“They Killed Us from the Inside”

An Investigation into the August 4 Beirut Blast

Graffiti at the damaged port area in the aftermath of a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 11, 2020. © 2020 Hannah McKay/Reuters

Update 9/8/2021: In a letter dated August 17, 2021, General Joseph Aoun, the Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, responded to Human Rights Watch stating that the Army Command is unable to answer questions on the events that led to the Beirut Blast, as they relate to an ongoing investigation.

 

Summary

Following decades of government mismanagement and corruption at Beirut’s port, on August 4, 2020, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history pulverized the port and damaged over half the city. The explosion resulted from the detonation of tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a combustible chemical compound commonly used in agriculture as a high nitrate fertilizer, but which can also be used to manufacture explosives. The cargo of ammonium nitrate had entered Beirut’s port on a Moldovan-flagged ship, the Rhosus, in November 2013, and had been offloaded into hangar 12 in Beirut’s port on October 23 and 24, 2014.

The Beirut port explosion killed 218 people, including nationals of Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Philippines, Pakistan, Palestine, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, and the United States. It wounded 7,000 people, of whom at least 150 acquired a physical disability; caused untold psychological harm; and damaged 77,000 apartments, displacing over 300,000 people. At least three children between the ages of 2 and 15 lost their lives. Thirty-one children required hospitalization, 1,000 children were injured, and 80,000 children were left without a home. The explosion affected 163 public and private schools and rendered half of Beirut’s healthcare centers nonfunctional, and it impacted 56 percent of the private businesses in Beirut. There was extensive damage to infrastructure, including transport, energy, water supply and sanitation, and municipal services totaling US$390-475 million in losses. According to the World Bank, the explosion caused an estimated $3.8-4.6 billion in material damage.

The explosion also resulted in ammonia gas and nitrogen oxides being released into the air, potentially with toxins from other materials that may have also ignited as a result of the explosion. Ammonia gas and nitrogen oxides are harmful to the environment as well as to the respiratory system. The destruction is estimated to have created up to 800,000 tonnes of construction and demolition waste that likely contains hazardous chemicals that can damage health through direct exposure, or soil and water contamination. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has estimated that the cost of cleaning up the environmental degradation from the explosion will be over $100 million.

The evidence, as currently known, raises questions regarding whether the ammonium nitrate was intended for Mozambique as the Rhosus’s shipping documents stated or whether Beirut was the intended destination for the material. The evidence currently available also indicates that multiple Lebanese authorities were, at a minimum, criminally negligent under Lebanese law in in their handling of the Rhosus’s cargo. The actions and omissions of Lebanese authorities created an unreasonable risk to life. Under international human rights law, a state’s failure to act to prevent foreseeable risks to life is a violation of the right to life.

In addition, evidence strongly suggests that some government officials foresaw the death that the ammonium nitrate’s presence in the port could result in and tacitly accepted the risk of the deaths occurring. Under domestic law, this could amount to the crime of homicide with probable intent, and/or unintentional homicide. It also amounts to a violation of the right to life under international human rights law.

A chronology of events related to the Rhosus and its cargo, starting in September 2013, can be found in Annex 1 of this report.

In this report, Human Rights Watch details the evidence of omissions and actions by officials that, in a context of longstanding corruption and mismanagement at the port, allowed for such a potentially explosive compound to be haphazardly stored there for nearly six years. The very design of the port’s management structure was developed to share power between political elites. It maximized opacity, and allowed corruption and mismanagement to flourish.

Drawing on official correspondence regarding the Rhosus and its cargo, some of which has not been published before, the report outlines what is currently known about how the ammonium nitrate arrived in Beirut and was stored in hangar 12 in the port. Through a review of dozens of official documents sent from and to officials working under the Ministry of Finance, including customs officials; the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, including port officials; members of the judiciary; the Case Authority (a body at the Ministry of Justice which acts as the legal representative of the Lebanese state in judicial proceedings); members of the Higher Defense Council, including the president and prime minister; the Ministry of Interior; General Security; and State Security, among others, the report provides insights into which government officials knew about the ammonium nitrate and what actions they took or failed to take to safeguard the population from its dangerous long-term presence there. Interviews with government, security, and judicial officials, defense lawyers for officials who have been charged, investigative journalists, and others, provided further insights into the actions government officials took or failed to take despite being informed of the risks.

Evidence indicates that many of Lebanon’s senior leaders, including President Michel Aoun, then-Prime Minister Hassan Diab, the Director General of State Security, Major General Tony Saliba, former Lebanese Army Commander, General Jean Kahwaji, former Minister of Finance, Ali Hassan Khalil, former Minister of Public Works and Transport, Ghazi Zeaitar, and former Minister of Public Works and Transport, Youssef Fenianos, among others, were informed of risks posed by the ammonium nitrate and failed to take the necessary actions to protect the public.

Official correspondence reflects that once the ship arrived in Beirut, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Public Works and Transport officials failed to correctly communicate or adequately investigate the potentially explosive and combustible nature of the ship’s cargo, and the danger it posed. Ministry of Public Works and Transport officials inaccurately described the cargo’s risks in their requests to the judiciary to offload the merchandise and knowingly stored the ammonium nitrate in Beirut’s port alongside flammable or explosive materials for nearly six years in a poorly secured and ventilated hangar in the middle of a densely populated commercial and residential area. Their practices contravened international ammonium nitrate safe storage and handling guidance. Neither they, nor any security agency operating in the port, took adequate steps to secure the material or establish an adequate emergency response plan or precautionary measures, should a fire break out in the port. They also reportedly failed to adequately supervise the repair work undertaken on hangar 12 that may have triggered the explosion on August 4, 2020.

Official correspondence also indicates that port, customs, and army officials ignored steps they could have taken to secure or destroy the material.

Customs officials repeatedly took steps to sell or re-export the ammonium nitrate that were procedurally incorrect. But instead of correcting their procedural error, they persisted with these same incorrect interventions despite repeatedly being told of the procedural problems by the judiciary. Legal experts even state that customs officials could have acted unilaterally to remove the ammonium nitrate and that they could have sold it at public auction or disposed of it without a judicial order, which they never took steps to do.

The Lebanese Army Command brushed off knowledge of the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12, saying they had no need for the material, even after learning its nitrogen grade classified it under local law as material used to manufacture explosives and required army approval to be imported and inspection. Despite being responsible for all security issues related to munitions at the port, and being informed of the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12, Military Intelligence took no apparent steps to secure the material or establish an appropriate emergency response plan or precautionary measures.

All of this was done despite repeated warnings about the dangerous nature of ammonium nitrate and the devastating consequences that could follow from its presence in the port.

Even after security officials from the Lebanese General Directorate of State Security, the executive agency of the Higher Defense Council chaired by the president, completed an investigation into the ammonium nitrate at the port, there was an unconscionable delay in reporting the threat to senior government officials, and the information they provided about the threats posed by the material was incomplete.

Both the then-Minister of Interior and the Director General of General Security have acknowledged that they knew about the ammonium nitrate aboard the Rhosus, but have said that they did not take action after learning about it because it was not within their jurisdiction to do so.

Once they were informed by State Security, other senior officials on Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council, including the president and the prime minister, also failed to act in a timely way to remove the threat. 

Relying on public sources and interviews with impacted individuals, the report recounts the devastating events of August 4 that led to violations of the right to life and other human rights abuses, such as violations of the rights to education and to an adequate standard of living, including the rights to food, housing, health, and property.

Finally, the report documents the failings of the Lebanese domestic investigation into the blast.

In the aftermath of the blast, Lebanese officials vowed that the cause of the explosion would be investigated vigorously and expeditiously. In August 2020, 30 UN experts publicly laid out benchmarks, based on international human rights standards, for a credible inquiry into the blast, noting that it should be “protected from undue influence,” “integrate a gender lens,” “grant victims and their relatives effective access to the investigative process,” and “be given a strong and broad mandate to effectively probe any systemic failures of the Lebanese authorities.”

In the year since the blast, however, a range of procedural and systemic flaws in the domestic investigation have rendered it incapable of credibly delivering justice. These flaws include a lack of judicial independence, immunity for high-level political officials, lack of respect for fair trial standards, and due process violations.

Lebanese authorities have ensured that the domestic investigation that they authorized would remain carefully circumscribed. On August 13, the justice minister named Fadi Sawan the judicial investigator responsible for the investigation. Judge Sawan brought charges against 37 people, but with the exception of the heads of the customs administration and port authority, those detained were mostly mid- to low-level customs, port, and security officials.

While only relatively lower-level officials were detained, senior officials knew of the ammonium nitrate being stored in the port, had a responsibility to act to secure and remove it, and failed to do so. However, investigations of their responsibility have been stymied due to various types of immunities applicable to ministers, parliamentarians, lawyers, and others.

In November 2020, Judge Sawan wrote to parliament asking them to investigate 12 current and former ministers for their role in the August 4 explosion and then refer them to a special body that Lebanese law empowers to try ministers. However, Nabih Berri, the speaker of the parliament, refused to act.

In December 2020, in the absence of parliamentary action, Judge Sawan charged the Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, and three former government ministers – Ghazi Zeaiter, former Minister of Public Works and Transport; Ali Hassan Khalil, former Minister of Finance; and Youssef Fenianos, former Minister of Public Works and Transport —with criminal negligence related to the blast. The judge was immediately challenged for not having accepted the immunity that politicians typically enjoy in Lebanon. Two of the former ministers, who are also members of Parliament, filed a complaint before the Court of Cassation, the country’s highest court, for Judge Sawan to be removed from the case and in February 2021, the court removed him. His replacement, investigative judge Tarek Bitar, is operating under the same prosecutorial limitations.

On July 2, 2021, Judge Bitar submitted a request to parliament to lift parliamentary immunity for former ministers Khalil, Zeaiter, and Nohad Machnouk, the former Minister of Interior. They are all currently parliamentarians. He also wrote to the Beirut and Tripoli Bar Associations, requesting permission as required by Lebanese law to prosecute former ministers Khalil, Zeaiter, and Fenianos, all of whom are lawyers. Both the Tripoli and Beirut Bar Association approved Bitar’s request to prosecute Khalil, Zeaiter, and Fenianos. As of July 29, 2021, parliament has still not lifted the immunity of these parliamentarians.

Bitar also requested permission to prosecute Major General Abbas Ibrahim, the Director General of General Security, from the Interior Minister, and he requested permission from Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab to interrogate Major General Tony Saliba, the head of State Security, as a suspect. Judge Sawan had previously charged Saliba. On July 9, 2021, Caretaker Interior Minister Mohammad Fehmi refused Bitar’s request to prosecute Ibrahim, but Bitar appealed Fehmi’s decision and referred the case to the Cassation Public Prosecution. Cassation Attorney General Ghassan Khoury told Human Rights Watch that he denied Bitar’s request to prosecute Ibrahim. As of July 29, 2021, neither Prime Minister Diab nor President Aoun nor the Higher Defense Council had responded to Bitar’s request to interrogate Saliba as a suspect.

Bitar brought charges against former Lebanese Army Commander, General Jean Kahwaji, and three former senior officials in Military Intelligence.

The right to life is an inalienable right, enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (article 6), which Lebanon ratified in 1972. The Human Rights Committee, which interprets the ICCPR, has stated that states must respect and ensure the right to life against deprivations caused by persons or entities, even if their conduct is not attributable to the state. The Committee further states that the deprivation of life involves an “intentional or otherwise foreseeable and preventable life-terminating harm or injury, caused by an act or omission.” States are required to enact a “protective legal framework which includes criminal prohibitions on all manifestations of violence…that are likely to result in a deprivation of life, such as intentional and negligent homicide.” They are also obligated to investigate and prosecute potential cases of unlawful deprivations of the right to life, and to provide an effective remedy for human rights violations.

Survivors of the explosion and the families of the victims have been vocal in calling for an international investigation, expressing their lack of faith in domestic mechanisms. They also argue that the steps taken by the Lebanese authorities so far are wholly inadequate to achieve accountability as they rely on flawed processes that are neither independent nor impartial.

As one year passes since the explosion, the case for such an international investigation has only strengthened. The Human Rights Council (HRC) has the opportunity to assist Lebanon to meet its human rights obligations by mandating an investigative mission into the August 4, 2020 explosion to identify the causes of, and responsibility for, the blast, and what steps need to be taken to ensure an effective remedy for victims.

The independent investigative mission should identify what triggered the explosion and whether there were failures in the obligation to protect the right to life that led to the explosion at Beirut’s port on August 4, 2020, including failures to ensure the safe storage or removal of a large quantity of combustible and potentially explosive material. It should also identify failures in the domestic investigation of the blast that would constitute a violation of the right to an effective remedy and the right to life. It should make recommendations on measures necessary to guarantee that the authors of these violations and abuses, regardless of their affiliation or seniority, are held accountable for their acts and to address the underlying systemic failures that led to the explosion and to the limited scope of the domestic investigation.

The independent investigative mission should report on the other human rights impaired or violated by the explosion and failures by the Lebanese authorities and make recommendations to Lebanon and the international community on steps that are needed both to remedy the violations and to ensure that similar violations do not occur in the future.

In addition, countries with Global Magnitsky and other human rights and corruption sanction regimes should sanction officials implicated in ongoing violations of human rights related to the August 4 blast and efforts to undermine accountability. Human rights and corruption sanctions would reaffirm states’ commitments to promoting accountability for perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and provide additional leverage to those pressing for accountability through domestic judicial proceedings.

Methodology

Human Rights Watch has compiled over 100 documents related to the Rhosus and its cargo, some of which have not been published before (See Annex 2 and English translations in Annex 3). These include documents sent to and from officials working under the Ministry of Finance, including customs officials; the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, including port officials; members of the judiciary; the Case Authority (a body at the Ministry of Justice that acts as the legal representative of the Lebanese state in judicial proceedings); members of the Higher Defense Council; General Security; State Security; and others. These documents were obtained via open-source research and from the investigative unit at Al-Jadeed television, the Samir Kassir Foundation, and six confidential sources.

Human Rights Watch wrote to 43 Lebanese government officials and six political parties regarding the role that they and their institutions played in the August 4, 2020 explosion and to eight companies and two law firms to request information pertaining to the Rhosus and its cargo and their work (see Annex 4). Six officials, one company, and one law firm responded to our correspondence on the record before publication and their responses have been incorporated into this report (see Annex 5).

For this report, Human Rights Watch also conducted ten interviews with Lebanese government, security, and judicial officials, including the caretaker prime minister, the director general of State Security, and the former head of the Case Authority. Human Rights Watch also interviewed three lawyers representing individuals who have been charged for the August 4 explosion at Beirut’s port, as well as seven of their relatives. In addition, we interviewed a lawyer representing a group of victims of the blast, a former shipping company employee, someone who saw the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 in early 2020, an investigative journalist, a researcher with expertise in the structure of Beirut’s port, and seven people who were impacted by the August 4 explosion.

Most interviews were conducted in person, but some were conducted over the phone. Researchers informed all interviewees about the purpose and voluntary nature of the interviews and the ways in which Human Rights Watch would use the information and obtained consent from all interviewees. Human Rights Watch has withheld the names of some individuals featured in the report at their request. Interviews were conducted in Arabic or English without the assistance of a translator.

Human Rights Watch also reviewed local and international media and other reports related to the August 4 blast and Beirut’s port.

Port of Beirut: A Case Study in Lebanese Authorities’ Mismanagement and Corruption

The port of Beirut is Lebanon’s main commercial port and a hub for maritime trading on the Mediterranean Sea. In 2019, the port handled an estimated US$20 billion of trade, comprising 78 percent of Lebanon’s imports and 48 percent of its exports.[1] It has also played a significant role in transit traffic, especially to Syria and Iraq.[2]

However, Beirut’s port, sardonically referred to by some Lebanese as “the cave of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves,” has been rife with corruption, negligence, and mismanagement, and is emblematic of the failures of post-war state building and political sectarianism in Lebanon.[3]

From 1960 until 1990, Beirut’s port was managed by a private company, the ‘Compagnie d’Exploitation et de Gestion du Port de Beyrouth’ (CEGPB).[4] In 1990, after the end of the civil war, management of the port reverted to the state, as the company’s 30-year concession also ended in December 1990.[5] But, former warlords and political leaders who had a financial stake in how the port was managed could not agree on how to manage it, including whether the port should be a private or public institution.[6]

In 1993, the Council of Ministers established a provisional administrative body, the “Temporary Committee for Management and Investment of the Port of Beirut” (hereafter referred to as the Port Authority).[7] Its seven seats were divided among the country’s main political factions, thereby making the port’s management subject to power struggles between them, which in turn paralyzed decision-making.[8] The Port Authority, despite its intended temporary nature, has continued to operate to this day.

By default, the port became part of the state under the Port Authority, but it was operating without an institutional framework, which led to a scathing critique by the World Bank when it wrote:

[T]he Temporary Committee does not publish balance sheets or financial statements. It is not in itself a legal entity. The absence of a real port authority, coupled with mismanagement by the Temporary Committee have involved serious governance, transparency, and accountability issues. This has also resulted in a lack of focus on socioeconomic development, a lack of planning, poor safety and declining efficiency of operations.[9]

Dr. Reinoud Leenders, a researcher who has written a book about corruption and state building in post-war Lebanon, aptly explained how this structure is problematic:

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport came to ‘supervise’ the port, but it fell short of having the authority to effectively control it. The port’s dealings with the private sector suffered from legal problems as it lacked clear legal powers only a full-fledged state agency could exercise. As the port never appeared on any organizational chart stipulating political and administrative authority, its dealings with other state entities – such as the customs authority, security agencies and ministries – were left to the discretion and inclinations of politicians and officials involved. The port’s ambiguous legal status confused judges tasked to intervene in legal disputes involving it, more often than not prompting them to declare that they lacked jurisdiction or to endlessly pass on complex issues to other branches of the judiciary or state agencies. In a few cases where judges (mostly judges of ‘Urgent Matters’ responsible for immediate execution of court orders) did take a stand, politically backed port officials simply ignored or overruled them. Given its diffuse, contested and ambiguous institutional environment, the port was hit by corruption scandals as it provided ample opportunity for abuse and plenty of ambiguity to cover it up.[10]

Indeed, the port’s governance structure created the conditions for corruption and mismanagement to flourish.[11]

Lebanon’s main political parties, including Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces, the Amal Movement, and others, have benefited from the port’s ambiguous status and poor governance and accountability structures.[12] As described below, political parties have installed loyalists in prominent positions in the port, often positioning them to accrue wealth, siphon off state revenues, smuggle goods, and evade taxes in ways that benefit them or people connected to them.

A 2019 study by two Harvard academics found that 17 out of Lebanon’s 21 shipping line companies have links to politicians via their board members, managers, or shareholders.[13] In September 2020, AFP obtained a report, seen by Human Rights Watch, that named five customs officials who “cannot be replaced” and noted their political affiliations with the Free Patriotic Movement, the Future Movement, the Amal Movement, Hezbollah, and the Lebanese Forces, respectively.[14]

Bribery and petty crime have been rife at the port. A New York Times investigation enumerated the chain of kickbacks required to move cargo into and out of the port: “to the customs inspector for allowing importers to skirt taxes, to the military and other security officers for not inspecting cargo, and to Ministry of Social Affairs officials for allowing transparently fraudulent claims.”[15]

Riad Kobeissi, an investigative journalist who has been investigating corruption at the port for almost a decade, told Human Rights Watch that “the port was not intended as something that will bring in revenue to the state, but it acts to fill the pockets of the mafias running the country… therefore, in the port you appoint people whose job is not to collect money for state coffers, but to collect money for you.”[16]

Over the years, Kobeissi has filmed several customs officials alleging that they regularly receive bribes or actually receiving bribes, including in return for turning a blind eye to errors in declaration forms or circumventing the customs risk software, which determines the clearance track and levels of scrutiny over the goods.[17] In the majority of cases, those officials have not been held accountable.[18] Kobeissi has also uncovered multi-million dollar customs duty evasion schemes where politically-connected individuals, including the children of senior politicians, security officials, public servants, and judges, were able to purchase luxury items at significantly discounted prices without paying all the customs duties and registration taxes.[19]

Corruption at the port is so pervasive that in 2012, the Minister of Public Works and Transport estimated that the losses resulting from tax evasion at the port amounted to more than $1.5 billion per year.[20] Julien Courson, the head of the Lebanon Transparency Association, estimates that today Lebanon loses around $2 billion in customs revenue each year due to corruption.[21]

The mismanagement and corruption at the port has not only enriched party loyalists and others at the expense of the state, but it has also allowed illicit and dangerous goods to enter the country undetected. A former shipping company employee described to Human Rights Watch the security vacuum and web of bribery at the port that allows for dangerous goods to enter or leave the country without any monitoring. He said that companies or individuals who want to bring in any type of goods, including prohibited goods, can do so if they pay customs officials enough. He underscored that the state rarely, if ever, apprehends those goods.[22] “All of these busts that you hear about in the media are either the result of a targeted attack on someone, a betrayal, or an accident,” he said.[23]

In April 2019, the port’s main cargo scanner fell into disrepair, but it was never replaced, reportedly due to political considerations over who would get the contract, leaving all goods to be manually searched.[24]

Hezbollah in particular has been accused of using Beirut’s port for its own purposes. According to one former judicial official who spoke with AFP, Hezbollah has a “free pass” to transport goods at the port because of its ties to customs and port officials.[25] The United States government sanctioned Wafiq Safa, a Hezbollah security official, in 2019, asserting that he used “Lebanon’s ports and border crossings to smuggle contraband and facilitate travel on behalf of Hizballah, undermining the security and safety of the Lebanese people, while also draining valuable import duties and revenue away from the Lebanese government.”[26]

The Lebanese General Directorate of State Security, which is an arm of the Higher Defense Council chaired by the president, established an office at the port in April 2019 tasked with fighting corruption there.[27] The Director General of State Security, Major General Tony Saliba, told Human Rights Watch that “there was a battle to establish this office.”[28] He said all the other security agencies at the port, as well as customs and port officials, did not want State Security to be looking into corruption.[29] Saliba said that State Security wrote various reports on corruption at the port, including on the payment of bribes and the assigning of bids.[30]

