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US Should Support Probe into 2020 Beirut Blast

25 Members of Congress call for UN-led investigation

A soldier stands at the devastated site of the explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon,  August 6, 2020. © 2020 Thibault Camus/Pool via AP Images

A group of US lawmakers have called on the Biden administration to support a United Nations-led investigation into the catastrophic blast at Beirut’s port on August 4, 2020.

The chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee and 24 other members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expressing concern about the worsening economic and political crises in Lebanon and calling on the US to “lead calls for an impartial UN-led investigation” into the Beirut blast, which killed more than 200 people. This request mirrors the demands of many of the blast victims’ families.

The administration should endorse these calls for accountability and initiate a resolution at the Human Rights Council session starting in June to establish an international investigative mechanism to determine the causes and responsibility for the blast.

Although Lebanese authorities vowed to expeditiously investigate the causes of the blast, the nine months since the tragedy have been marked by little more than obstruction, evasion, and delay. Human Rights Watch has documented many flaws in the domestic investigation that render it incapable of credibly delivering justice, including flagrant political interference, lack of respect for fair trial standards, and due process violations.

The lack of accountability that has plagued the investigation dramatically illustrates the larger culture of impunity officials have long enjoyed in Lebanon.

The US government would do well to support a resolution at the Human Rights Council, the findings of which can be used to push for criminal accountability for the blast and to impose as warranted targeted sanctions against those found to be responsible.  

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