Source: Amnesty International
Tuesday 24 January 2023 10:13:50
Responding to the news that the Lebanese authorities are refusing to allow Judge Tarek Bitar to resume his domestic investigation into the deadly Beirut blast, even after he presented a detailed legal analysis that would allow him to do so, Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
“The Lebanese authorities have shamelessly and systematically obstructed the pursuit of justice in the Beirut blast case by protecting politicians instead of standing up for the rights of survivors, victims’ families, and all residents of Beirut.
“Judge Bitar’s legal analysis offers a clear pathway to pursuing justice, yet the authorities have deliberately chosen to ignore it and have abused their power to evade accountability and impede the investigation. They are using the law as a tool to safeguard officials who should be held to account, while viciously harassing and arresting victims’ relatives, who have been bravely fighting for justice.
“Survivors of the explosion, families of those who lost their lives in the tragedy, and the residents of Beirut all deserve that those responsible for this devastating blast are held accountable. Instead of creating further obstacles, the government should take all measures to ensure that the domestic investigation can proceed without political interference in order to comply with its obligation to ensure redress for violations of the right to life.”
The Public Prosecutor at the Court of Cassation today released a statement saying it will treat Bitar’s legal analysis on resuming his investigation into the Beirut blast, which killed over 200 people in August 2020, as “non-existent”.
Reports in Lebanese media today said Judge Bitar has charged a number of high-ranking Lebanese officials over the blast, including Major General Abbas Ibrahim, Head of the General Security Agency, and Major General Tony Saliba, Head of the State Security apparatus, and has ordered the release of five detainees who had been in detention since 2020.
The politicians who stand accused in the Beirut Blast case have filed over 25 requests to dismiss Tarek Bitar and other judges involved in the case, which have repeatedly led to the inquiry being suspended. The latest legal challenges have seen the case suspended since December 2021.
Meanwhile, at least 17 mostly mid to low-level officials have been detained since August and September 2020 in relation to the case, in conditions that appear to violate their due process rights, including the right of anyone held in pretrial detention to a speedy trial or release and an independent judicial review of the decision to detain them.
In June 2021, Amnesty International and a coalition of more than 100 Lebanese and international organizations, as well as survivors and victims’ families, wrote to the UN Human Rights Council calling for an international investigation into the Beirut blast.
In August 2022, more than two dozen Lebanese MPs also called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish an international fact-finding mission into the blast.