Several major political parties in Lebanon have acknowledged the massive scale of corruption at the port, and particularly by customs, and blamed the state for failing to address it. For example, Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah in May 2020 said:

The corruption and wastage at the customs, how many times did we speak about this? How many complaints and lawsuits have been filed? Until now, we haven’t seen anything substantive…the state is present, and its institutions are present. Let the state do its full duty at all its ports and border crossings, and if anyone obstructs it, it should do what it is legally necessary.[31]

Similarly, in late 2012, while President Michel Aoun was still heading the Free Patriotic Movement, he acknowledged the problems of smuggling and disorder at Beirut’s port, following an investigation aired by Al-Jadeed television. He said “I consider the state responsible for this smuggling, but not just in terms of negligence. Customs doesn’t have a director general.”[32] He blamed the state for failing to appoint a director general, and he said that this gap in leadership obstructed efforts at accountability.[33]

When Aoun became president in 2016, he vowed to “eradicate corruption.” [34] However, he has continued to support the director general of Lebanese Customs, Badri Daher, whom the Cabinet appointed on March 8, 2017, even though he has been accused of corruption.[35] In an interview on January 8, 2020, Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law and the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, publicly acknowledged that the party backed Daher’s appointment.[36]

Daher has been charged for his role in the August 4, 2020 explosion and has been in detention since August 2020.[37] Although Daher promised to eradicate the practice of bribing customs officials when he took office, he has since been prosecuted multiple times for corruption.[38] Daher was prosecuted in November 2019 for “wastage of public funds” after investigative journalists uncovered transgressions within the Customs Administration and at the Beirut port, including with regard to public auctions he organized.[39] In 2020, he was also charged with unlawfully lifting a travel ban on Abdul Mohsen Bin Walid Bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, a Saudi prince who had been detained in 2015 while attempting to smuggle 1.9 tonnes of Fenethylline, an amphetamine used in the prohibited drug Captagon, aboard his private jet.[40] Daher said President Aoun personally asked him to lift the ban.[41] The president’s office denied these claims in a tweet by the Lebanese Presidency Twitter account.[42] In October 2020, for the second time, Aoun refused to sign off on Daher’s dismissal from his post, following charges against the director in relation to the August 4, 2020 explosion, without a full Cabinet vote.[43]

In addition, despite promising to stamp out corruption at the port, the Minister of Finance between 2014 and 2020, Ali Hassan Khalil, a member of the Amal Movement, was sanctioned by the United States government for alleged material support to Hezbollah, including through corruption.[44] The Ministry of Finance oversees the Customs Administration, which controls the entry of goods into Lebanon including through the Beirut port.[45] The US sanctioned Khalil, in part, for allegedly using his position to exempt a Hezbollah affiliate from paying taxes on imports, noting that in 2019 he also allegedly refused to “sign checks payable to government suppliers in an effort to solicit kickbacks.”[46]  

In September 2020, the US government also sanctioned Youssef Fenianos, a member of the Marada Movement, who was the Minister of Public Works and Transport between 2016 and 2020, for alleged material support to Hezbollah, including through corruption.[47] The Ministry of Public Works and Transport oversees the port. The US government statements on the sanctions asserted that Fenianos used his position as minister to funnel money from government budgets to Hezbollah-owned companies and diverted ministry funds to “offer perks to bolster his political allies.”[48]

The general inefficiency, mismanagement, corruption, and political malfeasance that has plagued the Beirut port for decades all contributed to the devastating blast there on August 4, 2020.

The Rhosus: Arrival in Beirut

The widely reported narrative regarding the arrival of the Rhosus, a Moldovan-flagged ship, in the port of Beirut in November 2013 carrying 2,750 tonnes of high-density ammonium nitrate is as follows: the ship’s cargo was ultimately bound for Mozambique; it entered Beirut’s port to load seismic equipment it was then meant to deliver to Jordan before traveling onward to Mozambique; the ship’s owner was a Russian national, Igor Grechushkin; and the owner of the ammonium nitrate on board, Savaro Limited, was a chemical trading company in the United Kingdom. [49] Upon examination, however, it is not clear that any of these assertions are true.

In fact, the Rhosus was rented to transport an estimated 160 tonnes of seismic equipment when it was already overloaded and not equipped to do so. While Savaro Limited is registered in the UK, reporting by investigative journalist Firas Hatoum indicates that it’s a shell company that shares a London address with other companies linked to two Syrian-Russian businessmen who have been sanctioned by the US government for acting on behalf of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. The identity of Savaro Limited’s beneficial owner is unknown. The identity of the actual owners of the ship has also been in question. At least until shortly after its arrival in Beirut’s port, the ship was owned by an individual who had links to a bank accused of having dealings with the Syrian government and Hezbollah.

Once the ship arrived in Beirut, evidence suggests officials failed to disclose the potentially explosive and combustible nature of the ship’s cargo, and the danger it posed, and inaccurately described its risks in their requests to the judiciary to offload the merchandise (see section on “Ministry of Public Works and Transport” below).

That evidence, combined with evidence suggesting the ammonium nitrate was being siphoned off from the port, the clear inability of the Rhosus to perform the task it was hired to do, the lack of clarity regarding the ownership of both the ship and its cargo, and the half-truths that contributed to the offloading of the ammonium nitrate into hangar 12, raises questions regarding whether the ammonium nitrate was intended for Mozambique as the Rhosus’s shipping documents stated or whether there were individuals with control of the cargo and ship who wanted the ammonium nitrate to remain in Beirut.

Beirut Port: An Ill Fated or Planned Destination?

The Rhosus arrived in Beirut carrying 2,750 tonnes of high-density ammonium nitrate.[50]

According to the ship’s captain, Boris Prokoshev, the Rhosus docked in Beirut after Igor Grechushkin, a Russian national described as the ship’s owner or operator, ordered him to make a last-minute stop in Beirut, to pick up additional cargo to be used to pay for passage through the Suez Canal.[51] The Rhosus was set to carry the additional cargo—seismic survey equipment, which included trucks and was estimated to weigh up to 160 tonnes—from Beirut’s port to Jordan.[52] Experts have noted, however, that the Rhosus was not a “roll-on/roll-off ship,” and would not have usually been used to transport vehicles.[53] Additionally, the ship was already at capacity.[54]

Indeed, while attempting to load the cargo, the ship’s hatches covering the ammonium nitrate began to buckle under the cargo’s weight because the ship’s maximum capacity had already been exceeded.[55] When the ship docked in Beirut’s port, the ship was also found to not be seaworthy.[56] Making matters worse, there were outstanding debts against the ship, causing it to be impounded by Lebanon’s Enforcement Department on December 20, 2013.[57]

The seismic survey equipment that the Rhosus was supposed to load in Beirut was in Lebanon as a result of a contract between Spectrum, a UK company, and then-Minister of Energy and Water Gebran Bassil.[58] Letters from Bassil to Lebanese customs officials reflect that Spectrum had subcontracted “GSC,” or Geophysical Services Center, a Jordanian company, to do the work, and that Spectrum’s agent in Lebanon was Cogic Consultants.[59]

Cogic Consultants wanted to move the equipment it had used during the oil and gas exploration missions for the minister back to Jordan, since the equipment was owned by GSC.[60]

The Spectrum employee who is reported to have signed the contract with Minister Bassil told the media that Spectrum subcontracted the movement of machinery.[61]

Human Rights Watch wrote to each of the companies involved to ask whether they selected the ship to transport the seismic equipment to Jordan, and if so, on what basis they made the selection but did not receive any on the record responses.

Another UK company, Savaro Limited, owned the ammonium nitrate, which it purchased from a Georgian chemicals factory, Rustavi Azot.[62]

While Savaro Limited is registered as a chemical trading company in the UK, in January 2021, investigative journalist Firas Hatoum revealed that it was a shell company, and that the company shared a London address with other companies linked to two Syrian-Russian businessmen who have been sanctioned by the US government for acting on behalf of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. [63] One of the men was sanctioned by the US government in 2015 for “materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of his brother,” who was previously sanctioned by the US government for “an attempted procurement of ammonium nitrate in late 2013.”[64]

Two British lawmakers called for the company to be investigated in early 2021, after a media investigation revealed that the beneficial owner registered with the government was acting as an agent for the ultimate beneficial owner who had not been disclosed.[65]

Human Rights Watch wrote to Savaro Limited on July 8 and asked about its ownership, scope of business, relationship to the 2,750 tonnes of high-density ammonium nitrate on board the Rhosus, and what actions it took to retrieve its cargo. The company did not respond to the correspondence prior to publication.

Further, while it was widely reported that the Rhosus was owned by Grechushkin, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCPR) reported that Cypriot documents listed the true owner as Charalambos Manoli. Manoli has publicly denied being the owner, saying that before the Rhosus’s last voyage, he transferred all the shares in Briarwood Corporation, which owned the Rhosus, to Grechushkin.[66] In a communication with Human Rights Watch, Manoli shared , on a confidential basis, contracts and other documents between Briarwood Corporation and Teto Shipping, that he said showed that possession and control of the Rhosus was transferred to Teto Shipping in 2012, before the Rhosus’s voyage, and that the shares of Briarwood were handed over to Grechushkin on November 28, 2013—while the ship was docked in Beirut’s port. Human Rights Watch was unable to verify the authenticity of the documents before this report went to publication.

OCCPR also reported that at the time of the ship’s last journey, Manoli reportedly owed nearly a million dollars to FBME, a Lebanese-owned bank sanctioned by the US government in 2014.[67] Manoli has publicly denied this, and denied it in his communication to Human Rights Watch, stating that the debt was paid by the time of the ship’s last voyage and that in 2018 a court dismissed proceedings that FBME had brought against him and companies he had an interest in.[68] Human Rights Watch was unable to verify these statements before publication.

FBME was sanctioned, in part, for allegedly facilitating the activities of international terrorist financiers, including for Hezbollah, and for having a customer that was a front company for a US-sanctioned Syrian entity, which was designated as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.[69]

A photograph taken in 2020 of the ammonium nitrate bags, some of which are ripped and partly empty, stored haphazardly in hangar 12 in Beirut’s port. © 2020 Private

Finally, some experts have called into question whether there were 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 when it exploded on August 4, 2020, estimating that the amount that remained in the hangar at the time of the explosion may have been 700-1,000 tons.[70] In an interview with Human Rights Watch on June 8, 2021, Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab also said that according to the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) report, only 500 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded on August 4, 2020.[71] However, two experts who spoke to the New York Times said that based on their calculations most or all of the ammonium nitrate remained in the hangar and detonated.[72] Human Rights Watch also interviewed someone who saw the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 in early 2020 and raised questions regarding whether there were still 2,750 bags of the material in the hangar, noting that the 5,000 square meter hangar should have been fuller if there were 2,750 bags, 1 square meter each, in the space.[73] However, he noted that some of the bags were stacked on top of each other, so it would have been hard for him to estimate the number of bags in the hangar.[74]

On October 1, 2020, Lebanon asked Interpol to issue arrest warrants for Igor Grechushkin and Boris Prokoshev, the Rhosus’ s captain.[75]

Excusing the Failure to Correctly Identify the Cargo

Ships carrying freight are issued a bill of lading, which is an official document between the shipper and the carrier that includes details of the shipment itself. The Rhosus’s Bill of Lading issued on September 23, 2013 in Batumi, Georgia identifies the goods on board the ship as 2,750.4 tonnes of high density ammonium nitrate IMO 5.1 in 2,750 “big bags.”[76] IMO 5.1 is a hazard classification under the International Maritime Organization shipping standards.[77] The Rhosus cargo manifest, dated September 27, 2013, lists the same description of the goods.[78]

While the maritime agent, the National Trading and Shipping Agency, a Lebanese company, identified the cargo on the transit manifest they prepared on November 16, 2013 as “2755.500 tons of High-Density Ammonium Nitrate,” they incorrectly identified it as IMO 5.0, not IMO 5.1.[79] However, they correctly identified the cargo on the “Notice and Recognition” form of the ship’s arrival, which they sent to the Customs Manifest Detachment.[80] A maritime, or shipping, agent is responsible for managing the transactions of a ship in port.[81]

After the ship docked in Beirut, however, officials in the Manifest Department at the General Directorate of Customs determined that the maritime agent incorrectly excluded a description of the ship’s cargo on the Unified List they prepared, which they said was a customs violation.[82] Riad Kobeissi, an investigative journalist who has been investigating corruption at the port, noted that the Unified List is akin to a ship’s “passport” and was used by security agencies to identify whether any cargo included prohibited or monopolized goods, thus warranting further scrutiny.[83] Yet, customs officials excused this violation without a proper investigation and despite having been alerted to the dangerous nature of the ammonium nitrate on board the ship by a customs official, on February 21, 2014.[84]

On February 22, 2014, having been alerted the day before about the dangerous nature of the ammonium nitrate on board the ship by a customs official, the Manifest Department at the General Directorate of Customs sent a letter to the National Trading and Shipping Agency requesting the agency appear before the department to explain why they did not describe the nature of the cargo on the ship’s Unified List.[85]

In its response to the Manifest Department on February 28, 2014, the agency claimed that as far as they knew, the Unified List only had to mention the quantity, weight, and destination country of the cargo and requested an exemption from the violation.[86] They added that they provided a copy of the ship’s transit manifest, which includes all the information about the ship’s cargo, to the Customs Manifest Detachment.[87]

The head of the Manifest Department then asked the head of the Beirut Brigades, which is a security entity under the General Directorate of Customs and supervises the Manifest Detachment, whether the ship’s transit manifest was shown to the Beirut Brigades and whether the manifest correctly identified the material on board, as the customs law requires.[88] The head of the Beirut Brigades reportedly refused to receive this request for information.[89] The Manifest Department then escalated the issue to the Customs Regional Directorate of Beirut, who once again “invited” the Beirut Brigades to submit the required information.[90]

The Manifest Detachment (under the Maritime Section, which is under the Beirut Brigades) then responded on March 31, 2014, saying that the Rhosus’s captain provided them with the Unified List, and then several days later provided them with the transit manifest, upon the request of the head of the Maritime Section. In his response, the head of the Manifest Detachment refers to a customs regulation (26036/2004; December 16, 2004) from the General Directorate according to which the manifest for cargo remaining on board a ship does not need to be shown unless there is information about the presence of prohibited or monopolized goods on the ship not declared on the Unified List, and after obtaining approval from the Director General of Customs.[91]

On April 1, 2014, the head of the Maritime Section, then-Captain Nidal Diab, who supervises the Manifest Detachment, sent this report to the head of the Beirut Brigades, adding that the type of merchandise on the Rhosus was not considered “prohibited or monopolized,” but it may be used “in certain proportions to produce prohibited substances, and it is considered a hazardous, restricted substance if used locally.”[92]

He cites a document that states that “ammonium nitrate with a nitrogen grade of 34.5% or less is no longer subject to the provisions of legislative decree no. 137/59 [Weapons and Ammunition Law], since it is not an ingredient in the manufacturing of explosives…”[93]

This report was sent to the Acting Head of the Beirut Brigades Colonel Ibrahim Shamseddine, who referred it on the same day to the Acting Head of the Regional Directorate of Beirut Moussa Hazimeh, who referred it to the Head of the Port of Beirut Service, who duly referred it to the Head of the Manifest Department on April 9, 2014.[94]

On April 22, 2014, based on the information above, the head of the Manifest Department at the time, Badri Daher, recommended excusing the violation of not identifying the type of cargo on the Unified List, saying it was correctly identified on the transit manifest.[95] On May 6, 2014, the head of the Customs Regional Directorate of Beirut approved Daher’s recommendation.[96]

However, it is not clear on what basis Diab identified the nitrogen content of the ammonium nitrate as being below 34.5 percent, as the samples were not analyzed until February 2016, when it was found that the nitrogen grade of the ammonium nitrate was in fact 34.7 percent.[97] The Weapons and Ammunition Law states that ammonium nitrate with a nitrogen grade of 33.5 percent or more is covered as another form of gunpowder and explosive material and, as such, its procurement, assembly, trade, and possession in Lebanon is restricted.[98]

Under the Customs Law, restricted merchandise is not allowed to be imported or exported without a license, permit, or special approval issued by a competent authority, which lifts the restriction on this merchandise, and any such merchandise without the relevant permits must be treated like prohibited goods and should be seized.[99] The law further states these restrictions could apply to goods in transit.[100]  

The Lebanese army is responsible for giving prior approval for importing military equipment and ammunition, including ammonium nitrate with a nitrogen grade above 33.5 percent, and must inspect explosive substances that arrive to the country through its ports (see section on the “Lebanese Army” below), but there is no indication that they did so in this case, even after testing confirmed that the material fell under the scope of the Weapons and Ammunition Law.

 

State Negligence or Malfeasance? February 2014-August 2020

Official responsibility for the Beirut port is shared between the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, which oversees the Port Authority, and the Ministry of Finance, which oversees the Customs Administration. Within customs, two parallel institutions govern: the Higher Council for Customs and the General Directorate of Customs. Responsibilities between these and other government and security agencies operating in the port are overlapping (see “Port of Beirut: Mismanagement and Corruption” section above). In addition, a range of security services are also present at the port with overlapping mandates, including from the Lebanese Armed Forces (Military Intelligence), State Security, General Security, and customs.[101]

The legal and regulatory framework governing the port is outdated and inefficient, and the port’s ambiguous legal status has created confusion regarding which judges have jurisdiction to rule on matters related to the port.[102] The World Bank, in a December 2020 report on governance over Beirut’s port, concluded that the port “is a patchwork of ad-hoc institutions, structures, laws and regulations” that is inefficient, subject to political exploitation and corruption, opaque, and one which has resulted in serious governance and accountability issues.[103] The World Bank correctly identifies the mismanagement and lack of accountability in the Beirut port as having contributed to the August 4 explosion.[104]

This section reviews the decisions (and often, inaction) of government officials concerning the Rhosus and its cargo between February 2014 and the explosion on August 4, 2020, breaking down the actions of each government ministry or agency operating in the Beirut port. An analysis of government documents and interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch indicates that multiple Lebanese authorities were, at a minimum, criminally negligent under Lebanese law in their handling of the Rhosus’s cargo.[105] Their actions and omissions created an unreasonable risk to life. Under international human rights law, a state’s failure to act to prevent foreseeable risks to life is a violation of the right to life.[106]

In addition, evidence strongly suggests that some government officials foresaw the death that the ammonium nitrate’s presence in the port could result in and tacitly accepted the risk of the deaths occurring.[107] Under domestic law, this could amount to the crime of homicide with probable intent, and/or unintentional homicide.[108] It also amounts to a violation of the right to life under international human rights law.[109]

Official correspondence reflects that once the ship arrived in Beirut, Ministry of Finance (see section on “Excusing the Failure to Correctly Identify the Cargo” above) and Ministry of Public Works and Transport officials failed to correctly communicate or adequately investigate the potentially explosive and combustible nature of the ship’s cargo, and the danger it posed. Ministry of Public Works and Transport officials inaccurately described the cargo’s risks in their requests to the judiciary to offload the merchandise and knowingly stored the ammonium nitrate in Beirut’s port alongside flammable or explosive materials for nearly six years in a poorly secured and ventilated hangar in the middle of a densely populated commercial and residential area (see “Ministry of Public Works and Transport Section” below). Their practices contravened international ammonium nitrate safe storage and handling guidance. Neither they, or any security agency operating in the port, took adequate steps to secure the material or establish an adequate emergency response plan or precautionary measures, should a fire break out in the port. They also reportedly failed to adequately supervise the repair work undertaken on hangar 12 which may have triggered the explosion on August 4, 2020 (see section on “August 4, 2020” below).

Official correspondence also indicates that port, customs, and army officials ignored steps they could have taken to secure or destroy the material.

Customs officials repeatedly took steps to sell or re-export the ammonium nitrate that were procedurally incorrect. But instead of correcting their procedural error, they persisted with these same incorrect interventions despite repeatedly being told of the procedural problems by the judiciary. Legal experts even state that customs officials could have acted unilaterally to remove the ammonium nitrate and that they could have sold it at public auction or disposed of it without a judicial order, which they never took steps to do (See “Ministry of Finance” section below).

The Lebanese Army Command brushed off knowledge of the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12, saying they had no need for the material, even after learning its nitrogen grade classified it under local law as material used to manufacture explosives and required army approval to be imported and inspection. Despite being responsible for all security issues related to munitions at the port and being informed of the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12, Military Intelligence took no apparent steps to secure the material or establish an appropriate emergency response plan or precautionary measures (see section on the “Lebanese Army” below).

All of this was done despite repeated warnings about the dangerous nature of ammonium nitrate and the devastating consequences that could follow from its presence in the port.

Even after security officials from the Lebanese General Directorate of State Security, an arm of the Higher Defense Council chaired by the president, completed an investigation into the ammonium nitrate at the port, there was an unconscionable delay in reporting the threat to senior government officials, and the information they provided about the threats posed by the material was incomplete (see “State Security” section below).

Both the then-Minister of Interior and the Director General of General Security have acknowledged that they knew about the ammonium nitrate aboard the Rhosus, but have said that they did not take action after learning about it because it was not within their jurisdiction to do so.

Once they were informed by State Security, other senior officials on Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council, including the president and the prime minister, also failed to act to remove the threat (see “Higher Defense Council” section below). 

Ministry of Public Works and Transport

Representatives of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport were warned about the serious danger presented by the ammonium nitrate, yet failed to investigate the threat the material posed and mischaracterized what they were told about the danger in their communications with the Case Authority.

The Case Authority falls under the Directorate General of the Ministry of Justice per Legislative Decree 151/1983 (later amended by Decree 23/1985). It acts as the legal representative of the Lebanese State in all judicial and administrative proceedings, with the Minister of Justice assigning judges and lawyers to assist the judge presiding over the Case Authority.[110]

Based on the incorrect information the ministry provided to the Case Authority, the judge of urgent matters subsequently ordered that the ministry offload the ship’s cargo. After the cargo was offloaded, the ministry continued to misrepresent the danger it posed.

