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UN Human Rights Council Should Move to Investigate Beirut Blast

UN High Commissioner Urges Consideration of an International Probe

High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk speaks at a news conference in Khartoum, Sudan, November 16, 2022. © 2022 Marwan Ali/AP Photo

Support for an international investigation into the August 2020 blast that tore through Beirut, devastating half the city, killing hundreds, and injuring thousands, is building at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In his opening remarks at the Council last week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk denounced the lack of accountability for the Beirut port explosion and the repeated interference by Lebanese officials into the domestic investigation. “It may therefore be time to consider an international fact-finding mission to look into human rights violations related to the tragedy,” Türk said.

In addition, during the council's current session, several countries mentioned the Beirut blast and highlighted the lack of accountability. Spain, speaking on behalf of EU states, called for a “swift, independent, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation into the explosion.” Australia said that the “human rights impact of improper use, management and disposal of toxics were highlighted by the devastating 2020 Beirut port explosion,” and France stressed that an investigation must be “carried out with complete transparency and independence and without political interference.”

These remarks come more than three years after the blast ripped through Beirut. They also come more than a year and a half since the domestic investigation into the blast was suspended, in December 2021.

Since then, victims of the blast and their families have been left with no recourse to truth and justice, as Lebanese officials have worked to repeatedly obstruct the course of the domestic investigation. In March, the UN expert on judicial independence warned that the interference into the domestic investigation impacted “the very ability of the Lebanese justice system to ensure accountability.”

But support for the establishment an international investigation is amplifying. On the three-year anniversary of the Beirut blast, more than 300 organizations and individuals, including Human Rights Watch, called for the creation of an international fact-finding mission into the blast. Last August, six UN experts voiced their support for such an international investigation.

Member states at the UN Human Rights Council should heed the calls of the high commissioner and the UN experts. They should work to build support for a resolution that establishes such an international fact-finding mechanism and bring this resolution forward at the council’s next session in March.

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