Lebanon commemorates third anniversary of Beirut blast

Friday marked the third anniversary of the Beirut port explosion, a tragic event which claimed the lives of more than 200 individuals and left thousands injured, causing significant devastation throughout the capital. Despite the colossal scale of this incident, no senior official has yet been held accountable and internal attempts to seek justice continue to face consistent obstacles.

In a show of solidarity and defiance, a protest march was organised on Friday afternoon in Beirut, with additional demonstrations anticipated globally. The procession commenced at 4pm local time from the Karantina fire station, located in close proximity to the port, culminating near the epicentre of the 2020 blast.

The city fell silent at 6:07pm, the exact time when the explosion occurred three years ago, as a fire engine’s siren signalled the start of a minute’s silence. The sombre silence was followed by applause, and a poignant reading of the victims’ names. Many businesses across Lebanon observed the day as a public holiday in commemoration of the tragedy.

Paul Naggear, a father still mourning the loss of his three-year-old daughter Alexandra, voiced his urgent need for justice, saying, “This is a national cause. If we don’t get justice for this and what happened, we won’t get justice for anything.”

The explosion was caused by a cache of ammonium nitrate that had been improperly stored at the port for several years, a fact known to senior officials. The domestic inquiry led by Judge Tarek Bitar has faced repeated roadblocks, including resistance from former ministers he intended to question.

Nizar Sagieh, a prominent lawyer and founder of the rights group Legal Agenda, criticised Lebanon’s political class for its chronic lack of accountability. The devastating blast has come to symbolise the deep-seated corruption and mismanagement by the ruling elite, which has also presided over a financial collapse that began in 2019.

The search for justice has increasingly turned towards international intervention. Savaro Ltd, a UK-registered company found liable for the blast, was ordered to compensate four victims a total of $1 million, setting a “strong precedent” for other lawsuits, according to Mr. Naggear. On the eve of the anniversary, a multitude of human rights groups, survivors and relatives of the victims appealed to the UN Human Rights Council to establish a fact-finding mission into the explosion.

This plea echoes a joint statement by 38 nations, expressed by Australia at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, emphasising their collective concern over the investigation’s stagnation due to “systemic obstruction, interference and intimidation”. They noted the failure of Lebanese authorities to guarantee an independent judiciary in accordance with international standards.

In a separate statement, the French Foreign Ministry also called for the Lebanese justice system to resume its investigation “in complete transparency, protected from any political interference”, emphasising the global clamour for truth and accountability in the wake of the Beirut port explosion.

Image Credit: AP Photo/Hussein Malla

Tags : Lebanon