Further, ministry officials failed to properly execute a June 27, 2014 judicial ruling to store the ammonium nitrate in a suitable place and to take the necessary precautions in doing so. Instead, they knowingly stored the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 alongside flammable or explosive materials for nearly six years in a poorly secured and ventilated hangar in the middle of a densely populated commercial and residential area. Their practices contravened international ammonium nitrate safe storage and handling guidance. They also failed to take adequate steps to secure the material or establish an adequate emergency response plan or precautionary measures should a fire break out in the port.

All of the actions taken by ministry officials appear to have been limited to seeking court approval to sell or re-export the ammonium nitrate and appear to have excluded measures they could have taken to store the dangerous material in a secure manner. Even the attempts to sell or re-export the cargo were badly managed, resulting in unnecessary delays and the continued presence of the hazardous material in Beirut’s port.

Finally, they also reportedly failed to adequately supervise the repair work undertaken on hangar 12 that may have triggered the explosion on August 4, 2020 (see section on “August 4, 2020” below).

Failure to Investigate and Communicate the Danger

On April 7, 2014, Baroudi and Associates Law Firm, representing the captain of the Rhosus, Boris Prokoshev, addressed a letter to the “head of Beirut’s port,” and delivered and registered it at the Directorate of Land and Maritime Transport, which falls under the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, on April 9.[111] The firm, which was seeking the repatriation of the ship’s crew to Russia and Ukraine, urged that the ministry take all necessary measures to avoid “a maritime catastrophe,” and to sell the ship and its cargo to pay the debts owed to the crew and others.[112]

In this letter, the firm states that ammonium nitrate is “considered an extremely hazardous material due to its high flammability and because it is used in the manufacture of explosives” and that as a result it “requires taking due diligence and precaution while stocking or moving it.”[113] They further state that “the interaction of ammonium nitrate with water exposes the cargo to the risk of explosion.”[114] The lawyers attach a 16-page “Timeline of major disasters” caused by ammonium nitrate explosions.[115]

Some of the information provided by the firm incorrectly described the risks posed by the cargo. Ammonium nitrate is non flammable, but it can cause combustible materials to ignite, and under extreme conditions of heat and pressure in a confined space it will explode.[116] It can be used to make explosives but is principally used as a fertilizer.[117] While ammonium nitrate is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture, and water absorption does cause it to decompose, degrade and become more unstable, mixing it with water would not on its own have exposed the cargo to the risk of explosion.[118]

On July 8, 2021, Human Rights Watch wrote to Baroudi and Associates asking how they first became aware of the ammonium nitrate on board the Rhosus and the dangers that the cargo posed. Baroudi and Associates responded on July 12, 2021, saying that they are legally prohibited from answering the questions.

Further, the Beirut harbor master, Mohammad al-Mawla, sent two letters in 2014, one of which was addressed directly to Abdel Hafiz al-Kaissi, director general of Land and Maritime Transport, warning that the ammonium nitrate on board the Rhosus was hazardous and that the ship was at risk of sinking, and requesting further instructions on how to proceed.[119]

Correspondence between Baroudi and Associates, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Case Authority, and a Beirut judge of urgent matters, suggests that the ministry did not undertake any investigation into the danger posed by the ammonium nitrate, and instead shared only a portion of the information they received with the Case Authority that implied that the risk the material posed would be neutralized if it were offloaded from the ship. Even after the cargo was offloaded, the ministry continued to incorrectly represent the dangers presented by the material.[120]  

After receiving the April 7, 2014 letter from Baroudi and Associates Law Firm, al-Kaissi responded on April 17, fully reciting the risks identified by the firm.[121] In contrast with his letter to the firm, in his correspondence with the Case Authority he fails to note that ammonium nitrate is potentially explosive, that it can be used to make explosives, and that it must be secured, instead focusing only on the risk of the ship sinking with the cargo onboard. On April 8 and April 14, 2014, he requested that the Rhosus be sold at public auction to avoid it sinking with its dangerous cargo which, as he states in the April 8 letter, would pollute the seawater and obstruct maritime traffic, and, as he writes in the April 14 letter, “threatens the safety of the maritime navigation and ecosystem in the port.”[122]

On June 2, 2014, he writes that if the ship sinks, it could cause an explosion due to the hazardous material on board.[123] He does not relay other information contained in the April 7, 2014 letter from Baroudi and Associates law firm, including that ammonium nitrate is used to manufacture explosives; that it has caused devastating explosions, resulting in hundreds of deaths; and that precautions must be taken while storing or moving it.[124] 

Al-Kaissi also sends the Case Authority a report prepared by the Ship Inspection Service.[125]

On April 2, 2014, the Ship Inspection Service staff under the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport, had inspected the Rhosus and concluded conditions on the ship had deteriorated and it was at risk of sinking. Captain Haitham Chaaban of the Inspection Services recommended the ship leave Lebanese waters, noting it was a hazard for the safety of maritime navigation and a water pollution risk. He noted the cargo was dangerous and could potentially cause a chemical reaction, could expire, or could leak into the sea.[126] The report did not reflect that the material is a combustible chemical compound or that it can be used for explosives.

After receiving al-Kaissi’s request, the Case Authority appointed Omar Tarabah to represent the Ministry of Public Works and Transport in the matter.[127] On April 30, 2014, Tarabah sent a letter to the judge of urgent matters regarding the Rhosus. In the correspondence, he reiterated the dangers outlined by al-Kaissi and by the Ship Inspection Service’s report, stating that the ship was leaking and in danger of sinking, that it is carrying ammonium nitrate, which is a hazardous substance, and that its cargo could trigger a chemical reaction that would lead to “environmental pollution.”[128] He requested that the judge give the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport the authorization to refloat the ship, transport the ammonium nitrate to a safe place and guarantee its security, and sell the ship and the cargo in order to settle the debts incurred by the ship’s owners.[129]  

Following the April 30, 2014 petition, on May 7, a judge of urgent matters appointed the court’s clerk to investigate the matter and to take a statement from the ship’s owners, the maritime agent, and the captain.[130]

On June 2, al-Kaissi reiterated the urgency of the request to sell the ship to the Case Authority, noting the dangers of it sinking but once again failing to mention other risks posed by the material, including that it is potentially explosive and combustible and that it can be used to make explosives.[131] On June 5, the Case Authority wrote to the judge of urgent matters again, asking the latter to authorize the requested measures as soon as possible.[132]

On the basis of the inaccurate and incomplete information that the Ministry of Public Works and Transport provided, on June 27, 2014, a judge of urgent matters ordered that the Rhosus’s cargo be offloaded from the ship.

The judge’s June 27, 2014 ruling authorized the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to refloat the ship after “moving the material onboard and storing it in an appropriate place under its custody, after taking the necessary measures given the hazardous material onboard the ship.” The judge refused to authorize the sale of the ship for lack of jurisdiction. He appointed the court's clerk to enforce the ruling.[133]

The Case Authority was informed of the decision on July 11, 2014 through Tarabah, who requested that the Case Authority inform the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport.[134] The General Directorate of Customs and the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport were also informed on September 26, 2014 of the judge’s decision.[135]

The cargo was offloaded into hangar 12 in the port in October 2014. After the cargo was offloaded, correspondence between the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Case Authority continued to mischaracterize the threat posed by the ammonium nitrate.

Ghazi Zeaiter was the Minister of Public Works and Transport from February 2014 until December 2016.[136] He was replaced by Youssef Fenianos, who held the position until January 2020.[137]

Zeaiter was informed about the ammonium nitrate on at least two occasions. The Director General of General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim sent Zeaiter a letter on May 16, 2014 informing him of the presence of “several tonnes of a very dangerous substance,” high density ammonium nitrate, on board the Rhosus.[138] Zeaiter also received an August 20, 2014 letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants attaching the June 27, 2014 ruling by the judge of urgent matters authorizing the ministry to refloat the ship after “moving the material onboard and storing it in an appropriate place under its custody, after taking the necessary measures given the hazardous material onboard the ship.”[139]

As minister, Fenianos sent letters to the Case Authority regarding the ammonium nitrate at the port on December 18, 2017, March 5, 2018, and September 12, 2018, asking the Case Authority to ask the Enforcement Department to take the necessary steps to sell the ship and cargo or re-export the materials.[140]

The letters reference the danger posed by the sinking ship to maritime navigation (correspondence from the minister on March 5, 2018 reflects that the Rhosus did sink on February 18, 2018), public safety, and the environment, but are silent on the dangers posed by the ammonium nitrate stored in hangar 12.[141] Instead, Fenianos highlighted the costs that had been incurred from moving and storing the ammonium nitrate at the port and requested that the Enforcement Department take the necessary measures to sell the ship and the ammonium nitrate at public auction or re-export the cargo.[142]

After the August 4, 2020 explosion, Fenianos said he personally signed eight letters regarding the ammonium nitrate and the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport sent another eight.[143] Human Rights Watch has obtained three letters the Ministry of Public Works and Transport sent to the Case Authority before the cargo was unloaded and four from after, three of which were signed by the minister.[144] None of these letters accurately describe the risk posed by the ammonium nitrate at the port. Human Rights Watch also wrote to Fenianos to request copies of the letters he referenced but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Michel Najjar, the Minister of Public Works and Transport at the time of the blast, said in the days following the blast that he learned that since 2014, the ministry had sent at least 18 letters to the Beirut judge of urgent matters asking that the ammonium nitrate be disposed of.[145] None of these letters came from Najjar, who was alerted to the dangers posed by the ammonium nitrate on August 3, 2020, the day before the explosion, when he received a copy of a State Security report outlining the threat.[146] Upon receiving the letter, Najjar reportedly instructed his advisor to contact Hassan Koraytem, the port’s director general, and request all relevant documents from him.[147] In a letter to Najjar on July 7, 2021, Human Rights Watch asked the caretaker minister to provide information about the communication with Koraytem. He did not respond to the correspondence prior to publication.

Journalists from the local television station Al-Jadeed presented evidence that an advisor to Najjar removed documents from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport on August 9, 2020, the Sunday following the blast. Najjar and his advisor gave conflicting accounts of what those documents were on live television.[148] In its correspondence, Human Rights Watch asked Najjar about the nature of the documents but did not receive a response.

Failure to Store the Ammonium Nitrate in a Secure Manner

The judge’s June 27, 2014 ruling called on the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to store the ammonium nitrate in an “appropriate place under its custody, after taking the necessary measures given the hazardous material onboard the ship.”[149] In clear contravention of this, ministry officials stored the ammonium nitrate in a poorly secured hangar in Beirut’s port alongside flammable and other hazardous material in a congested and haphazard way, just a few hundred meters from a densely populated residential area.

The judge appointed the court's clerk to enforce the ruling in his June 27, 2014 decision.[150] But according to an Al-Jadeed television news report, when the clerk went to the port on June 27 to examine the cargo, authorities told him they wanted to delay the removal of the cargo from the ship until a future date.[151] When he returned on the agreed date, November 13, 2014, it had already been placed in hangar 12 at the port.[152]

A photograph taken in 2020 of the ammonium nitrate bags stored haphazardly in hangar 12 in Beirut’s port.  © 2020 Private

Following the judicial decision, on September 3, 2014, in a letter addressed to the port authority, Al-Kaissi requests the assignment of a location for the cargo to be stored. Al-Kaissi wrote that the material was hazardous, but did not specify the dangers posed by the ammonium nitrate.[153]

Koraytem assigned part of the hangar “designated for the storage of hazardous substances” as the location for the ammonium nitrate to be stored, and on October 23 and 24, 2014, the Port Authority, along with two companies, transferred the ammonium nitrate from the Rhosus to hangar 12.[154]

On November 13, 2014, the court’s clerk appointed Mohammad al-Mawla, the Beirut harbor master, as the “judicial guard” of the cargo in hangar 12, as he was the representative of the General Directorate of Land and Maritime Transport in the port, which had petitioned the court to transfer the material.[155] The judicial guard would bear legal responsibility if the material were damaged or went missing. However, al-Mawla signed with reservations, stating that he has no authority over the warehouses, as they are under the authority of the customs administration and the port authority.[156]

On November 26, 2014, al-Kaissi once again asked the Case Authority to “take all the necessary measures” to sell the Rhosus and its cargo under auction “in a prompt and immediate manner” because the ship was at risk of sinking, which would pose a danger to the maritime environment.[157] In a response, Omar Tarabah, the lawyer acting on behalf of Case Authority, stated that the ministry had failed to properly and fully implement the June 27 decision of the judge of urgent matters, because they were supposed to refloat the ship and transport the hazardous goods to an appropriate place for storage, and therefore the danger should have ceased.[158] There is no apparent response to this letter from the ministry.

Hangar 12 is a warehouse designated for hazardous and flammable materials. At the time of the explosion, the ammonium nitrate was reportedly stored alongside kerosene, hydrochloric acid, 23 tons of fireworks, 50 tons of ammonium phosphate, and 5 rolls of slow burning detonating cord, among other items.[159] In September 2020, the New York Times reported, “Bags of ammonium nitrate were piled haphazardly near the fuel and fuses and on top of some of the fireworks.”[160] The facility was not adequately guarded (see “State Security” section below).[161]

The Ammunition Management Advisory Team (AMAT), which is an initiative of the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and provides guidance on the implementation of the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG), warns that ammonium nitrate can “react violently with incompatible materials” and that it is therefore “very important to handle, store and monitor ammonium nitrate correctly.”[162] They recommend that ammonium nitrate be stored in well-ventilated spaces away from sources of heat, fire, and explosion, including fuels and fireworks, and other combustible materials such as wooden pallets.[163]

The national regulations of several countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the United Sates, concerning ammonium nitrate storage and handling requirements, also prohibit the storing of explosive and combustible material in proximity to ammonium nitrate.[164]

The concentrated storage of the ammonium nitrate in Beirut’s port and the storage facility’s proximity to residential areas also contravened safe storage and handling standards. AMAT guidance states that ammonium nitrate stacks should be no more than two meters high and three meters wide, and there should be at least one-meter-wide aisles between the ammonium nitrate stacks and between the stack and the walls of the storage building. AMAT estimated that based on the amount of ammonium nitrate in Beirut’s port, the closest inhabited building should have been 2,292 meters away, instead of the 480 meters distance that they were.[165] According to UK standards, stacks of ammonium nitrate must be limited to 300 tonnes with at least one meter between stacks.[166] Australian standards state that stacks can be 500 tonnes but should be 890 meters away from the closest residential buildings.[167]

Al-Kaissi, while aware of Koraytem’s selection of hangar 12 to store the ammonium nitrate, took no action to remove the material to another facility.[168] This is despite the fact that al-Kaissi had been warned by Baroudi and Associates that the material was dangerous and had caused devastating explosions in other parts of the world.

International guidance on safe storage and handling of ammonium nitrate also calls for authorities to develop an appropriate emergency response plan and safety precautions, should a fire break out in the port. [169] However, Human Rights Watch has uncovered no evidence that port authorities developed such a plan or precautions at any point between October 23-24, 2014 and the August 4, 2020 explosion.

Using published photos and videos from inside hangar 12, Forensic Architecture built a model contrasting how port authorities stacked the ammonium nitrate in Beirut with UK and Australian stacking standards. © 2020 Forensic Architecture

The danger of storing ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 at the port was immediately clear. In October 2014, while the cargo was being offloaded, Nehme Brax, the head of the Manifest Department at the port, sent a letter to his superior, Hanna Fares, the head of the Port of Beirut Service, recommending the ammonium nitrate be handed over to the Lebanese Army or re-exported “to avoid any potential disaster resulting from the ignition of the material, and given that their storage requires special facilities that are not available on the port premises.”[170] He adds that “it remains a duty to bring the dangerousness of the matter to the attention of the judge of urgent matters.”[171]

A July 20, 2020 State Security report on the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 also concluded that port officials were negligent by not securing hangar 12 “which made it easy for individuals to go in and out and steal the dangerous material in it.”[172]

Profit not Protection: Ministry Interventions Unduly Limited

Under the Lebanese Harbors and Ports Regulations, Harbor Masters have a duty to monitor dangerous goods on ships and in docks and to take the measures necessary to preserve public safety.[173] 

Nearly all of the actions taken by ministry officials appear to have been limited to trying to get a judicial decision to sell or re-export the ammonium nitrate and appear to have excluded measures they could have unilaterally taken to safely store or secure the material. Even the attempts to sell or re-export the cargo were badly managed, resulting in unnecessary delays and the ongoing presence of the hazardous material in Beirut’s port.

An internal Port Authority memo obtained by Human Rights Watch from January 2015 reflects that port officials could prepare lists of abandoned goods for consideration of removal and destruction by customs, including goods abandoned in port warehouses for longer than six months.[174] Human Rights Watch has uncovered no evidence, however, that this was done for the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12.

In December 2014, al-Kaissi was told by Omar Tarabah, the lawyer acting on behalf of Case Authority, that the Lebanese state was owed no outstanding dues by the ship owners and could not sell it, and that if there was an ongoing danger it meant that the administration did not properly or fully implement the judge of urgent matters’ June 27, 2014 decision.[175] Al-Kaissi apparently then stopped engaging with the Case Authority. Instead, months later, in March 2015, al-Kaissi requested that the College of Industrial Studies inspect and analyze the nature of the goods and determine whether they could be disposed of in Lebanon or elsewhere, and at what cost.[176]

When the judge of urgent matters summoned the ministry and the maritime agent of the Rhosus to a session on September 16, 2015, to discuss the repeated requests to sell or re-export the ammonium nitrate, the Case Authority-appointed lawyer representing the ministry and the agent reportedly did not attend.[177]  

Through the course of its investigation, Human Rights Watch found no evidence that then-Minister of Public Works and Transport Zeaiter made any interventions regarding the ammonium nitrate on the Rhosus or later at the port despite being informed about the presence of “several tonnes of an extremely hazardous substance,” high-density ammonium nitrate, on board the Rhosus, and being informed of the judicial decision to move this material off the ship.[178]

Efforts by the ministry to sell or re-export the ammonium nitrate appear to have lapsed for some time. After Youssef Fenianos took office as minister in 2016, he resumed them.

In letters Fenianos sent to the Case Authority regarding the ammonium nitrate at the port on December 18, 2017, March 5, 2018, and September 12, 2018, he asked the Case Authority to ask the Enforcement Department to take the necessary steps to sell the ship and cargo or re-export the materials.[179]

Continuing to act on behalf of the ministry to sell the ship and ammonium nitrate or re-export the cargo, the lawyer appointed by the Case Authority made at least two additional requests to the judge of urgent matters in Beirut, on July 20, 2015 and February 15, 2018, to authorize the sale of the ship and the cargo or compel the maritime agent to re-export the cargo, despite the rejection of earlier requests for lack of jurisdiction.[180] After the ship sank on February 18, 2018, on April 17, 2018 he also wrote directly to the Enforcement Department requesting that they declare jurisdiction over the sale of the shipwreck and the cargo and approve the request to sell the material given the hazardous nature of the material and the state of the ship, with the proceeds going to creditors and priority going to the state.[181]

On October 15, 2018, the Enforcement Department approved the Case Authority’s request to sell the shipwreck in an auction and to appoint an expert to inspect and appraise the shipwreck, and pay them 700,000 Lebanese pounds (US$466 the official exchange rate) to begin their work. The Enforcement Department’s decision, however, did not include the cargo in hangar 12.[182] Article 9 of Decision 98 (30/04/1941) on shipwrecks gives the Enforcement Department the authority to sell shipwrecks in a public auction.[183]

Despite its repeated, years-long attempts to get approval to sell the ship and its cargo, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport refused to pay the expert in advance, as stipulated by the Enforcement Department.[184] This resulted in the Enforcement Department needing to appoint a second expert, which was not done until June 18, 2019.[185] This expert did not enter the port until February 7, 2020 and was never able to conduct the evaluation because he was not given an inventory of the goods he was supposed to assess.[186] Al-Jadeed reports that in his statement to Ghassan Oueidat, the Cassation Public Prosecutor, the expert said he was shocked by the catastrophes and the level of negligence inside the hangar as this material could pose a danger to public safety.[187]

Judicial Charges for the August 4, 2020 Explosion

Al-Kaissi, Koraytem, and al-Mawla have all been charged by the judicial investigator responsible for the investigation into the August 4 explosion.[188]

Ghazi Zeaiter and Yousef Fenianos were also charged by Judge Fadi Sawan, the initial judicial investigator, with criminal negligence that led to the blast on December 10, 2020.[189] Citing a “judicial source,” AFP reported that Sawan charged Zeaiter and Fenianos with “negligence and causing death to hundreds and injuries to thousands more.” [190] According to AFP, the source said that the suspects had received “several written notices warning them against postponing the disposal of ammonium nitrate fertiliser” and that they “also did not take the necessary measures to avoid the devastating explosion and its enormous damage.”[191]

Zeaiter refused to appear before Sawan for questioning as a suspect.[192]

After being charged, Fenianos said that he “decided to appear before the judge but at my own timing. My conscience is clear and I will therefore meet the judge to tell him he violated article 40, 70, and 71 of the constitution.”[193] Those articles relate to the immunity of parliamentarians and ministers from prosecution by the judiciary.[194] When Fenianos went to his questioning session on December 15, 2020, he was told the session was postponed to a later date.[195]

However, Fenianos refused to submit to questioning in February 2021 after being contacted by telephone by the Central Criminal Investigation Department, saying that the notification was a violation of criminal procedure.[196]

Sawan’s charging of Zeaiter and another parliamentarian, Ali Hassan Khalil, the former Minister of Finance, resulted in his removal from the case in February 2021.[197]

On July 2, 2021, Sawan’s replacement, investigative judge, Tarek Bitar, submitted a request to parliament to lift parliamentary immunity for former minister Zeaiter, who is a sitting parliamentarian, and requested that the Beirut and Tripoli Bar Associations give permission to prosecute Zeaiter and Fenianos, who are both lawyers.[198] According to the National News Agency, Bitar is seeking to charge both former ministers with “homicide with probable intent” and negligence.[199] On July 28, the Beirut Bar Association gave Bitar permission to prosecute Zeaiter, and on July 29, the Tripoli Bar Association gave Bitar permission to prosecute Fenianos.[200] As of July 29, 2021, parliament had not yet decided on whether or not to lift these parliamentarians’ immunity (see “The Domestic Investigation” section below).

