge to the families of martyrs that the blood which was shed on that fateful day will not be in vain, and that the truth is coming, through which the just retribution for everyone responsible of this disaster," President Michel Aoun stated on Tuesday.

The Lebanese government has been widely criticized by human rights watchdogs for obstructing the probe into the blast by "shielding" officials from scrutiny.

"Lebanese authorities promised a swift investigation; instead they have brazenly blocked and stalled justice at every turn," Amnesty International said.

In June, rights groups along with some Lebanese organizations called on the UN to launch an independent investigation into the blast. On August 3, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged Lebanon to ensure a transparent and effective investigation into the massive explosion.

The slogan "Never forget, never forgive" has gone viral on social media and was chanted at mass protests following the explosion. It is still used by families of those killed and injured in the blast to demand a fair investigation.

On August 3, Human Rights Watch released a report on the Lebanese government's "longstanding corruption and mismanagement" of the storage of explosives at the port's warehouse.

"The very design of the port's management structure was developed to share power between political elites. It maximized opacity, and allowed corruption and mismanagement to flourish," Human Rights Watch stated in a report summary.

Despite international aid offered to Lebanon, the country is still struggling with the aftermath of the blast. According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), some 98% of affected families still need support.

About 43.6% of households said they had at least one family member who lost employment due to the explosion, with half of them still unemployed. With the blasts destroying about 73,000 apartments, 97% of families affected said they needed repairs a year on, while over 20% with at least one child still live in a temporary residence, UNICEF added.

Lebanon is experiencing a protracted political crisis, with no cabinet of ministers formed since the former one, headed by Hassan Diab, resigned in the wake of the explosion.