The explosion in the port of Beirut, the Lebanese capital, a year ago, on August 4, 2020, was the result of “decades of government mismanagement and corruption”, and an international investigation needs to be launched. This was the conclusion of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report published last Tuesday (3). The document was drawn up based on interviews, information from the judiciary and documents from the vessel that brought the explosive material to Lebanon.
“The evidence shows crystal clear that the August 2020 explosion in the port of Beirut was caused by the actions and omissions of senior Lebanese officials who did not accurately communicate the dangers posed by ammonium nitrate, knowingly stored the material in unsafe conditions and not they protected the public,” says Lama Fakih, director of crisis and conflict at HRW.
Also according to the NGO, multiple authorities in the country were “minimal, criminally negligent under Lebanese law”. The organization says the UN Human Rights Council should demand an international investigation into the Beirut port explosion and eventually apply sanctions against Lebanese officials involved in the episode.
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“Such sanctions would reaffirm these countries’ commitments to promoting accountability for serious human rights abuses and would provide additional strength to those pushing for accountability through domestic judicial processes,” the report states.
The explosion in the port of Beirut claimed 218 lives, left 7,000 injured and destroyed the homes of 300,000 people. Part of the city’s infrastructure, such as health services, transport, water and electricity, was compromised. According to the World Bank, the incident caused an estimated loss of between US$3.8 billion to US$4.6 billion (something between R$19 billion and R$24 billion).
In an interview with HRW, nurse Pamela Zeinoun tells how it was to attend to three babies after the explosion: “I was scared. It felt like they were sleeping. Or they were dead.” In another statement collected by the NGO, Karlin Hitti, widow of a firefighter killed in the fight against fire, asks what he should tell his daughter about her father’s death. “Should I say that I don’t know who killed him? That we in Lebanon couldn’t find out?”
With the largest number of refugees per capita of the world, Lebanon is still facing an economic and political crisis. In 2020, the country’s GDP dropped 20.3% and inflation soared, increasing poverty figures.
Since the explosion, Lebanon has had three prime ministers. Currently, there is no formed government and Prime Minister and billionaire Najib Mikati is trying to form a coalition that meets the criteria of power sharing between Christians and Muslims. This institutional design was implemented after the civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990). His predecessor in office, Saad Hariri, stepped down as prime minister in mid-July after trying to form a government for nine months without success.
Edition: Arturo Hartmann