Ministry of Finance

Official correspondence between customs officials, who operate under the Ministry of Finance, and to and from customs officials and other official entities, reflects that a range of officials, including up to the then-Minister of Finance, Ali Hassan Khalil, were informed of the dangers posed by the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12. It also reveals that they failed to take the necessary actions within their power and responsibility to remove the threat.

The steps Ministry of Finance officials took to sell or re-export the ammonium nitrate were procedurally incorrect, but they persisted in these same incorrect steps despite repeatedly being told this by urgent matters judges. All the legal experts and judicial sources with whom Human Rights Watch spoke said that the Customs Administration did not need judicial authorization to sell, re-export, or destroy the material, but one said that whether or not the Customs Administration could have done this without removing the judicial guardianship over the material was still under study.

In all cases, however, removing the judicial guardianship over the material was a straightforward measure that any judge of urgent matters could have taken, but the Customs Administration never requested that a judge do so.

Repeated Warnings about Danger

Customs officials were first warned of the dangers posed by the ammonium nitrate on February 21, 2014. On that day, Colonel Joseph Skaf, Chief of the Anti-Narcotics and Money Laundering Section in the Customs Administration, wrote to the Customs Administration’s anti-smuggling service, copying various other officials, warning that the Rhosus’s cargo was “highly dangerous and explosive Ammonium Nitrates that threaten public safety” and proposing moving “the ship away from Quay No. 11 and closer to the breakwater, and if possible….[putting] it under the supervision of the authorities present at the port.”[201] Skaf died in March 2017 under suspicious circumstances, leading some to believe he was assassinated (see “The Domestic Investigation” section below).[202]

Skaf’s letter was sent or referred to:

·       Hanna Fares, on behalf of the head of the Audit and Anti-Smuggling Services;

·       Moussa Hazimeh, the head of the Regional Directorate of Beirut (acting);

·       Colonel Pierre al-Hajj, head of the Beirut Brigades;[203]

·       Head of the Port of Beirut Service;

·       Captain Nidal Diab, head of Beirut’s Maritime Section (acting).[204] 

The letter also lists the Head of Central Station as someone to whom it should be referred, but the copy of the letter obtained by Human Rights Watch does not have his signature on it. In a phone call with Human Rights Watch, Ibrahim Shamseddine confirmed that he was the Head of Central Station at the time when the letter was sent, but he denied ever receiving a letter from Joseph Skaf.[205]

The danger that the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 posed was also articulated by Nehme Brax, the head of the Manifest Department at the port, shortly after it was moved off the ship in October 2014. In a letter to Hanna Fares, the head of the Port of Beirut Service, Brax stated that the material was dangerous and that there were no appropriate facilities to store it at the port, and he requested the approval of the judge of urgent matters to immediately transfer the material to the competent security authorities or to re-export it to “avoid any potential disaster resulting from the ignition of the material.”[206] Brax warned of the dangers of the ammonium nitrate catching fire or exploding on at least three other occasions, on May 9, 2015, February 1, 2016, and March 14, 2018, each time reiterating his request to ask the judge of urgent matters to hand over the material to the Lebanese Army or re-export it.[207]

The danger is also articulated in a letter on June 16, 2016 from then-Customs Director General Shafik Merhi to the Case Authority via the Ministry of Finance where he cites “the extreme risk of the presence of this merchandise in the hangar, in unfavorable climatic conditions” and requests immediate action “to ensure the safety of the Port and the persons working there.”[208] Then-Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil signed the letter on September 10, 2016 and referred it directly to the judge of urgent matters rather than the Case Authority.[209]

Repeated Requests for Judicial Authorization to Sell or Reexport the Ammonium Nitrate

All of the known interventions of the two customs directors between 2014 and 2020 appear to be aimed at asking the judge of urgent matters to either sell or re-export the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12. In making these requests, they both repeatedly ignored judicial decisions from the urgent matters judges. They also failed to take other actions they could have to unilaterally eliminate or mitigate the risks presented by the ammonium nitrate at the port.

Between December 5, 2014 and December 28, 2017, customs directors sent at least six letters to urgent matters judges requesting they re-export or sell the ammonium nitrate.[210]

From 2014 to 2016 the letters were sent from Shafik Merhi, the then customs director. The 2017 letters were sent by Badri Daher, who was appointed as director general of Customs in March 2017.[211] Merhi also sent the June 16, 2016 letter addressed to the Case Authority via the Ministry of Finance.[212] In the letter, he asked the Case Authority to intervene with the judge of urgent matters to allow for re-exporting of the ammonium nitrate or its sale to the Lebanese Explosives Company (Majid Shammas & Co.).[213] While addressed to the Case Authority, Khalil forwarded it instead directly to the judge of urgent matters.[214]

In each case, following receipt of a letter from the customs directors requesting the goods be re-exported or sold, the urgent matters judges returned the letters on procedural grounds; referred them to the Case Authority, in some cases, requesting that the Case Authority assess whether the court of urgent matters was authorized to look into the matter; or noted they did not have jurisdiction to approve the sale or re-export of the material.[215]

Procedurally, customs did not log their requests in the registrar of the court as provided for in the Code of Civil Procedure, but sent the communications by mail.[216] Further, customs officials could not get a judgment from the judge of urgent matters because the Ministry of Public Works, through the Case Authority, already had an ongoing case regarding the ammonium nitrate, and the judge had put the material under the ministry’s “judicial guardianship.” Only parties to the case can submit requests.[217]

To cure the procedural error, customs officials would have either needed to put in a request to lift the Ministry of Public Works’ judicial guardianship over the material or refer to the Case Authority so that both parties could agree on the necessary course, and the Case Authority could put forward the request.[218]

In addition to the procedural errors, judicial sources told Human Rights Watch that the urgent matters judges could not have authorized the sale or re-export of the material, as they can only take temporary measures in urgent situations and are not empowered to issue permanent rulings, like deciding on the ownership of the material, that would touch on the fundamentals of entitlements.[219]

Some commentators have asserted that the Customs Administration did not need judicial authorization to remove or dispose of the ammonium nitrate and that they could have done so unilaterally.[220]

In one example in which customs appears to have exercised or attempted to exercise this type of authority, in September 2018, Director General of Customs Daher sought a line of credit from the Minister of Finance to pay a company that treats medical and chemical waste to pack, transfer, and treat expired medicines and chemicals in the port.[221] Notably, hangar 12 was apparently excluded from this company’s site visit to the port in November 2017, when they assessed how much material needed to be removed and destroyed.[222]

Human Rights Watch consulted five judicial sources on this issue.[223] All agreed that the Customs Administration did not need judicial authorization to remove the cargo after six months, either by selling it, destroying it, or re-exporting it, but one said that whether or not the Customs Administration could have done this without removing the judicial guardianship over the material was still under study.[224]

Three of the sources confirmed to Human Rights Watch that removing the judicial guardianship over the material was a straightforward measure that any judge of urgent matters could have done, but that the Customs Administration never requested this.[225] By law, civil judges in Lebanon can rule only on what is requested by the parties, so the judge of urgent matters could not, of his own accord, have suggested this measure to the Customs Administration.[226]

Judicial Charges for the August 4, 2020 Explosion

Ali Hassan Khalil was the Minister of Finance between February 2014 and January 2020.[227] On December 10, 2020, Investigative Judge Fadi Sawan charged Khalil with negligence that led to the blast.[228] Citing a “judicial source,” AFP reported that Sawan charged Khalil with “negligence and causing death to hundreds and injuries to thousands more.” [229] According to AFP, the source said that the suspects had received “several written notices warning them against postponing the disposal of ammonium nitrate fertiliser” and that Khalil and others charged “also did not take the necessary measures to avoid the devastating explosion and its enormous damage.”[230]

Khalil took to Twitter and local news stations to defend himself, largely by blaming other government officials, but he did not deny that he was aware of the ammonium nitrate at the port and the danger that it posed to the public. [231]

As was the case with Zeaiter, charging the former minister resulted in the removal of Judge Sawan from the case in February 2021.[232]

On July 2, 2021, Judge Sawan’s replacement, investigative judge Tarek Bitar, submitted a request to parliament to lift parliamentary immunity for former minister Khalil, who is a sitting parliamentarian, and, since Khalil is a lawyer, also requested that the Beirut Bar Association give permission to prosecute him.[233] According to the National News Agency Bitar is seeking to charge Khalil with “homicide with probable intent” and negligence.[234] On July 28, the Beirut Bar Association gave Bitar permission to prosecute Khalil.[235] As of July 29, 2021, parliament had not yet decided on whether or not to lift Khalil’s immunity (see “The Domestic Investigation” section below).

Other customs officials have been detained and charged, including former Director General of Customs Shafik Merhi and Director General of Customs Badri Daher, Head of the Manifest Department at the Port Nehme Brax, and Head of the Port of Beirut Service Hanna Fares.[236] Senior customs officials Hani Haj Shehadeh and Moussa Hazimeh, who was in charge of customs at the port, were also charged in November 2020 but have not been detained.[237]

Lebanese Army

Under the Weapons and Ammunition Law, the Lebanese army is responsible for giving prior approval for importing military equipment and ammunition, including ammonium nitrate with a nitrogen grade above 33.5 percent, and must inspect explosive substances that arrive to the country through its ports.

Evidence indicates that the Lebanese Army Command and the head of the Military Intelligence office at the port had knowledge of the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 and knew or should have known the danger that it posed to the public. Through testing, it was confirmed that this was explosive material that fell under the Weapons and Ammunition Law and was therefore subject to the army’s regulation and supervision. Despite this, the Lebanese Army Command brushed off knowledge of the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12, saying they had no need for the material, and failed to act to remove, secure, or destroy the material, while Military Intelligence took no apparent steps to secure the material or establish an appropriate emergency response plan or precautionary measures.

Jean Kahwaji was the commander of the armed forces when the ammonium nitrate entered the port in 2013 and remained in that role until 2017.[238]

Knowledge of the Danger

Kahwaji, in his statement to judicial investigator Sawan, claimed that in late 2015, the General Customs Directorate at Beirut Port corresponded with the army to ask whether they needed the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12.[239] However, Human Rights Watch found no record of such a communication.

The army learned about the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12, however, sometime before November 19, 2015, when Kahwaji’s chief of staff, acting on Kahwaji’s behalf, requested laboratory testing to confirm the nitrogen grade of the ammonium nitrate.[240]

In correspondence to customs officials, Nehme Brax, the head of the Manifest Department at the port, had proposed immediately handing the ammonium nitrate over to the army as the appropriate security authorities as early as October 24, 2014 and again on May 9, 2015 “due to the risk they pose and the disaster that might arise if they catch fire or blow up.”[241]

Evidence indicates that Brigadier General Antoine Salloum, the head of the army’s Military Intelligence office in the port, responsible for all security issues related to munitions, drugs, and violence there, was also informed of the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12, by at least early 2020.[242] According to the director general of State Security and a State Security report seen by Human Rights Watch, a State Security officer contacted Salloum on January 27, 2020 after discovering the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 to inquire about the material and the danger it posed.[243]

Responsibility to act

Legislative Decree 137/1959 (also known as the Weapons and Ammunition Law) places restrictions on the procurement, assembly, trade, and possession of military equipment, weapons, ammunition, and explosives in Lebanon.[244] Ammonium nitrate with a nitrogen grade of 33.5 percent or more is covered by the decree as another form of gunpowder and explosive material and, as such, its procurement, assembly, trade, and possession in Lebanon is restricted.[245] According to Lebanese customs officials, the ammonium nitrate stored at the port had a nitrogen grade of 34.7 percent.[246]

Under the Weapons and Ammunition Law, regulatory and supervisory tasks related to it are entrusted to the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, and Army Command.[247] The law states that the import, export, and re-export of military equipment and ammunition, including ammonium nitrate with a nitrogen grade above 33.5 percent, is subject to prior authorization from the Ministry of Economy after the approval of the Army Command and the Council of Ministers.[248] Additionally, the Directorate of Equipment under the Lebanese Armed Forces must inspect explosive and chemical substances that arrive to the country through its ports of entry, including sea, land, and air ports.[249] 

In addition to conducting security surveillance at the port, and being responsible for all security issues related to munitions, drugs, and violence there, Military Intelligence also operates a cargo inspection for goods exiting the port where they check for unlicensed imports, including weapons, ammunition, and other goods that could impact national security.[250]

Failure to Act

On February 27, 2016, the then-Customs Director General Shafik Merhi informed the Army Command that based on tests conducted by an expert, the nitrogen grade of the ammonium nitrate at the port was 34.7 percent.[251]

Despite this test confirming that this material fell under the Weapons and Ammunition Law and was therefore subject to the army’s regulation and supervision, Kahwaji’s chief of staff, writing on Kahwaji’s behalf, responded to customs on April 7, 2016, stating that the army had no need for the ammonium nitrate and suggested contacting the Lebanese Explosives Company (Majid Shammas & Co.), to determine whether it could benefit from it, or re-exporting the material to the source country at the expense of the owner.[252]  

According to the National News Agency, on February 11, 2021 Judge Sawan interviewed Kahwaji as a witness regarding the ammonium nitrate at the port.[253] Through his lawyer’s office, Kahwaji issued a statement after the interview claiming the army had carried out all its duties in accordance with the law and that the army declined to take custody of the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 for several reasons, including because it degrades over time, which poses a danger when stored for a long time, and because the army did not have a place to store it and was unable to destroy or dispose of it.[254]

Despite these assertions, after the August 4, 2020 explosion, the Army Command released several statements announcing that it had removed and safely destroyed dangerous and hazardous material at Beirut’s port, including “4,350 kilograms of ammonium nitrate,” “1,320 kilograms of explosives packed in 120 carton boxes,” and “hazardous and inflammable materials…which could lead to a blast if exposed to high temperature.”[255] This suggests that the Army Command could have acted similarly to secure and remove the ammonium nitrate when they had been informed of its presence. Indeed, Cassation Public Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat has said the military had the legal authority to remove the ammonium nitrate.[256]

Human Rights Watch has also uncovered no evidence that Military Intelligence personnel undertook to develop or recommend others develop an appropriate emergency response plan or safety precautions, should a fire break out in hangar 12, even though international guidance on safe storage and handling of ammonium nitrate calls for developing such a plan and adopting precautions.[257]

Judicial Charges for the August 4, 2020 Explosion

Brigadier General Antoine Salloum has been charged for his role in the August 4, 2020 explosion and has been in detention since September 1, 2020.[258]

On July 2, 2021, investigative judge Tarek Bitar charged Kahwaji, along with the former Director of Military Intelligence Brigadier General Kamil Daher, former Brigadier General in Military Intelligence Ghassan Gharzeddine, and former Brigadier General in Military Intelligence Jawdat Oueidat.[259]

State Security

The Generate Directorate of State Security, which is an arm of the Higher Defense Council chaired by the president, established an office at the port in April 2019.[260] Major Joseph Naddaf headed this office.[261]

State Security has two principal functions at the port: first, to fight corruption, and second, to inform the Higher Defense Council about security issues in the port and to make recommendations for mitigating and addressing any threats.[262]

A source told Human Rights Watch that State Security was made aware of the ammonium nitrate in September 2019.[263] Official documents indicate that State Security was aware of the existence of the ammonium nitrate and the dangers that it posed since at least December 2019.[264] However, the first correspondence that State Security sent to the president and the prime minister warning of the dangers was not until July 20, 2020.[265] It sent a report to the judiciary on June 1. Further, the reports that State Security sent to the judiciary, the president, and the prime minister regarding the ammonium nitrate focused on the risk of the material being stolen, rather than the risks associated with it potentially exploding, even though they were aware of these risks.

Major General Tony Saliba has been the director general of State Security since March 8, 2017.[266] He frequently attends meetings at the Higher Defense Council. He did not bring up the topic of the ammonium nitrate in any of the Council’s meetings.

Investigation without Urgency: Delayed and Incomplete Warnings

The official State Security narrative, which Saliba repeated to Human Rights Watch in an interview on June 16, 2021, was that Major (then Captain) Joseph Naddaf started investigating the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 after he was on a patrol and noticed a broken door and hole in the wall of the hangar sometime between December 2019 and January 2020.[267] However, State Security documents seen by Human Rights Watch indicate that they began investigating the material first, and examined the outside of hangar 12 as part of that investigation.[268] A high-level judicial source and a security source confirmed to Human Rights Watch that Naddaf first received the information about the ammonium nitrate from a confidential source.[269] Another source told Human Rights Watch that it was Nehme Brax, the head of the Manifest Department at the port, who informed Naddaf about the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 in September 2019 after no action was taken to resolve the issue despite his repeated warnings since 2014.[270]

According to the report that Naddaf sent to the judiciary on June 1, 2020, he first alerted Saliba to the presence of the ammonium nitrate in a memo that he submitted in early December 2019.[271]

Saliba also told Human Rights Watch that on January 27, 2020, Naddaf met with the head of the Military Intelligence office at the port, Brigadier General Antoine Salloum, to tell him about what he saw and ask for more information.[272] Saliba said that Salloum referred Naddaf to Nehme Brax, the head of the Manifest Department at the port, who confirmed that the ammonium nitrate was very dangerous and said that he had sent several requests to resolve the situation but had not gotten a response.[273] An undated, internal State Security document prepared after the explosion that outlines the steps that the agency took since discovering the ammonium nitrate confirms Saliba’s account of the discussions with Salloum and Brax.[274]

Saliba ordered a full investigation on January 27, 2020 and instructed Naddaf to send his findings to the relevant judicial authority when completed.[275] Naddaf completed his investigation on May 28, 2020.[276] Saliba told Human Rights Watch that Naddaf’s report took months to complete due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the various movement restrictions that were put in place to stem the spread of the virus.[277] 

Naddaf’s May 28, 2020 report, seen by Human Rights Watch, details the circumstances that led to the Rhosus docking in Beirut and the ammonium nitrate being stored in hangar 12. Although Naddaf’s report had some inaccuracies, including an error in the date that the Rhosus docked in Beirut, incorrectly referring to the name of the company that owned the ammonium nitrate as “Safari Limited” rather than “Savaro Limited,” and an error in the name of the judge of urgent matters who ordered the cargo to be moved off the ship, the report clearly warns of the ammonium nitrate’s dangers. Naddaf writes:

After consulting with one of our chemical specialists, they confirmed to us that ammonium nitrate, in case it caught fire, would cause a huge explosion with catastrophic consequences on the port of Beirut. We also fear that this material would get stolen, because the thief could use it to make explosives.[278] 

Naddaf also writes that they found that door number 9 in hangar 12 had sustained a strong blow that led it to detach from the wall and allowed any person to enter the hangar and steal the material. Naddaf also found a 50- by- 50-centimeter hole in the hangar’s southern wall and noted that the hangar was not guarded.[279]

Naddaf’s report includes pictures of the broken door and the cargo inside the hangar.[280] The pictures show bags marked “NITROPRILL HD” and “High density ammonium nitrate,” piled haphazardly on top of each other, with some bags ripped or looking partly empty.[281] Photos taken inside of the hangar in 2020 by another individual also show ripped bags of ammonium nitrate, with ammonium nitrate pouring out.

Photograph of the ammonium nitrate spilling out of ripped bags, which are piled haphazardly on top of each other in hangar 12 in Beirut’s port, taken in 2020.  © 2020 Private

Naddaf’s report states that on May 1, 2020, a State Security patrol found that a big container had been placed blocking door 9 and preventing anyone from entering the hangar.[282]

According to Saliba and an internal, undated State Security report, on May 28, 2020, Naddaf presented his findings to the then-military prosecutor, Peter Germanos. Saliba said that Germanos refused to take over the case, because the judge of urgent matters had already issued a decision on the matter.[283] However the reason may have been that Judge Germanos had submitted his resignation in February 2020. President Aoun accepted it in June 2020.[284] Naddaf then contacted the Cassation Public Prosecutor, Ghassan Oueidat, who instructed Naddaf to summon and interrogate two port officials, who provided additional details about the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12.[285] The report indicates that Naddaf continuously apprised Oueidat of the progress of the investigation by phone.[286]

Naddaf wrote that he concluded his investigation on June 1, 2020 and referred a copy to the Cassation Public Prosecution and another to the General Directorate of State Security.[287] The stamp on the document indicates that the report was sent to the General Directorate of State Security on June 3, 2020.[288]

On June 1, Oueidat instructed Naddaf to instruct the port authority to provide security for hangar 12, appoint a warehouse keeper, and fix the doors and walls.[289] Saliba relayed Oueidat’s instructions to the port authority in a request on June 4, 2020 that states:

Commission whoever needed at the Port of Beirut to secure guards to hangar 12, to appoint a warehouse manager to the abovementioned hangar, to ensure the maintenance of all the doors, and to close the cavity/hole in the southern wall and the other cavities if present, in addition to closing all the doors tightly due to the presence of hazardous material, "Ammonium Nitrate" which is used to manufacture explosives.[290]

A port authority stamp confirms they received the document on June 4, 2020.[291]

Saliba told Human Rights Watch that he first informed Caretaker Prime Minister Diab about the ammonium nitrate on June 3, 2020 (see “Higher Defense Council” section below).[292]

In an interview with Human Rights Watch on June 8, 2021, Caretaker Prime Minister Diab said that he did not speak with Saliba on June 3, 2020 about the ammonium nitrate, but that his advisor informed him about hazardous materials at the port and that that same evening he asked the head of the ministerial guard, Colonel Mohammad Abdallah to task Saliba’s men with preparing a report about the material within days.[293] Saliba told Human Rights Watch that Diab did not ask for such a report.[294] However, it is not clear why Saliba did not send Diab Naddaf’s finalized report. Human Rights Watch sent Saliba a letter on July 7 asking for an explanation but had not received a response prior to publication.

Instead, nearly six weeks later, on July 20, 2020, State Security sent a report about the ammonium nitrate to the president and the prime minister. It is unclear why it took almost six weeks between Naddaf’s report being finalized and a report being sent to the president and prime minister, particularly given the grave warnings contained in it.

The three-page report sent to the president and prime minister, seen by Human Rights Watch, reiterated the findings of Naddaf’s investigation and warned that the ammonium nitrate “could be used to make explosives as it is highly explosive and very flammable.”[295] However, while Naddaf warned in the report he prepared that if the ammonium nitrate were to ignite, “it would cause a huge explosion with catastrophic consequences on the port of Beirut,” that sentence was not in the July 20, 2020 State Security report.[296]

Although the State Security report acknowledged the explosive nature of the ammonium nitrate, it focused on the risk that the ammonium nitrate could be stolen. The report concluded that:

There was negligence and dereliction of duty on the part of the Beirut port authority in securing hangar 12, which made it easy for individuals to go in and out and steal the dangerous material in it. It was also noted that [there was no action] on the part of the official institutions to resolve this situation in order to stave off the danger that this material would cause if it was stolen or ignited.[297]

When asked why Saliba did not put this issue on the agenda of the Higher Defense Council, he told Human Rights Watch that it is not State Security’s role to put this on the agenda, as they were acting as judicial police in this investigation, which was under the authority of the public prosecutor. Saliba added that members of the Higher Defense Council have known since 2013 about the ammonium nitrate, and that the material is very clearly under the jurisdiction of the army under the Weapons and Ammunition Law (see sections on the “Higher Defense Council” and the “Lebanese Army”).[298]

At no point between September 2019 and the August 4, 2020 explosion did State Security officials recommend the development of an appropriate emergency response plan, as international guidance on safe storage and handling of ammonium nitrate recommends.[299]

Tragically, according to a media report, the head of the Karantina Fire Station, First Lieutenant Raymond Farah, said he sent his firefighters to put out the fire that had erupted in hangar 12 on the day of the explosion, on August 4, 2020, after a state security officer called and said that the hangar only contained fireworks.[300] It is not clear who that officer was and whether he had knowledge of what was inside the hangar, but state security leadership should have been aware of the devastating consequences of sending first responders to the scene based on their investigation.

Judicial Charges for the August 4, 2020 Explosion

On August 10, 2020, Cassation Attorney General Judge Ghassan Khoury questioned Saliba for several hours and then released him to resume the investigation at a later date.[301] Judge Sawan charged Saliba in relation to the August 4, 2020 explosion and interrogated him on December 10, 2020, for three hours.[302]

Local media reported that Saliba did not know he was charged, but thought he was attending a questioning session as a witness and was surprised to learn that he was being interrogated as a suspect. He did not have a lawyer during his questioning, but media reported that he was told he could postpone the session to bring a lawyer.[303]

Sawan scheduled another interrogation session with Saliba on December 17, 2020, but that session did not take place.[304] On that day, Sawan paused the blast investigation for 10 days due to the complaint filed against him by former ministers Khalil and Zeaiter.[305]

On July 2, 2021, Judge Tarek Bitar requested that the prime minister grant him approval to interrogate Saliba as a suspect.[306] Under Lebanese law, to prosecute state employees for a crime resulting from their official duties, judges need to obtain approval from the entity to which the employee belongs.[307] According to media reports both the president and the prime minister have said the other has the authority to grant or deny permission to prosecute Saliba.[308] On July 29, the Prime Minister’s office released a statement saying that the office of the presidency had consulted with the Legislation and Consultation Authority at the Ministry of Justice on who had jurisdiction to approve this request, and was told that this power belonged to the Higher Defense Council.[309] However, Legal Agenda, a research and advocacy organization, has argued that Bitar was not bound by the opinion of the Legislation and Consultation Authority, and that both the president and the prime minister could give Bitar permission to interrogate Saliba as a suspect.[310] As of July 29, 2021, neither the president nor the prime minister nor the Higher Defense Council had issued a decision in the matter.

Ministry of Interior and Municipalities

The Ministry of Interior and Municipalities oversees the work of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) and the General Directorate for General Security.[311] The Interior Minister sits on the Higher Defense Council (see “Higher Defense Council” section below).

The General Directorate for General Security has an office at the port, which is responsible for monitoring the entry and exit of individuals and registering them and conducting surveillance on the activity of ships entering the port and the movement of sailors and crews within the port.[312] The General Security office at the port is comprised of four sections, including an Investigations Section.[313]

The ISF has no presence or role at the port.

Both the then-Minister of Interior and the Director General of General Security have acknowledged that they knew about the ammonium nitrate aboard the Rhosus, but have said that they did not take action after learning about it because it was not within their jurisdiction to do so.

Knowledge of the Ammonium Nitrate

On May 13, 2014, the General Security office at Beirut’s port prepared an Information Report explaining the circumstances that led to the Rhosus remaining in Beirut’s port and describing the dire humanitarian situation of the crew, who were trapped onboard and who had been abandoned by the ship’s owner.[314] The report noted that 2,755.5 tons of ammonium nitrate, which are "extremely hazardous," were still on board the ship.[315]

The Director General of General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, said he sent then-President Michel Sleiman, then-Prime Minister Tammam Salam, then-Public Works and Transport Minister Ghazi Zeaiter, and then-Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk a letter on May 16, 2014 noting the presence of “several tonnes of an extremely hazardous substance,” high-density ammonium nitrate, on board the Rhosus, which was impounded and not allowed to leave Beirut’s port “until further notice.”[316]

Although much of the content in Ibrahim’s letter was identical to that in the May 13 Information Report, Ibrahim omitted the quantity of the ammonium nitrate on board the Rhosus.

During a press conference on July 23, 2021, Machnouk confirmed having received this letter on May 21 or May 22, 2014, as he was outside of the country until May 20, 2014.[317] However, Machnouk said that the letter did not catch his attention because the Rhosus was only transiting through Lebanon and the letter predominantly focused on the situation of the crew.[318] He also said that given that the ship was impounded by a judicial order, as Minister of Interior, he did not have any authority to intervene.[319]  

In a letter to Human Rights Watch on July 17, 2021, Machnouk said that the abovementioned report, “dated May 16, 2014, was the only correspondence received by the Ministry of Interior during the period I was at office and it was issued by the General Security since it is the authority responsible about the entry/exit of persons in the Port of Beirut and does not have any executive functions in following-up with the security and customs issues in the port according to its competences. I did not receive any other correspondence to inform me about the unloading of the ammonium nitrate from the ship and its storage in the port.”[320]

Machnouk told Human Rights Watch that he only found out the quantity of the ammonium nitrate, the fact that it was being stored in Beirut’s port, and the risks posed by the storage of the ammonium nitrate after the explosion from media reports.[321]

Machnouk added that the president convened a meeting of the Higher Defense Council on May 18, 2014, which was attended by the prime minister and the heads of the security agencies, but that the issue of the ammonium nitrate onboard the Rhosus was not discussed during the meeting.[322]

Between 2014 and 2020, the General Security office at the port prepared at least five more reports about the ammonium nitrate.[323] According to a confidential source, reports are prepared by the Investigations Section of General Security at the port and sent to the head of the General Security office at the port, who in turn sends them to the Office of Information Affairs at the General Security headquarters.[324]

The General Security office at the port reported on the transfer of the ammonium nitrate from the Rhosus into hangar 12; the appointment of Mohammad al-Mawla, the Beirut harbor master, as judicial guard for the cargo in November 2014; a 2018 Ministry of Environment visit to the site where the Rhosus sank; the February 2020 inspection of the ammonium nitrate conducted by an expert appointed by the Enforcement Department; and the June 2020 investigation into the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 by Major Joseph Naddaf from State Security.[325]

In the first two reports, the General Security office at the port described the ammonium nitrate as a “hazardous substance used in the demolition of rocks and the production of agricultural fertilizers.”[326] In its February 7, 2020 report, General Security stated that ammonium nitrate can be used to make dynamite, and in its June 9, 2020 report described it as material that is used to make explosives.[327]

In a letter to Human Rights Watch on July 29, 2021, Major General Abbas Ibrahim said that he first found out that the ammonium nitrate on the Rhosus had been moved to hangar 12 from a communication in June 2020 from the General Security office at the port regarding State Security’s investigation.[328] He added that although the Office of Information Affairs at General Security had been aware of the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 since 2014, when they received the port office’s report about the judicial decision to refloat the ship and move its cargo to hangar 12, the Office of Information Affairs did not present this report to him because “first, there is a judicial decision regarding [the cargo] and other competent [security] agencies working at the port were mandated with handling it.”[329] Ibrahim added that “General Security did not receive direct information because it is not the competent authority in this regard. We received this information indirectly upon working on the ship crew’s case, since General Security is responsible only for the entry of people into the port and [monitoring] the entry and exit of sea travellers.”[330]

Ibrahim said that he was not aware of the dangers posed by the ammonium nitrate, as none of the reports sent to him mentioned the material’s nitrogen grade. “Hence, we only knew that it was a hazardous substance used in the demolition of rocks and the production of agricultural fertilizers,” he said.[331] He said that the General Security office at the port also did know of the dangers posed by the ammonium nitrate “because it is not the competent authority in that regard and has no jurisdiction over merchandise.”[332] Ibrahim said that General Security’s role in the matter ended when it decided to allow the Rhosus’s stranded crew members to leave, before the ship was refloated and its cargo moved to hangar 12.[333]

In response to a question from Human Rights Watch regarding why he did not add this issue to the agenda of the Higher Defense Council, Ibrahim said that he sent a letter regarding the Rhosus and its cargo to the then-president and prime minister, “who decide to include what they deem important on the Higher Defense Council’s agenda.” He said that General Security “does not have the authority to set or amend this council’s agenda, because the Directorate General [of General Security] is not an integral member; it is only invited to its meetings when necessary.”[334]

Judicial Charges for the August 4, 2020 Explosion

Judge Sawan charged and detained Major Daoud Fayad, the head of General Security’s office at the port, and Major Charbel Fawaz, the head of the Investigations Section at the port, on September 1, 2020.[335] Judge Tarek Bitar released Fawaz on April 15, 2021 and Daoud on July 2, 2021.[336]

On July 2, 2021, the new judicial investigator, Tarek Bitar, requested that parliament lift former Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk’s immunity in order to allow him to be prosecuted on charges of “homicide with probable intent” and negligence related to the August 4 explosion.[337] Machnouk is a sitting parliamentarian and therefore enjoys immunity from prosecution during parliament’s term (See “The Domestic Investigation” section below).

On the same day, Bitar requested that the Interior Minister allow him to charge Director General of General Security Major General Abbas Ibrahim.[338] Under Lebanese law, to prosecute state employees for a crime resulting from their official duties, judges need to obtain approval from the entity to which the employee belongs (See “The Domestic Investigation” section below).[339]

On July 9, 2021, in a letter to the justice minister, the Caretaker Interior Minister Mohammad Fehmi rejected the judge’s request to question Major General Abbas Ibrahim.[340] Judge Bitar appealed Fehmi’s decision. As per Lebanese law, the request then moves to the Cassation Public Prosecutor, who is given 15 days to decide whether or not to allow the prosecution to move forward.[341]

Cassation Public Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat claimed that he does not have the authority to make a decision regarding this request, as he had recused himself from the investigation after Sawan charged Zeaiter, who is his brother-in-law.[342] The request was sent to Cassation Attorney General Ghassan Khoury. The media reported that Khoury responded to Bitar on July 24 asking for more information, but neither explicitly approving nor denying the request.[343] However, Khoury told Human Rights Watch that he denied Bitar’s request to prosecute Ibrahim.[344]

Nizar Saghieh, a Lebanese lawyer and executive director of Legal Agenda, has argued that Khoury’s response has no legal merit, as he is not the authority with the jurisdiction to make that decision.[345] He claims that Oueidat, as the Cassation Public Prosecutor, is the only authority capable of making this decision, and that his lack of response within the legal timeframe should be understood as tacit approval to move ahead with Ibrahim’s prosecution, as the law stipulates.[346]

During the press conference on July 23, 2021, Machnouk argued that the charges against him were political, as he was the only minister charged whose testimony Bitar had not taken.[347] He said that the charge of homicide with probable intent “should be directed against the one who agreed to the unloading of hazardous cargo in Beirut’s port and putting it in hangar 12.”[348]

Machnouk said that one of Bitar’s allegations against him is that he did not convene a meeting of the Central Security Council, a body composed of representatives from the main security agencies that meets at the discretion of the Interior Minister.[349]So why would I convene the central security council?” Machnouk said. “What would I tell them? There is a ship impounded by the judiciary and it has cargo that is heading to Mozambique? I am not responsible for the security of Mozambique.”[350]

Machnouk also said that if immunity is to be lifted from the ministers, then the Constitution should be amended so as to lift immunity for everyone in serious cases, “from the top of the pyramid to the last state employee.”[351]

As of July 29, 2021, parliament had not yet decided on whether to lift Machnouk’s immunity (see “The Domestic Investigation” section below).

Higher Defense Council 

The Higher Defense Council, established in accordance with Law 102/1983 "The National Defense Law," is chaired by the president, vice-chaired by the prime minister, and convenes at the president’s request or that of one third of the members. Its members include the ministers of Defense, Interior and Municipalities, Foreign Affairs, Finance, and Economy and Trade. The president has the authority to invite other officials to attend the meetings.[352] The heads of the security agencies frequently attend the Higher Defense Council’s meetings.[353] The president presents the issues for discussion that necessitated the meeting.[354]

The council is tasked with the implementation of the country's defense policy and military and civil mobilization. The council’s secretary general is appointed to carry out the affairs of the general secretariat of the council, including gathering information, preparing the necessary dossiers and studies, relaying decisions to public administrations, and advising the council on the progress made. [355] The General Directorate of State Security is an arm of the Higher Defense Council.[356]

Between the Rhosus’s arrival in Beirut in 2013 and the August 4, 2020 explosion, several members of the Higher Defense Council were informed of the existence of the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 and the dangers that the material posed. However, Human Rights Watch found no evidence to indicate that any of these members brought up the issue for discussion in a council meeting or took action to remedy the danger in a timely manner.

Knowledge of the Danger

The leadership of the Higher Defense Council at the time of the August 4 explosion, President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab, along with the council’s secretary general, Major General Mahmoud al-Asmar were informed of the ammonium nitrate’s presence in the port.

Evidence indicates that Prime Minister Hassan Diab was made aware of the ammonium nitrate in Beirut’s port and the dangers they posed on two occasions. He was first informed on June 3, 2020. Diab told Human Rights Watch that his advisor, Khodr Taleb, attended a private dinner that evening with Saliba, where he pressed the latter about corruption files that the prime minister’s office was not aware of. After raising this question several times, one of the attendees told Saliba to tell him about the port. Saliba told Taleb that the investigation was not finalized yet, Diab said, but that Taleb kept insisting until Saliba told him that 2,700 kilograms of TNT were seized at the port.[357] Human Rights Watch wrote to Taleb on July 19 requesting information regarding his knowledge of the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 at the port but did not receive a response before publication.

                                                                                                                                       

“This is what my advisor understood, maybe they said 2,700 tonnes, I don’t know, but that’s what he understood. He telephoned me in front of them. It was around 8 pm,” Diab told Human Rights Watch.[358]

Saliba disputed Diab’s account and said that he personally spoke with Diab on the phone that night, and that on the call he told Diab that 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were in the port and that they were explosive. Saliba said Diab then asked how he knew this, and Saliba replied based on the chemical expert’s findings, which indicated the nitrogen grade in the ammonium nitrate. Saliba said that he told Diab that every 1 kilogram of this ammonium nitrate was as explosive as 600 grams of TNT.[359] It is not clear why Saliba did not send Diab the investigation prepared by State Security Major Naddaf, which was finalized on June 1, 2020, in light of the significant risk he knew the material posed (See “State Security” section above).

Diab said that based on the information he received from his advisor, he decided to go to the port the next day, on June 4, 2020. He sent the head of the ministerial guard, Colonel Mohammad Abdallah, to go to the port that night and get more information from State Security. At around 10 pm, he said, Abdallah called him and told him that the information he was given by his advisor was not accurate.[360]

Diab said that there were three pieces of information that were different to what Taleb told him, including that it was 2,700 tonnes, not kilograms, that it was ammonium nitrate, not TNT, and that it had been there for seven years, since 2013. He said he told Abdallah to inform Saliba’s men to finalize the report within a few days and then send him a report so that he could conduct an informed visit.[361]

Saliba denied that Diab asked for such a report. He also said that Diab knew the quantity and nature of the material that night, as Naddaf sent Abdallah the ship’s entry form, which stated that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which were classified on the form as “explosives,” were stored in hangar 12.[362] Saliba showed Human Rights Watch a record of a WhatsApp message that he said was between Naddaf and Abdallah showing the ammonium nitrate’s entry form, that was sent on June 3 at 11:31 pm, but it does not include sender or recipient information.[363]

Diab said that due to the conflicting accounts that he received from his advisor, Taleb, and his security detail, Abdallah, he decided to cancel his visit to the port.[364]

Saliba said that Diab cancelled his visit to the port after Abdallah had a call with an unknown person, who said that the issue was nothing serious.[365] Human Rights Watch wrote to Abdallah to inquire about the events of June 3, 2020 but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Local newspapers Al-Akhbar and Aljoumhouria, as well as the local media outlet Megaphone, also reported that the night before the scheduled visit, at 11:30 p.m., the prime minister was informed by a “trusted source” that the issue “was not worth it” and that the stored material were not explosives, but rather agricultural fertilizers.[366] 

Diab was once again informed about the ammonium nitrate in Beirut’s port and the dangers they posed in July 2020.

On July 20, 2020, State Security sent a three-page report about the ammonium nitrate to President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab. Human Rights Watch obtained a copy of this report.[367] President Aoun’s office said that he first found out about the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 on July 21, after receiving this State Security report.[368] Diab told Human Rights Watch that he received the State Security report on July 22, 2020 from Major General Mahmoud al-Asmar, the secretary general of the Higher Defense Council, who receives the council’s mail and then brings him the files about various security issues, including the Islamic State and war in the south. “Three quarters of the time, the information is incorrect,” Diab said.[369]

“So we read [the report], and there were two main issues. One that has to do with the judiciary, according to the letter, and the other has to do with a ship that has unloaded ammonium nitrate into hangar 12,” he said. [370]

The report summarized the findings of State Security’s investigation into the matter, which began in December 2019 (see “State Security” section above). While the report contained the same errors contained in the earlier report completed by the head of State Security’s office at the port on May 28, 2020, including the date during which the Rhosus ship entered Lebanon, the name of the company that owned the ammonium nitrate, and the name of the judge who ordered the material be unloaded off the ship, the report warned that the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which were on board the Rhosus and were subsequently placed in hangar 12, “are used to make explosives, as they are very explosive and highly flammable.”[371] The report noted the results of a test conducted by a chemical expert, which found that the nitrogen grade of the ammonium nitrate was 34.7 percent and is therefore classified as “dangerous material.”

The State Security report further said that one of their chemical specialists “confirmed that this material is dangerous and is used to make explosives, and in case this material was stolen, the thief could use it to make explosives.”[372]

The State Security report concluded that there was negligence on the part of the Beirut port authority in securing hangar 12 and that no action was taken on the part of the official institutions to stave off the danger of the material being stolen or ignited.[373]

Additionally, the Director General of General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim said he sent a letter on on May 16, 2014, noting the presence of “several tonnes of a very dangerous substance,” high-density ammonium nitrate, on board the Rhosus to former President Michel Sleiman and former Prime Minister Tammam Salam, both of whom were members of the Higher Defense Council.[374]

In a response to a letter from Human Rights Watch, on July 15, 2021 former Prime Minister Tammam Salam said that he first learned about the presence of the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 from media reports that referenced letters sent from State Security to the president and prime minister shortly before the August 4, 2020 explosion and that he learned about the danger the material’s storage in hangar 12 posed after the explosion. He denied ever having been informed in any official correspondence about the matter while he was prime minister. [375]

Human Rights Watch wrote to the former prime ministers who held the post between 2013 and 2020, Saad Hariri and Najib Mikati, asking about when they were made aware of the presence of the ammonium nitrate in Beirut’s port and the dangers that the material posed to public safety. Only former Prime Minister Najib Mikati responded prior to publication. Mikati said that he did not receive any reports or correspondence informing him of the entry of a ship carrying hazardous material, including ammonium nitrate, to Beirut’s port.[376] Human Rights Watch also wrote to former President Michel Sleiman, who was president until May 2014, but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Failure to Act

After Diab cancelled his port visit on June 3, 2020, he instructed his ministerial guard to ask Saliba’s men to prepare a report for him within days about the ammonium nitrate so that he could have an informed visit to the port.[377]

However, Diab told Human Rights Watch, “I then forgot about it, and nobody followed up. There are disasters every day. They had been writing this report since January, when Naddaf started it. Why did it take eight months to send the report?”[378]

There was a Higher Defense Council meeting on June 4.[379] The ammonium nitrate in Beirut’s port was not mentioned during the meeting.

After receiving the July 20, 2020 report from State Security, Diab said, “I knew nothing about ammonium nitrate…I told al-Asmar [Secretary-General of the Higher Defense Council] to send the report to the Justice Ministry and the Public Works Ministry to study it and send me their recommendations.”[380] Diab stressed that he is not an explosives expert.[381]

In a statement dated August 8, 2020, the Secretary General of the Higher Defense Council Mahmoud al-Asmar stated that the Higher Defense Council Secretariat:

Confirms that, in its capacity as the authority that receives and refers security reports to the prime minister, it has not received any correspondence on this issue [of the ammonium nitrate], except for correspondence received on July 22, 2020, which the Secretariat, acting on His Excellency the prime minister’s instructions, duly referred to the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Public Works and Transport on July 24, 2020 to take appropriate action.[382]

Diab said that the Ministry of Public Works received the report on August 3 and stamped it on August 4, and the Justice Minister received the report after the explosion, as she was out of the country at the time. Diab attributed the delay in the ministries receiving the report to the public holidays and Covid-19 lockdown during this period. “So the report was with me for one day, not like Saliba,” he said.[383]

Diab told Human Rights Watch that he was not aware of how explosive ammonium nitrate was until after the blast, when he found out from television. Asked why he did not know this given that the State Security report explicitly mentioned the dangers posed by ammonium nitrate, Diab appeared to contradict his statement that he read the report by saying: “the Saliba report did say ammonium nitrate was explosive, but I didn’t go through the 30 pages. I gave it to my security advisor.”[384] However, in response to a letter from Human Rights Watch asking for clarification as to why he did not read the report, Diab said that he did in fact read it.[385] 

The State Security report, which Human Rights Watch reviewed, was three pages long with six pages of annexes.[386] It was written in non-technical language and the third sentence of the report states that ammonium nitrate “is used to manufacture explosives since it is highly explosive and highly flammable.”

In response to a letter from Human Rights Watch asking for clarification about this statement, Diab said that he did in fact read the report, and his office later said that his comment about the report being 30 pages was hyperbole.[387] 

If Diab did read the report prior to August 4, 2020, he should have been aware of the explosive nature of the material prior to the explosion.

Diab insisted that he acted as soon as he received the State Security report, while previous administrations and the security officials had knowledge since 2013 and failed to act. “The army, customs, all security forces, and the judiciary knew. Former prime ministers knew… They are all represented on the Higher Defense Council. None of them mentioned it in any of the hundreds of meetings since 2013. No one said to the president, put it on the agenda,” Diab told Human Rights Watch.[388]

Asked why he did not mention this issue during the July 28 Higher Defense Council meeting, Diab said he was waiting for the ministers’ responses.[389]

President Aoun was also informed about the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 via the July 20, 2020 State Security report and responded by tasking his security advisor to follow up. In a tweet from his official Twitter account on December 12, 2020, Aoun’s information office wrote:

President Aoun asked his security advisor to follow up on the State Security report regarding the presence of ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 with the Secretary General of the Higher Defense Council, who informed him that he sent a letter about the matter to the Ministry of Public Works, which was received on Monday, August 3, 2020.[390]

On August 7, Aoun admitted that he became aware of the chemicals stored at the port in July, but claimed he was not responsible, saying:

The material had been there for seven years, since 2013. It has been there, and they said it is dangerous and I am not responsible. I don’t know where it was placed. I don’t even know the level of danger…There are ranks that should know their duties, and they were all informed…When you refer a document and say, ‘Do what is needed,’ isn’t that an order?[391]

Asked whether he should have followed up on his order to the Secretary General of the Higher Defense Council, Aoun replied, “Do you know how many problems have been accumulating?”[392]

Paradoxically, in an interview with a local news station on August 31, Aoun claimed that when he found out about the ammonium nitrate at the port it was “too late” (“c'etait trop tard”).[393] “If you want to hold me accountable, that means that you must also hold those responsible for all who are under the President of the Republic,” he said. “The President is watching over the implementation, and he cannot ensure the implementation of something he does not know. I was not aware of the issue of explosives. When I got the news, it was too late.”[394] Aoun stressed that “my hands and my conscience are clean.”[395]

As the president of the Higher Defense Council, Aoun has the power to unilaterally convene a meeting of the council, but he never did so regarding the ammonium nitrate before the explosion. Human Rights Watch wrote to President Aoun on July 7, 2021 inquiring about why he did not put this issue on the agenda of the Higher Defense Council but did not receive a response prior to publication. During a meeting that Aoun convened on July 28, the council instead discussed the Covid-19 pandemic and the government’s response, a reported Israeli attack in south Lebanon on July 27, the economic situation, and the then-forthcoming Special Tribunal for Lebanon verdict, among other matters.[396]

In an interview with local media, the secretary general of the Higher Defense Council, Major General Mahmoud al-Asmar, acknowledged receiving the July 20 report from State Security regarding the ammonium nitrate.[397] He stated that the ammonium nitrate in Beirut’s port was never discussed in the council before the blast.[398]

In August 2020, he declined to answer a question from the media on camera regarding why he did not put the issue of the ammonium nitrate on the agenda of the Higher Defense Council, choosing instead to say off camera “I am a graduate of the school of Honor - Sacrifice - Loyalty [Motto of the Lebanese Army]. I neither cheat, nor lie, nor commit treachery, nor disobey my superior… it is not true, it is not true, it is not true.”[399]

In January 2021, during a televised interview, al-Asmar disputed that he could have acted on the basis of the State Security report and stated that:

I do not have the authority to add any issues to the agenda. And anyway, there is no agenda per se like there is in the council of ministers, where they distribute the agenda 24 hours in advance, or like in the Military Council…In the Higher Defense Council, there is no agenda…I get a call from Dr. Antoine Choucair from the presidential palace, who tells me that there is a Higher Defense Council meeting, and this is the subject. That is it. And I inform the members and those invited.[400]

Diab also told Human Rights Watch that there is no agenda for the Higher Defense Council meetings, but that attendees can bring up topics. He added that it is not within the prerogative of the secretary general of the Council to add items to the agenda for discussion.[401]

An Al-Jadeed television news report in August 2020 had alleged that al-Asmar had “deleted” the ammonium nitrate item from a meeting agenda because there was “no value” in discussing it during the Covid-19 pandemic, quoting anonymous sources with knowledge of the investigation into the explosion.[402] Human Rights Watch wrote to al-Asmar inquiring about these allegations on July 7, 2021, but did not receive a response prior to publication.

According to another media report, in September 2020, judicial investigator Fadi Sawan, tasked with investigating the blast, questioned al-Asmar about withdrawing the issue of the ammonium nitrate in the port from the council’s agenda.[403]

The Al-Jadeed news report also aired documentation sent by al-Asmar to various security agencies after the blast explosion, where al-Asmar warns about the dangers posed by other hazardous chemicals and about potential terrorist activities in the country. Al-Jadeed argued that these documents showed that al-Asmar could have acted when he received State Security’s report regarding the dangers posed by the ammonium nitrate in Beirut’s port.[404]

Judicial Charges for the August 4, 2020 Explosion

On December 10, 2020, investigative judge Fadi Sawan charged Diab and three former ministers— two of whom were also parliamentarians—with negligence that led to the blast.[405] The judge was immediately challenged for not having accepted the immunity that politicians typically enjoy in Lebanon.[406] He was removed from the case in February 2021.[407]

Diab told Human Rights Watch that:

I was the only leader that opened my door voluntarily. Sawan said he would see the president and others, but he didn’t see anyone else. Very strange. Especially in light of the letter that he sent to parliament saying there was suspicion about the roles of various ministers and then only me and three old ministers were charged. This was a political charge.[408]

The president has not been charged for crimes related to the August 4, 2020 explosion and enjoys immunity from any prosecutions by the regular judiciary during his term, which is set to end in 2022.[409] According to Lebanon’s constitution, the Supreme Council for Trying Presidents and Ministers has the exclusive right to prosecute the president even after his term.[410] While he has reportedly been questioned, al-Asmar has also not been charged.

 

August 4, 2020

On August 4, port authorities sent a team to hangar 12, where the ammonium nitrate was being stored, “to plug a hole in the southern wall that was leaving the highly volatile -- but also highly valuable -- chemical compound exposed.”[411]

Salim Chebli’s company was hired to do the repair work, and on August 4, the fourth day of their work, three workers reportedly did welding work on doors 3 and 11 in hangar 12 at around 4 p.m. and then went to another site to do repairs and left the port around 5 p.m.[412] The fire started about 50 meters from where the workers were working.[413]

Forensic Architecture mapped 243 bags of ammonium nitrate in bays 5,6,9, and 10 based on published photos and videos.[414]

A reconstruction produced by Forensic Architecture using published photos and videos showing 243 bags of ammonium nitrate in bays 5,6,9, and 10. © 2020 Forensic Architecture
Photograph of the ammonium nitrate bags stored haphazardly on top of each other in hangar 12 in Beirut’s port, with some bags looking partly empty, taken in 2020. © 2020 Private

In April 2021, L’Orient-Today reported that based on information they obtained, the workers saw large open sacks stored haphazardly in the building but did not know the material was ammonium nitrate and that it was potentially explosive.[415]

The workers were reportedly never instructed to take any security precautions and worked unsupervised all day on August 3 even though a port employee was assigned to accompany them during the maintenance work. At the end of the day the door they were working on was left unlocked so they could continue the repairs on August 4. Media reported that while port management ordered the workers to leave by 2:30 p.m., they stayed until about 5:00 p.m. on August 4 to finish their work, leaving them unaccompanied during the last hours before the explosion.[416]

According to an unnamed security official quoted in the media, sparks from the welding started the fire that trigged the ammonium nitrate to ignite.[417] Other media reports suggest a fire started in hangar 9 and spread to hangar 12.[418] The proximate cause of the ignition is unknown and debated. In October 2020, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also reportedly did not come to a firm conclusion about what caused the blast.[419]

The first video showing the fire at the port was uploaded to Twitter at 5:54 p.m. and Forensic Architecture has identified that it shows a smoke plume at the northeast corner of hangar 12.[420] Between 5:54 p.m. and 5:55 p.m. firefighters were alerted a fire had broken out at the port but were not advised about the ammonium nitrate.[421] After arriving on the scene four minutes later, the firefighters called for backup as they tried to open the hangar, but the fire set off explosions.[422] At 5:59 p.m. sounds of fireworks can be heard in videos shot of the hangar.[423] Another video taken from the Saint George Hospital shows a new “intense heat source” at 6:07 p.m. on the northwest side of the hangar followed by sparks and a large plume.[424]

Then at 6:08 p.m. a massive detonation took place creating a "large spherical plume” above the center of the hangar, suggesting an explosion that originated in one particular area of the hangar.[425]

The judge is investigating several possible theories, including that the explosion was caused when welding sparks caused a fire in hangar 12, eventually igniting the ammonium nitrate. Another is that the explosion may have been caused by an Israeli airstrike.[426] The Lebanese Directorate General of Civil Aviation reported however that local radar systems had not spotted any military aircraft over Lebanese airspace between 5:00-6:10 p.m. on August 4, and Israeli officials have denied any Israeli involvement.[427] Investigative judge Bitar told journalists in June 2021 that he was 80 percent certain that the explosion was not caused by a missile.[428]

A third theory under investigation by Bitar is that the explosion was an intentional act.[429] Speculation that Hezbollah may have wanted to destroy the ammonium nitrate at the port supposedly to hide that some of the ammonium nitrate in the stockpile had been used by Hezbollah’s ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria to produce barrel bombs increased as reporting emerged regarding the connection between the cargo owners and individuals sanctioned by the US for alleged links to Assad.[430]

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project also reported in August 2020 that three European intelligence sources told reporters the size of the explosion was equivalent to 700 -1,000 tons of ammonium nitrate and that the amount that remained in the hangar at the time of the explosion may have been smaller than 2,750 tonnes.[431] Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab also told Human Rights Watch that according to the FBI report, only 500 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded.[432] However, experts who spoke to the New York Times denied this:

As to a later suggestion that a significant portion of the ammonium nitrate had been stolen or removed from the warehouse, independent calculations by Dr. Glumac and Dr. Oxley, based on the speed and destructiveness of the shock wave, estimated that it had not, and that most or all of it remained in the warehouse and had detonated.[433]

Human Rights Watch also interviewed someone who saw the ammonium nitrate in hangar 12 in early 2020 and raised questions regarding whether there were still 2,750 bags of the material in the hangar, noting that the 5,000 square meter hangar should have been fuller if there were 2,750 bags, 1 square meter each, in the space.[434] However, he noted that some of the bags were stacked on top of each other, so it would have been hard for him to estimate the number of bags in the hangar.[435]

Whether the explosion was caused by an accidental fire sparked by maintenance work or an intentional fire or attack, culpability for the explosion still rests with those officials who knew the ammonium nitrate was being stored at the port in an unconscionable and dangerous manner and failed to do what was within their authority and under their responsibility to secure or remove it.

Even after it was clear that a fire had broken out in hangar 12, no warnings about the presence of the potentially explosive ammonium nitrate were ever given to the public or to the firefighters who responded to the scene and were tragically killed.[436]

“We know for a fact that most of the key responsible politicians from the president to the prime minister to the army…were aware about the ammonium nitrate,” Paul Naggear, whose 3-year-old daughter Alexandra was killed in the explosion. “We had a lot of politicians…just standing there watching the news, watching the situation unravel, and waiting for us to die… We were killed in our homes on this day, by people who were aware of the consequences and the risk of having a fire erupting next to ammonium nitrate and just watching us and waiting for us to die.”[437]

The Ammunition Management Advisory Team (AMAT), which provides guidance on the implementation of the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG), recommends that in cases involving ammonium nitrate and out of control fires that the area be evacuated.[438] Instead, first responders were called to the scene.

Karlin Hitti lost three of her family members, all of whom were firefighters, in the first seconds of the explosion. She lost her husband, Charbel Karam; her brother, Najib Hitti; and her cousin, Charbel Hitti. She said that the firefighters were not told about the ammonium nitrate in the hangar when they were sent to put out the fire.[439]

“Charbel called me at exactly 6 p.m.,” Karlin told Human Rights Watch.

He showed me he was in the fire truck, he was talking to my daughter who was sitting here in her highchair. He told her, ‘Look, Daddy’s with the firefighters. We’re going down to put out the fire… Then he said ‘I’d better go, I’ll call you when we’re done. Don’t worry, we’re going down to the port to put out a fire.’ After quarter of an hour they put it on TV. There was an explosion in the center. Everyone freaked out…At about 8:30 the mayor of Beirut went on TV from inside the port. He was crying, and said ‘the best firefighters on the frontlines are dead.’ Everyone went crazy… My uncle was in the port looking for them, calling, shouting for them. They tried to stop him but they couldn’t… Their funeral was on August 17. There were three white coffins… but almost empty. Not one of them contained more than maybe a hand or a chest or a scrap of thigh bone.[440]

In the hours after the explosion, the state was noticeably absent from emergency relief efforts. Volunteers and passersby transported injured residents to nearby hospitals and removed debris from the streets.[441]

“How many lives could have been saved had they deployed a first response relief effort to be ready to be there after the blast, from the fire departments to the security forces to traffic control to obviously Red Cross ambulances?” Naggear told Human Rights Watch. “There was nothing of the sort. There was not one single official body that was there on the ground to help us get to hospitals…perhaps my daughter would have survived.”[442]

Mirna Habboush, who was driving past the port with her two-year-old son, lost her right eye in the explosion and severely damaged her right arm. “We couldn't see anything. We were stepping on blood. You're stepping on people's torn body parts…I heard voices calling out, ‘help me help me.’ But we couldn't help anyone. We barely helped ourselves,” Mirna told Human Rights Watch. A volunteer rushed Mirna’s son to a nearby hospital on a motorcycle and Mirna followed him in another passerby’s car.[443]

“You can't delete it from my head. You can't cancel it from my memories. You can't cancel it. The hour and a half I lived. An hour and a half of fear. An hour and a half of pain. The explosion itself, there's a difference when you see it in videos and when you see it with your eyes,” Habboush said. “My life changed. The first month I couldn't accept myself. My son didn't come near me for two months. He was afraid of me…There's no life even though we're still alive, but we're dead inside. They killed us from the inside. They slaughtered us from the inside.”[444]

In the days following the blast the prime minister confessed that the blast was the result of endemic political corruption and that the “system of corruption is bigger than the state.”[445]

For his part, the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, proclaimed, “The most dangerous thing that the port disaster revealed... is the total collapse of the political and economic system's structure… there must be a change to this confessional [sectarian] system, which is the cause of all ills.”[446]

The blast, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, pulverized the port and damaged over half the city. The explosion killed 218 people, including nationals of Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Palestine, Philippines, Pakistan, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, and the United States.[447] Thirty-four of those killed were refugees.[448] It wounded 7,000 people, of whom at least 150 acquired a physical disability, caused untold psychological harm, and damaged 77,000 apartments, displacing over 300,000 people.[449] At least three children between the ages of 2 and 15 lost their lives.[450] Thirty-one children required hospitalization, 1,000 children were injured, and 80,000 children were left without a home.[451] The explosion affected 163 public and private schools and rendered half of Beirut’s healthcare centers nonfunctional, and it impacted 56 percent of the private businesses in Beirut.[452] There was extensive damage to infrastructure, including transport, energy, water supply and sanitation, and municipal services totaling between US$390 and 475 million in losses.[453] According to the World Bank, the explosion caused an estimated $3.8-4.6 billion in material damage.[454]

The explosion also resulted in ammonia gas and nitrogen oxides being released into the air, potentially with toxins from other materials that may have also ignited as a result of the blast.[455] Ammonia gas and nitrogen oxides are harmful to the environment as well as to the respiratory system.[456] Ammonium nitrate is widely used and its production is energy-intensive. [457] As a result, it is a contributor to climate change.[458] The destruction is estimated to have created up to 800,000 tonnes of construction and demolition waste that likely contains hazardous chemicals that can damage health through direct exposure, or soil and water contamination.[459] The United Nations Development Programme has estimated that the cost of cleaning up the environmental degradation from the explosion will be over $100 million.[460]

 

The Domestic Investigation

The domestic investigation into the August 4, 2020 explosion has failed to meet international standards. Human Rights Watch has documented a range of procedural and systemic flaws in the domestic investigation that render it incapable of credibly delivering justice, including immunity for high-level political officials, lack of respect for fair trial standards, and due process violations. These problems are compounded by a structural lack of independence in the judiciary. [461]

On August 10, the Lebanese government referred the August 4, 2020 explosion file to the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council is a special court whose decisions are not subject to appeal, violating fundamental fair trial safeguards. Referrals to the court are made on a discretionary basis via a cabinet decree, on the recommendation of the justice minister, relating to cases that are considered especially serious.[462] The justice minister appoints the judicial investigator after approval by the Higher Judicial Council (HJC).[463] The judicial investigator leads the investigation and issues an indictment before the case is referred to the Judicial Council for trial. The Judicial Council is headed by the head of the HJC, and the cabinet appoints four other Judicial Council judges by decree based on the justice minister’s proposal and approval by the HJC.[464]

The HJC, the body responsible for recommending the appointment of judges to specific courts, however, lacks independence. Eight of its ten members are appointed by the executive branch – i.e., the government whose actions are to be scrutinized – and the HJC lacks financial independence, as funds are allocated to it annually through the Justice Ministry’s budget.[465]

On August 13, the justice minister named Fadi Sawan the judicial investigator.[466] Judge Sawan’s appointment process was opaque and the Higher Judicial Council rejected at least one judge whom the justice minister had initially proposed, but refused to explain why, asserting that their deliberations are confidential.[467]

Between August 2020 and February 2021, Sawan brought charges (though not a formal indictment) against 37 people, 25 of whom were detained.[468] Six were released from custody on April 15, 2021, and two were released on July 2, 2021, leaving 17 people in pre-trial detention.[469] With the exception of the heads of the customs administration and port authority, those detained are mostly mid- to low-level customs, port, and security officials, as well as employees of a maintenance company contracted to do some work on hangar 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored.[470]

Despite the relatively low rank of the people detained, senior officials knew of the ammonium nitrate being stored in the port, had a responsibility to act to secure and remove it, and failed to do so. But when Sawan wrote to parliament in November 2020 asking them to investigate 12 current and former ministers for their role in the August 4 explosion and then refer them to the “Supreme Council,” a special body that Lebanese law empowers to try ministers, the speaker of the parliament dismissed the allegations and refused to act.[471]

Under a conservative reading of Lebanese law, ministers have legal immunity and can only be prosecuted by the “Supreme Council for Trying Presidents and Ministers,” a body consisting of seven parliamentarians and eight judges. Activating this Supreme Council requires a two-thirds vote in parliament, and parliament has never activated this body.[472]

However, both the Beirut Bar Association and the Lebanese Judges’ Association have disputed this reading of the law.[473] The Lebanese Judges’ Association contended that the crime of killing or causing the death of citizens is not subject to immunity, as it is not directly related to the exercise of duties in office.[474] The Judges’ Association further stated that prosecution by the “Supreme Council” was virtually impossible due to the “existing political corruption and sectarian divisions in the country, as well as the record of the parliament that is devoid of any prosecutions.”[475]

Legal precedents also indicate that parliament does not have the exclusive right to indict ministers, and therefore the regular judiciary can try ministers as long as parliament has not done so.[476] 

In December 2020, after parliament refused to initiate investigations into the role of the ministers that Sawan identified, Sawan surprised the public by charging Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, and three former ministers, Ghazi Zeaiter, Ali Hassan Khalil, and Youssef Fenianos, with criminal negligence related to the blast.[477]

The judge was immediately challenged for not having accepted the immunity that politicians typically enjoy in Lebanon, and the prime minister, former prime ministers, former ministers, speaker of parliament, and Hezbollah all rejected Sawan’s charges.[478] Diab, Zeaiter, Fenianos and Khalil refused to appear for questioning, and Caretaker Interior Minister Mohammad Fahmi, said that he would not ask the security forces to arrest them, even if the judiciary issued arrest warrants.[479]

In December 2020, two of the former ministers, who are sitting parliamentarians, filed a complaint before the Court of Cassation, the country’s highest court, for Judge Sawan to be removed from the case.[480] In February 2021, he was. On February 18, 2021, the court concluded that there was “legitimate suspicion” regarding Sawan’s impartiality, in part because he said he would not recognize the parliamentary immunity claimed by the officials and because he had received 13 million Lebanese pounds in compensation after his home was damaged in the blast, even though he shared that fate with hundreds of thousands of other Beirut residents.[481]

One day later, the justice minister appointed Judge Tarek Bitar to replace Sawan.[482] Investigative judge Bitar is operating under the same prosecutorial limitations as his predecessor.

On July 2, 2021, Bitar issued a series of requests to lift immunities that apply to parliamentarians and lawyers and allow for the prosecution of high-level officials. Bitar requested that parliament lift the immunities of several former ministers, who are currently sitting parliamentarians, so that he can charge them for “homicide with probable intent,” as well as criminal negligence.[483] Article 40 of the Lebanese Constitution states that no parliamentarian may be “prosecuted or arrested, during the session, for committing a crime, unless authorized by the Chamber, except in case he is caught in the act.”[484]

At the time of this report’s publication, parliament was in session. Following the prime minister’s resignation on August 10, 2020, parliament will be considered in session until a new government is formed and acquires a vote of confidence.[485]

The parliamentarians whom Bitar is seeking to charge are former Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk, former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, and former Public Works Minister Ghazi Zeaiter.[486]

In addition, Bitar requested that the Beirut and Tripoli Bar Associations allow him to prosecute Khalil and Zeaiter, both of whom are lawyers, as well as former Public Works Minister Youssef Fenianos, also for the felony of homicide with probable intent and the misdemeanor of criminal negligence.[487] Lebanese law provides that no legal proceedings can be undertaken against a lawyer for an action resulting from the practice of their profession without a decision by the Bar Association authorizing those proceedings.[488]

Bitar also requested that the prime minister allow him to interrogate the Director General of State Security, Major General Tony Saliba, as a suspect, and that the Interior Minister allow him to charge the Director General of General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim.[489] Under Lebanese law, to prosecute state employees for a crime resulting from their official duties, judges need to obtain approval from the entity to which the employee belongs.[490]

Bitar has not publicly addressed the issue of ministerial immunities. It may be the case that he is either adhering to the interpretation that states that that the crime of killing or causing death is not subject to immunity or relying on the legal precedent which states that parliament does not have the exclusive right to indict ministers.

Without parliament lifting the immunity of the sitting parliamentarians, and without permission to prosecute the high-level security officials, Bitar cannot move forward with prosecutions of these individuals.

On July 9, 2021, in a letter to the justice minister, the Caretaker Minister of Interior Mohammad Fehmi rejected the judge’s request to question Major General Abbas Ibrahim.[491] Judge Bitar appealed Fehmi’s decision. As per Lebanese law, the request then moves to the Cassation Public Prosecutor, who is given 15 days to decide whether or not to allow the prosecution to move forward.[492] Cassation Public Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat claimed that he does not have the authority to make a decision regarding this request, as he had recused himself from the investigation after Sawan charged Zeaiter, who is his brother-in-law.[493] The request was sent to Cassation Attorney General Ghassan Khoury. The media reported that Khoury responded to Bitar on July 24 asking for more information, but neither explicitly approving nor denying the request.[494] However, Khoury told Human Rights Watch that he denied Bitar’s request to prosecute Ibrahim.[495]

Nizar Saghieh, a Lebanese lawyer and executive director of Legal Agenda, a research and advocacy organization, has argued that Khoury’s response has no legal merit, as he is not the authority with the jurisdiction to make that decision.[496] He claims that Oueidat, as the Cassation Public Prosecutor, is the only authority capable of making this decision, and that his lack of response within the legal timeframe should be understood as tacit approval to move ahead with Ibrahim’s prosecution, as the law stipulates.[497]

According to media reports, both the president and the prime minister have said the other has the authority to grant or deny permission to prosecute Saliba as a suspect.[498] On July 29, the Prime Minister’s office released a statement saying that the office of the presidency had consulted with the Legislation and Consultation Authority at the Ministry of Justice on who had jurisdiction to approve this request, and was told that this power belonged to the Higher Defense Council.[499] However, Legal Agenda has argued that Bitar was not bound by the opinion of the Legislation and Consultation Authority, and that both the president and the prime minister could give Bitar permission to interrogate Saliba as a suspect.[500] As of July 29, 2021, neither the president nor the prime minister nor the Higher Defense Council had issued a decision in the matter.

On July 28, the Beirut Bar Association gave Bitar permission to prosecute Khalil and Zeaiter, and on July 29, the Tripoli Bar Association gave Bitar permission to prosecute Fenianos.[501]

In July 2021, at least 50 parliamentarians signed a petition calling for parliament, rather than the judicial investigator, to investigate the prime minister and former ministers and refer the case to the “Supreme Council for Trying Presidents and Ministers” – a body which has never been convened.[502] After Legal Agenda made public the names of around 30 parliamentarians who signed the petition, several withdrew their support.[503]

As of July 29, Parliament had not lifted parliamentary immunities for August 4 suspects.  

On July 2, 2021, Bitar charged the former army commander General Jean Kahwaji, the former head of Military Intelligence Brigadier General Kamil Daher, and two former brigadier generals in Military Intelligence, Ghassan Gharzeddine and Jawdat Oueidat.[504]

The domestic investigation has been tainted by serious due process violations. 

Human Rights Watch spoke with one detainee who was released, as well as the families and lawyers of six detained people. Most have been held at the headquarters of the military police in Rihaniye since their arrest in August and September. Their lawyers said that their clients, as well as the others behind bars, are charged with the same litany of crimes despite their varying roles and responsibilities.[505]

The crimes include homicide with probable intent (i.e., the accused foresaw the occurrence of the crime and accepted the risk of its occurrence), unintentional homicide, causing an explosion, storing dangerous goods, disrupting the security of the port and the country, and polluting the environment.[506]

Lawyers said that neither Sawan nor Bitar told them or their clients which charges applied to them or the evidence against each of the accused, citing the secrecy of the investigations. The lawyers said that they will only find out what evidence and specific charges apply to their clients at the end of the investigation, when the judge can either stay the prosecution or indict the defendants.[507]

Two guards are always in the room during their meetings with their clients, the lawyers said, and they noted that their clients had been detained 10 to 16 days before Sawan issued an arrest warrant. They also said that Sawan rejected all their requests to release their clients on bail without any justification.[508] Bitar approved the release requests of six detainees on April 15 and two others on July 2, 2021.[509] 

Lebanon’s Code of Criminal Procedure gives the judicial investigator, whose decisions are not subject to appeal, the authority to hold suspects in pre-trial detention indefinitely.[510] But that violates their rights against arbitrary detention, as well as 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 a decision to detain them.

Lebanon cannot invoke a provision of domestic law to justify violating an international treaty it has ratified. International law automatically forms part of Lebanon’s domestic law, and article 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides that international treaties ratified by Lebanon prevail over domestic law.[511]

Lawyers and journalists familiar with the case have said that it is unclear whether Lebanon has the resources or technical capacity to conduct a comprehensive investigation, including into how the ammonium nitrate landed in Beirut and how the explosion was triggered.[512] Sawan’s staff consisted only of two trainee judges and two clerks,[513] and Bitar’s staff currently consists of four trainee judges.[514] Lawyers for defendants added that although Bitar’s investigation is wider in scope, and is looking into potential intentional acts, Sawan’s investigation focused solely on the negligence leading to the blast, ruling out theories of an intentional act, without any investigation.[515]

In two instances, there are indications that the judicial investigator has failed to take action on allegations that evidence has been tampered with, further decreasing confidence in the investigation’s credibility. There have been two fires in the Beirut port since the explosion, on September 8 and September 10, prompting many allegations of tampering with the crime scene.[516] Further, journalists from the local television station Al-Jadeed presented evidence that officials removed documents from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport– which oversees the port – on the Sunday following the blast, on August 9.[517]

In addition to the lack of independence, improper immunities, and serious due process violations that have tainted the domestic investigation, a number of suspicious deaths connected to the August 4 explosion have gone unsolved. 

Colonel Joseph Skaf, Chief of the Anti-Narcotics and Money Laundering Division in the Customs Administration, who wrote to the Customs Administration’s anti-smuggling department, copying various other officials, warning about the Rhosus’s cargo on February 21, 2014, died in March 2017 under suspicious circumstances. Although the official medical report found that Skaf died in an accidental fall, a second report, commissioned by his family, concluded that Skaf was attacked.[518] On August 8, 2020, Skaf’s son tweeted that “a crime was committed in March 2017. My father did not slip and fall. He was brutally assaulted and murdered in front of his own house. The case was never closed and our family has been waiting for three years.”[519]

At least three other murders of people thought to have information about the ammonium nitrate or the August 4 explosion have also been reported.[520] Mounir Abou Rjeily, a retired anti-smuggling customs colonel who was friends with Skaf, was reportedly assassinated on December 2, 2020 in Kartaba.[521] On December 21, 2020 Joseph Bejjani, a freelance photographer who was reportedly one of the first people to take photos at the port following the blast, was executed in front of his home in Kahale.[522] Long time Hezbollah critic, Lokman Slim, was also assassinated on February 4, 2021.[523] In a media interview in January, Slim had suggested that Hezbollah had brought the ammonium nitrate to Lebanon for the Syrian government to use.[524]

The Lebanese authorities have opened investigations into all four cases, but to date, no substantive results have been made public.[525] 

Ayman Mhanna, the executive director of the Samir Kassir Foundation, told the media after Slim’s assassination that “we do not expect anything going properly on the side of the investigation…It is exactly what we predicted, the fact that there would be claims about an ongoing investigation but that nobody would actually take it seriously among security forces and the judiciary because they have never done it in the past, and it's as if political assassinations in Lebanon enjoy a level of impunity and enjoy a level of protection.”[526]

Nadim Houry, the executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative, similarly told the media that “trust in the local judicial system is non-existent – they’ve never resolved a single political assassination.”[527]

Human Rights Watch has for years investigated grave human rights abuses in Lebanon for which there has been no accountability in the judicial system, including allegations of torture, the killing and excessive use of force against protesters by security agencies, abuses against migrant domestic workers, and the silencing of dissent.[528]

These structural weaknesses in the Lebanese judiciary, as well as its track record of failing to investigate and hold accountable perpetrators of grave crimes and rights abuses, make clear that there is little likelihood of justice for the victims of the explosion and the Lebanese public in the domestic courts as they are today.

International Human Rights Law

Right to Life and Right to an Effective Remedy

The right to life is an inalienable right, enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (article 6), which Lebanon ratified in 1972.[529] The Human Rights Committee, which interprets the ICCPR, has stated that states must both respect the right to life and protect it including from foreseeable threats to life, including threats caused by private persons or entities, even if their conduct is not attributable to the state.[530] The committee further states that the deprivation of life involves an “intentional or otherwise foreseeable and preventable life-terminating harm or injury, caused by an act or omission.”[531] States are required to enact a “protective legal framework which includes effective criminal prohibitions on all manifestations of violence…that are likely to result in a deprivation of life, such as intentional and negligent homicide.”[532]

The storage of more than 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, alongside jugs of oil, kerosene, and hydrochloric acid, five miles of fuse on wooden spools, and 15 tons of fireworks, in a poorly secured and ventilated hangar in the middle of a busy commercial and residential area of a densely populated capital city is contrary to international guidance and best practices in many countries and created an unacceptable risk to life.[533]

Further, the Human Rights Committee has stated: “The duty to protect by law the right to life also requires States parties to organize all State organs and governance structures through which public authority is exercised in a manner consistent with the need to respect and ensure the right to life, including by establishing by law adequate institutions and procedures for preventing deprivation of life, investigating and prosecuting potential cases of unlawful deprivation of life, meting out punishment and providing full reparation.”[534] The investigations into violations of the right to life must be “independent, impartial, prompt, thorough, effective, credible, and transparent,” and they should explore “the legal responsibility of superior officials with regard to violations of the right to life committed by their subordinates.”[535]

The Committee specifies that “immunities and amnesties provided to perpetrators of intentional killings and to their superiors, and comparable measures leading to de facto or de jure impunity, are as a rule, incompatible with the duty to respect and ensure the right to life, and to provide victims with an effective remedy.”[536] The failure to investigate, and where appropriate, prosecute also violates Article 2(3) of the ICCPR, which protects the right to an effective remedy for violations of human rights.[537] 

The impact and aftermath of the explosion also violated the rights of many affected people to security of person, education, the highest attainable standard of health, property, and an adequate standard of living, including the right to housing.[538] Lack of accountability would also infringe on their right to an effective remedy for these abuses.

Lebanon’s domestic investigation into the August 4, 2020 explosion has to date failed to meet the international standards on the right to a remedy, in part due to immunity for high-level political officials. Lebanon’s parliament has never constituted the body responsible for trying presidents and ministers, and therefore immunity from prosecution by the courts cannot be considered proportionate or reasonable. The failure to investigate and prosecute high-level political officials is thus a violation of the right to an effective remedy.

In August 2020, 30 UN experts publicly laid out benchmarks, based on international human rights standards, for a credible inquiry into the August 4, 2020 blast at Beirut’s port, noting that it should be “protected from undue influence,” “integrate a gender lens,” “grant victims and their relatives effective access to the investigative process,” and “be given a strong and broad mandate to effectively probe any systemic failures of the Lebanese authorities.”[539] The domestic investigation into the August 4, 2020 explosion has failed to meet those international benchmarks. Structural weaknesses in the Lebanese judiciary, as well as its track record of failing to investigate and hold accountable perpetrators of grave crimes and rights abuses, make it highly unlikely that there will be justice for the victims of the explosion and the Lebanese public in the domestic courts as they are today.

International standards on the right to an effective remedy also make clear that victims of gross human rights violations are entitled to equal and effective access to justice; adequate, effective and prompt reparation for harm suffered; and access to relevant information concerning violations and reparation mechanisms.[540] This requires, among other measures, that states take appropriate steps to assist victims seeking access to justice and minimize the inconvenience to them, and establish effective means to provide information to them.[541]

States should provide proportionate reparation for violations attributable to them, and ensure that other parties found liable provide reparation. States should create national reparations programs for the victims in situations where liable parties do not meet their obligations.[542]

Reparation includes the following forms:

  • Restitution: measures to restore the situation that existed before the wrongful act(s) were committed, such as restoration of liberty, employment and return to the place of residence and return of property.
  • Compensation: monetary payment for “economically assessable damage” arising from the violation, including physical or mental harm, material losses, and lost opportunities.
  • Rehabilitation: provision of “medical and psychological care as well as legal and social services.”
  • Satisfaction: includes a range of measures involving truth-telling, statements aimed at ending ongoing abuses, commemorations or tributes to the victims, and expressions of regret or formal apology for wrongdoing.
  • Guarantees of non-repetition: includes institutional and legal reform as well as reforms to government practices to end the abuse.[543]

Independence of Judges

Lebanon is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires it to safeguard the independence of its judiciary.[544] The Basic Principles" on the Independence of the Judiciary endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly elaborate on this obligation.[545] These principles include:

-          The judiciary shall decide matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason.[546]

-          Any method of judicial selection shall safeguard against judicial appointments for improper motives.[547]

-          The assignment of cases to judges within the court to which they belong is an internal matter of judicial administration.[548]

-          The term of office of judges, their independence, security, adequate remuneration, conditions of service, pensions and the age of retirement shall be adequately secured by law.[549]

-          Judges, whether appointed or elected, shall have guaranteed tenure until a mandatory retirement age or the conclusion of their term of office, where such exists.[550]

-          A charge or complaint made against a judge in his/her judicial and professional capacity shall be processed expeditiously and fairly under an appropriate procedure. The judge shall have the right to a fair hearing.[551]

-          Judges shall be subject to suspension or removal only for reasons of incapacity or behavior that renders them unfit to discharge their duties.[552]

-          All disciplinary, suspension or removal proceedings shall be determined in accordance with established standards of judicial conduct.[553]

Despite millions of dollars spent and numerous UN interventions over a period of more than two decades, corruption, impunity, and political interference in Lebanon’s justice system are pervasive.[554] In 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed concern about the “political pressure reportedly exerted on the [Lebanese] judiciary, particularly in the appointment of key prosecutors and investigating magistrates, and about allegations that politicians use their influence to protect supporters from prosecution” and urged Lebanon to “take all measures necessary to safeguard, in law and in practice, the full independence and impartiality of the judiciary, including by ensuring that the procedures for the selection, appointment, promotion, suspension, disciplining and removal of judges are in compliance with the principles of independence and impartiality.”[555]

Due Process and Fair Trial

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Lebanon ratified in 1972, guarantees the due process rights of detainees, including the right to be informed of the reasons for an arrest, promptly informed of any criminal charges against them and the evidence on which such criminal charges are based, as well as exculpatory evidence.[556]

It also obligates governments to ensure that anyone held in pretrial detention is afforded a speedy trial or else released, and is afforded an independent judicial review of the decision to detain them.[557] Delays in the trial process could result in a violation of the rights of an accused person to be brought promptly before a judge to review the necessity and legality of a decision to detain them, and the right to a trial within a reasonable time or to release.[558] Prolonged pre-trial detention may also result in a violation of the presumption of innocence, particularly where it has the effect of punishing the accused prior to trial.[559] The Convention prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention and the routine use of pretrial detention.[560]

The ICCPR affords criminal defendants the right to appeal: “Everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.”[561]

In addition, the UN Human Rights Committee has stated that article 14(3)(b) of the ICCPR, which protects the right of a defendant “to communicate with counsel of his own choosing” requires “counsel to communicate with the accused in conditions giving full respect for the confidentiality of their communications”.[562]

Lebanon cannot invoke a provision of domestic law to justify violating an international treaty it has ratified. International law automatically forms part of Lebanon’s domestic law, and article 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides that international treaties ratified by Lebanon prevail over domestic law.[563]

 

Recommendations

To the Lebanese Government

  • Ensure that areas affected by the blast are reconstructed in a comprehensive, inclusive, accessible, sustainable, and rights-respecting manner, including by:
    • Setting a comprehensive plan for the reconstruction of damaged areas in which affected residents play a leadership role in the planning, design, and implementation phases;
    • Ensuring that the plan guarantees everyone’s right to affordable housing and does not discriminate on any grounds, including age, socioeconomic status, gender, disability, nationality, and sexual orientation;
    • Ensuring that all reconstructed buildings, public spaces, and infrastructure are accessible and respect the rights of older people and people with disabilities, in line with Law 220/2000 on the rights of persons with disabilities;
    • Reducing the environmental impact of reconstruction at all levels of the planning and implementation, including by increasing access to renewable energy, energy efficiency measures, and climate resilient building designs.
  • Provide adequate, effective and prompt reparation, including appropriate compensation for any economically assessable damage, in accordance with international standards to all victims and affected residents for the harms suffered through an objective, clear, accessible and transparent mechanism, that does not discriminate on any grounds, including socioeconomic status, gender, disability, nationality, residency status, sexual orientation, gender expression, and marital status;
  • Ensure that people who have been injured or acquired a disability have access to services needed specifically because of their disabilities, including medical interventions, services designed to minimize and prevent further disabilities, and rehabilitation services and programs, particularly in the areas of health, employment, education, and social services;
  • Ensure people who have acquired a disability have their right to accommodations protected when returning to work, applying for a new employment, and accessing services and support;
  • Ensure access to quality, appropriate, free, and rights-respecting psychosocial and mental health support to victims and the community impacted by the blast;
  • Establish an effective and accessible system through which people affected by the blast can submit requests for compensation and/or social services, as well as submit complaints. Make sure the system is accessible to people with different types of accessibility needs;
  • Ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;
  • Appoint the members of the Anti-Corruption Commission in accordance with the 2020 Anti-Corruption Law, to investigate allegations of corruption in the public sector, refer cases to the judiciary, and oversee the enforcement and compliance of all anti-corruption laws, including the Access to Information law, Whistleblowing law, and the Financial Disclosure and Punishment of Illicit Enrichment law;
  • Strengthen the capacity and oversight role of the state inspection bodies, including over the Customs Administration;
  • Submit a sufficient budget for the National Human Rights Institute to allow it to fulfill its mandate;
  • Conduct an environmental assessment of the impact and aftermath of the August 4, 2020 explosion, including the effects of chemicals on air, water, and soil quality, required clean up, and support the capacity building of medical workers to identify signs and symptoms of chemical toxicity; inform people of the risks; and commence clean-up efforts;
  • Formulate and enact a comprehensive port strategy that develops sound management and good governance principles and delineates clear accountability processes;
  • Improve security at Beirut’s port through:
    • clearly delineating the hierarchy and responsibilities of the various security agencies operating in the port;
    • instituting clear guidelines and responsibilities for handling risky or potentially dangerous cargo;
  • Develop and implement clear policies for the handling, storage, removal, and disposal of toxic, chemical, and hazardous substances and waste, in line with international best practices.

To the Lebanese Parliament

  • Promptly lift the immunity of parliamentarians that the judicial investigator indicates he wants to charge with crimes related to the August 4 explosion, while  also pursuing revision of articles 40, 60, 70, and 71 of the Lebanese Constitution to ensure that all officials who are implicated in serious criminal offenses that contribute to or amount to human rights violations are promptly investigated, prosecuted and punished as appropriate in accordance with international human rights law standards and to make clear that impeachment is also appropriate for grave violations of human rights;
  • Pursue revision of article 61 of the Employee Law to ensure that all officials who are implicated in serious criminal offenses that contribute to or amount to human rights violations are promptly investigated, prosecuted and punished as appropriate in accordance with international human rights law standards;
  • Reform the Code of Criminal Procedure, and particularly the provisions related to the Judicial Council, such that they comply with the principles of a fair trial or else consider abolishing the Judicial Council;
  • Amend the Law 220/2000 on the rights of persons with disabilities to bring it in line with international law and standards, in particular the definition of disability;
  • Pass a law guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary, and in particular:
    • Change the system for the appointment of judges to the Higher Judicial Council such that the members are elected or appointed by their peers rather than appointed by the executive;
    • Ensure that judges are appointed or elected based on competence and merit, and without discrimination or interference by the executive;
    • Ensure that judges are promoted based on objective factors, in particular ability, integrity, and experience, rather than any political or sectarian calculations or interference by the executive;
    • Grant the judiciary financial independence from the Justice Ministry;
    • Ensure the financial and administrative autonomy of judicial institutions, including the Judicial Inspection Authority, which monitors the performance of judges, and the Institute of Judicial Studies which trains judges;
    • Safeguard the freedom of expression, belief, association, and assembly of judges provided that judges act in a manner so as to preserve the dignity of their office and the impartiality and independence of the judiciary;
    • Allow judges to form and join associations or other organizations to represent their interests, promote their professional training, and protect their judicial independence;
    • Amend Article 95 of Decree-Law No. 150/83 on the organization of the judiciary so that, consistent with the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, judges can only be suspended or removed from office “for reasons of incapacity or behavior” that make them unfit to discharge their duties, following a transparent and fair procedure;
    • Ensure that judges receive a fair trial in any disciplinary action or evaluation process, and that any proceedings are subject to an independent review.
  • Amend the Law for the Protection of Areas Damaged as a Consequence of the Blast in the Port of Beirut and for the Support of their Reconstruction (Law 194/2020) such that:
    • The protection of damaged real estate, including restrictions on the sale and transfer of ownership, encompasses all affected neighborhoods without any discrimination;
    • The Reconstruction Committee established by the law includes representatives from the residents affected by the blast;
    • The law includes guarantees that affected residents will be given access to adequate shelter, accessible to their needs, during the repair and reconstruction of their houses;
    • The law amends the discriminatory provisions related to compensation such that Lebanese and non-Lebanese victims of the blast are accorded the same treatment.
  • Issue a law exempting victims of the blast and affected residents from the payment of legal fees related to their compensation claims;
  • Enact a new Port Sector Law, that:
    • Establishes a new Port Authority and a transparent governance structure for the port, including a clear definition of officials’ qualifications, responsibilities, and accountabilities;
    • clearly delineates the mandates and roles of all relevant entities, including the port authority, customs administration, security agencies, central government, and commercial operators;
    • ensures transparency in the port’s activities, including through the public disclosure of meeting minutes, independent audits, and key decisions and performance indicators;
    • meets international standards in terms of environmental and security policies.
  • Reform the Customs Law such that it:
    • Meets internationally recommended best practices;
    • Reforms the inefficient customs structure, including by removing the decision-making duality between the Customs Directorate and the Higher Council for Customs;
    • Establishes clear reporting lines and accountability processes;
    • Ensures transparency in the customs administration’s activities, including through mandating the publication of standard operating procedures, customs regulations, and export, import, or transit procedures.

To the Judicial Investigator

  • Ensure that all the suspects know of the charges and the evidence against them;
  • Publicly provide the justifications for continuing to detain suspects in relation to the August 4, 2020 explosion, who have been held in pre-trial detention for almost a year. If their continued detention is not legally justified and consistent with international standards, release the detainees;
  • Ensure that all detainees are able to meet or speak with their legal representatives in private.  

To Lebanon’s International Partners and Donors

  • Publicly and privately insist that Lebanese authorities and lawmakers implement the recommendations set out above;
  • Impose targeted sanctions against individuals and entities responsible for grave violations:
    • As provided for under the US Global Magnitsky Act, the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, and other similar human rights sanctions instruments in the United Kingdom, Canada and elsewhere, impose targeted sanctions against individuals and entities implicated in gross violations of international human rights law resulting from the August 4 explosion, including violations of the right to life, who remain in positions of government authority from which they are engaged in further abuses or efforts to secure their own impunity. Such targeted sanctions will be more effective if pursued collectively by international partners and would reaffirm their commitments to promoting accountability among perpetrators. They would also provide important leverage to aid diplomatic efforts pressing for justice through domestic judicial proceedings in Lebanon.

To the United States Government

  • Support an independent international investigation into the August 4, 2020 explosion;
  • Publicly clarify the role and mandate of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation’s participation in the domestic investigation into the August 4, 2020 explosion, and commit to making its findings public.

To the French Government

  • Support an independent international investigation into the August 4, 2020 explosion;
  • Publicly clarify the role and mandate of the French forensic police officers and gendarmes who participated in the domestic investigation into the August 4, 2020 explosion, and commit to making their findings public;
  • Publish the list of Lebanese officials against whom the French government has already imposed sanctions.

To the UN Human Rights Council

  • Adopt a resolution establishing an international, independent investigative mission, into the August 4, 2020 explosion mandated to:
    • conduct a thorough investigation into human rights violations and abuses related to the August 4, 2020 explosion and the domestic judicial investigation, including collecting and reviewing information, establishing the facts, preserving evidence and identifying alleged perpetrators of such human rights violations and abuses, with a view to ensuring full accountability; and
    • formulate recommendations on measures necessary to guarantee that the authors of these violations and abuses, regardless of their affiliation or seniority, are held accountable for their acts and to address the underlying systemic failures that led to the explosion and to the failure of the domestic investigation.

To the Special Procedures Mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council:

  • Continue to monitor and report on the impairment of human rights resulting from the August 4, 2020 explosion and to support efforts to identify those responsible and ensure accountability for the rights violations and abuses leading to and following the explosion.

Acknowledgments

This report was written and researched by Lama Fakih, Crisis and Conflict Director, and Aya Majzoub, Lebanon and Bahrain Researcher in the Middle East and North Africa Division. Human Rights Watch consultant Layal bou Moussa contributed to the research. Madeline de Figueiredo, Crisis and Conflict Division Associate, Charbel Salloum, Middle East and North Africa Senior Research Assistant, and a senior associate in the Middle East and North Africa Division provided research, editing, and production assistance.

The report incorporates the work of investigative journalists and independent researchers who have done painstaking work to uncover the facts around the August 4, 2020 explosion in the Beirut port. Human Rights Watch would like to especially thank the Investigative Unit at Al Jadeed television and the Samir Kassir Foundation who shared with us official documents related to the explosion. This report would not have been possible without their support and efforts.

Forensic Architecture (FA), a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London and specialized in investigating human rights violations through advanced media analysis and spatial reconstructions, conducted in-depth research into the August 4, 2020 explosions at Beirut's port. In collaboration with Mada Masr and using publicly available videos, photographs, and documents, FA reconstructed the 3D model of hangar 12 and the layout of ammonium nitrate stored inside and examined these in relation to the various characteristics of the explosion. Human Rights Watch has incorporated some of this work into our report with their permission. FA’s report can be found at: https://forensic-architecture.org/investigation/beirut-port-explosion.

Human Rights Watch would like to thank the victims’ families and other impacted persons who spoke to our researchers. Their experiences, their loss, and their demands for justice and accountability informed the recommendations for this report.

This report was edited by Michael Page, Deputy Director in the Middle East and North Africa Division; Tom Porteous, Associate Program Director; and Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, Senior Legal Advisor. Mark Hiznay, Associate Director in the Arms Division; Arvind Ganesan, Director of the Business and Human Rights Division; Bill Van Esveld, Associate Director in the Children’s Rights Division; Emina Ćerimović, Senior Researcher in the Disability Rights Division; Katharina Rall, Senior Research in the Environment and Human Rights Division; Nadia Hardman, Researcher in the Refugee Rights Division; and Omar Shakir, Senior Research in the Middle East and North Africa Division provided specialist reviews. Lucy McKernan, UN Deputy Director; Andrea Prasow, Deputy Washington Director; Benedicte Jeannerod, France Director; Lotte Leicht, EU Advocacy Director; Yasmine Ahmed, UK Director; and Wenzel Michalski, Germany Director, contributed to the report’s recommendations. Travis Carr, publications associate; and Fitzroy Hepkins, administrative manager, prepared the report for publication.

 

 

[1] World Bank, “Reforming and Rebuilding Lebanon’s Port Sector: Lessons from global Best Practices,” December 2020, https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/823691609795908583/pdf/Reforming-and-Rebuilding-Lebanons-Port-Sector-Lessons-from-Global-Best-Practices.pdf (accessed June 24, 2021), p. 17,

[2] Ibid.

[3] “تحقيق ناشونال انتريست ـ خبايا القوة التي دمرت بيروت,” August 9, 2020, DW, https://bit.ly/3xZrsTe (accessed June 24, 2021); Ben Hubbard, Maria Abi-Habib, Mona El-Naggar, Allison McCann, Anjali Singhvi, James Glanz, and Jeremy White, “How a Massive Bomb Came Together in Beirut’s Port,” New York Times, September 9, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/09/world/middleeast/beirut-explosion.html (accessed June 22, 2021); Reinoud Leenders, “Timebomb at the Port: How Institutional Failure, Political Squabbling and Greed Set the Stage for Blowing up Beirut,” Arab Reform Initiative, September 16, 2020, https://www.arab-reform.net/publication/timebomb-at-the-port-how-institutional-failure-political-squabbling-and-greed-set-the-stage-for-blowing-up-beirut/ (accessed June 22, 2021).

[4] Leenders, “Timebomb at the Port,” Arab Reform Initiative.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Human Rights Watch Interview with Reinoud Leenders, Reader in International Relations and Middle East Studies at King’s College, via Microsoft Teams, June 25, 2021. See also Leenders, “Timebomb at the Port,” Arab Reform Initiative.

[7] World Bank, “Reforming and Rebuilding Lebanon’s Port Sector: Lessons from global Best Practices,” December 2020, p. 15; Leenders, “Timebomb at the Port,” Arab Reform Initiative; United States Agency for International Development (USAID), “Middle East Economic Growth Best Practices Project: Port of Beirut Assessment,” February 15, 2020, https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/EXTENDED-USAID-MEG-POBAssessment.pdf (accessed July 25, 2021), p. 104.

[8] Leenders, “Timebomb at the Port,” Arab Reform Initiative; “Dockside dealings: smuggling, bribery and tax evasion at Beirut port,” Bangkok Post, September 16, 2020, https://www.bangkokpost.com/world/1986363/dockside-dealings-smuggling-bribery-and-tax-evasion-at-beirut-port (accessed June 22, 2021).

[9] World Bank, “Reforming and Rebuilding Lebanon’s Port Sector: Lessons from global Best Practices,” December 2020, p. 15.

[10] Leenders, “Timebomb at the Port,” Arab Reform Initiative.

[11] Leenders, “Timebomb at the Port,” Arab Reform Initiative; Rohan Advani, “Blame Game at the Port of Institutional Corruption,” Jadaliyya, September 30, 2020, https://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/41785 (accessed July 6, 2021); Samia Nakhoul, Ellen Francis, Michael Gregory, “In Beirut port, all of Lebanon’s ills are laid bare,” Reuters, October 28, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-lebanon-crisis-port-insight/in-beirut-port-all-of-lebanons-ills-are-laid-bare-idUKKBN27D1JF (accessed June 24, 2021); Human Rights Watch Interview with former shipping company employee, via phone, July 8, 2021.

[12] Rouba El Husseini, “Dockside dealings: smuggling, bribery and tax evasion at Beirut port,” Yahoo News, September 16, 2020, https://news.yahoo.com/dockside-dealings-smuggling-bribery-tax-024240497.html (accessed June 22, 2021).

[13] Ishac Diwan and Jamal Ibrahim Haidar, “Clientelism, Cronyism and Job Creation in Lebanon,” in: Adeel Malik and Izak Atiyas (eds), Crony Capitalism in the Middle East – Business and Politics from Liberalization to the Arab Spring, (Oxford University Press, 2019), p. 134; Nakhoul, Francis, Gregory, “In Beirut port, all of Lebanon’s ills are laid bare,” Reuters.

[14] “Dockside dealings: smuggling, bribery and tax evasion at Beirut port,” Bangkok Post.

[15] Hubbard, Abi-Habib, El-Naggar, McCann, Singhvi, Glanz, and White, “How a Massive Bomb Came Together in Beirut’s Port,” New York Times.

[16] Human Rights Watch interview with Riad Kobeissi, investigative journalist at Al-Jadeed television, Beirut, Lebanon, June 23, 2021.

[17] “تحت طائلة المسؤولية - العنبر 19 - الحلقة الكاملة,” April 15, 2014, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eASBj9a-1qs (accessed June 25, 2021); رالي الجمارك: سباق التهرب الضريبي - رياض قبيسي,” March 8, 2017, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLgu0v4RaN4 (accessed June 25, 2021); “يسقط حكم الفاسد 26-2-2021,” February 26, 2021, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vspDGF-FcZc (accessed June 24, 2021), at 35:00.

[18] “يسقط حكم الفاسد 26-2-2021,” February 26, 2021, YouTube, at 35:00.

[19] “رالي الجمارك: سباق التهرب الضريبي - رياض قبيسي,” March 8, 2017, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLgu0v4RaN4 (accessed June 25, 2021).

[20] “Customs brushes off claims of tax evasion at Beirut port,” The Daily Star Lebanon, November 24, 2012, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Business/Lebanon/2012/Nov-24/196038-customs-brushes-off-claims-of-tax-evasion-at-beirut-port.ashx (accessed June 24, 2021).

[21] “Lebanon: Ensure Aid Goes Directly to Those in Need,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 16, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/09/16/lebanon-ensure-aid-goes-directly-those-need (accessed June 24, 2021).

[22] Human Rights Watch interview with former shipping company employee, via phone, July 8, 2021.

[23] Ibid.

[24] “Dockside dealings: smuggling, bribery and tax evasion at Beirut port,” Bangkok Post.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.; “Treasury Targets Iranian-Backed Hizballah Officials for Exploiting Lebanon’s Political and Financial System,” US Department of the Treasury press release, July 9, 2019, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm724 (accessed June 22, 2021).  

[27] “A Brief History,” Lebanese General Directorate of State Security webpage, https://bit.ly/3eKa3q2 (accessed June 22, 2021); “أمن الدولة: القانون سينصف من يعمل بصمت وسيعاقب من ضلل التحقيق ومن تقاعس عن القيام بواجباته” , NNA, August 11, 2020, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/show-news/496152/ (accessed June 22, 2021); “انفجار بيروت.. أمن الدولة اللبناني يكشف "سر" العنبر 12” , Sky News Arabic, August 11, 2020, https://bit.ly/3wW6cfR (accessed June 22, 2021).

[28] Human Rights Watch interview with Major General Tony Saliba, Director General of State Security, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] “يسقط حكم الفاسد 26-2-2021,” February 26, 2021, YouTube, at 18:23; “النائب حسن فضل الله يقدّم "جردة حساب" لملفات الفساد في مؤتمر صحافي مفصّل,” May 8, 2021, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcvjTs7q39Q (accessed July 12, 2021).  

[32] “يسقط حكم الفاسد 26-2-2021,” February 26, 2021, YouTube, at 14:05.

[33] Ibid.

[34] “لبنان: ميشال عون يتعهد باستئصال الفساد وبعدم الارتهان لأي بلد آخر”, France 24, November 6, 2016, https://bit.ly/3roT9CB (accessed June 23, 2021).

[35] “السيرة الذاتية للمدير العام الجديد للجمارك بدري ضاهر,” NNA, March 8, 2017, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/show-news/272941/nna-leb.gov.lb/ar (accessed June 23, 2021); “Ibrahim charges Customs chief with wasting public funds,” The Daily Star Lebanon, November 7, 2019, https://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2019/Nov-07/495169-ibrahim-charges-customs-chief-with-wasting-public-funds.ashx (accessed June 23, 2021); “أبو سمرا أصدر مذكرة توقيف وجاهية في حق ضاهر بملف الكبتاغون,” NNA, November 3, 2020, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/show-news/511871/ (accessed July 22, 2021).  

[36] “حساب جبران,” January 8, 2020, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyMf71iO8Ec (accessed June 25, 2021), at 3:08:22.

[37] Marie Jo Sader, “Justice served? 25 people were detained after the port explosion, but don’t know the charges against them,” L’Orient Today, January 22, 2021, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1249152/justice-served-twenty-five-people-indicted-after-the-port-explosion-remain-in-detention-but-dont-know-the-charges-against-them-part-i-of-ii.html (accessed June 22, 2021); “أبو سمرا أصدر مذكرة توقيف وجاهية في حق ضاهر بملف الكبتاغون,” NNA, November 3, 2020, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/show-news/511871/ (accessed July 22, 2021).

[38] “يسقط حكم الفاسد 26-2-2021,” February 26, 2021, YouTube, 20:14; “أبو سمرا أصدر مذكرة توقيف وجاهية في حق ضاهر بملف الكبتاغون,” NNA, November 3, 2020, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/show-news/511871/ (accessed July 22, 2021).

[39] “Ibrahim charges Customs chief with wasting public funds,” The Daily Star Lebanon; “عشرات الملايين الضائعة بالصوت والصورة تفوتها "مزادات بدرية",” January 29, 2021 , video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qt5HP4IB7As (accessed June 25, 2021); “بالأدلة والتسجيلات الصوتية رياض قبيسي يكشف فساد مدير عام الجمارك بدري ضاهر,” November 5, 2019, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sU6EqdVYEOw (accessed June 25, 2021); “أبو سمرا أصدر مذكرة توقيف وجاهية في حق ضاهر بملف الكبتاغون,” NNA.

[40] “بدري ضاهر يعترف خلال التحقيق : الرئيس ميشال عون طلب رفع منع السفر عن أمير الكبتاغون,” October 16, 2020, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIcCOy7_Yxs (accessed June 23, 2021); Riad Kobaissi’s Twitter page, October 10, 2020, https://twitter.com/riadkobaissi/status/1314959271109505026/photo/3 (accessed June 25, 2021); “Saudi Prince Reportedly Caught With Two Tons of Speed on Private Plane in Beirut,” Vice News, October 26, 2015, https://www.vice.com/en/article/9kjq3z/saudi-prince-reportedly-caught-with-two-tons-of-speed-on-private-plane-in-beirut (accessed June 28, 2021); “Saudi prince charged with multi-million-eruo drugs smuggling in Lebanon,” DW, November 2, 2015, https://www.dw.com/en/saudi-prince-charged-with-multi-million-euro-drugs-smuggling-in-lebanon/a-18822374 (accessed July 21, 2021); “Lebanon court convicts Saudi prince who tried to smuggle drugs,” Middle East Monitor, March 19, 2019, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190329-lebanon-court-convicts-saudi-prince-who-tried-to-smuggle-drugs/ (accessed June 23, 2021).

[41] “بدري ضاهر يعترف خلال التحقيق : الرئيس ميشال عون طلب رفع منع السفر عن أمير الكبتاغون,” October 16, 2020, YouTube, at 00:45-00:56.

[42] Ibid., at 1:27.

[43] “Lebanon court convicts Saudi prince who tried to smuggle drugs,” Middle East Monitor; “عون يرفض إقالة ثلاثة مسؤولين عن مرفأ بيروت من مناصبهم,” Euro News, October 5, 2020, https://arabic.euronews.com/2020/10/05/aoun-refuses-to-remove-three-officials-of-the-port-of-beirut-from-their-posts (accessed July 23, 2021); “بالوثائق- عون لم يوقّع مرسوم إعفاء بدري ضاهر,” Kataeb, September 11, 2020, https://bit.ly/3zlDU02 (accessed July 23, 2021).

[44] “Beirut port committee to be scrapped,” Zawya, September 7, 2019, https://www.zawya.com/mena/en/business/story/Beirut_port_committee_to_be_scrapped-SNG_153365255/ (accessed July 6, 2021); “Treasury Targets Hizballah’s Enablers in Lebanon,” US Department of the Treasury press release, September 8, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1116 (accessed June 23, 2021).

[45] Lebanese Customs, Imports and Exports Report, January 2014, http://www.finance.gov.lb/en-us/Finance/EDS/TS/Documents/LITE%202013-12.pdf (accessed July 21, 2021); Lebanese Customs, “الهيكل التنظيمي الحالي للجمارك ضمن ورازة المالية,” https://www.lebanesecustoms.gov.lb/uploads/xorg-chart-customs.jpg.pagespeed.ic.AbnwvuAApJ.jpg (accessed July 23, 2021).

[46] “Treasury Targets Hizballah’s Enablers in Lebanon,” US Department of the Treasury press release.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Rami Ruhayem and Paul Adams, “The inferno and the mystery ship,” BBC, August 8, 2020, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/extra/x2iutcqf1g/beirut-blast (accessed June 23, 2021); Alison Tahmizian Meuse, “Lebanon probes procurement of ‘death ship’ Rhosus,” Asia Times, https://asiatimes.com/2020/08/lebanon-probes-procurement-of-death-ship-rhosus/ (accessed June 25, 2021); Maria Vasilyeva, Lisa Barrington, and Jonathan Saul, “Who owned the chemicals that bluew up Beirut? No one will say,” Reuters, August 11, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-lebanon-security-blast-ship-insight-idUKKCN2571CD (accessed July 23, 2021). 

[50] See Annex 2, Rhosus’s Bill of Lading.

[51] Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, “A Hidden Tycoon, African Explosive, and a Loan from a Notorious Bank: Questionable Connections Surround Bierut Explosion Shipment,” August 21, 2020, https://www.occrp.org/en/investigations/a-hidden-tycoon-african-explosives-and-a-loan-from-a-notorious-bank-questionable-connections-surround-beirut-explosion-shipment (accessed June 22, 2021). Muriel Rozelier, “From the Rhosus’ Departure to the Port Explosion, Chronicle of a Disaster Foretold,” Le Commerce Du Levant, September 15, 2020, https://www.lecommercedulevant.com/article/30040-from-the-rhosus-departure-to-the-port-explosion-chronicle-of-a-disaster-foretold (accessed June 23, 2021).   

[52] See Annex 2, August 5, 2020 Baroudi and Associates Law Firm Press Statement; Meuse, “Lebanon probes procurement of ‘death ship’ Rhosus,” Asia Times.

[53] Meuse, “Lebanon probes procurement of ‘death ship’ Rhosus,” Asia Times; See Annex 2, February 13, 2013 Letter from Energy Ministry to Customs and September 6, 2013 Letter from Energy Ministry to Customs.

[54] Ibid.; Rozelier, “From the Rhosus’ Departure to the Port Explosion, Chronicle of a Disaster Foretold,” Le Commerce Du Levant.

[55] Meuse, “Lebanon probes procurement of ‘death ship’ Rhosus,” Asia Times; Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, “A Hidden Tycoon, African Explosive, and a Loan from a Notorious Bank: Questionable Connections Surround Beirut Explosion Shipment;” Rozelier, “From the Rhosus’ Departure to the Port Explosion, Chronicle of a Disaster Foretold,” Le Commerce Du Levant.

[56] Rozelier, “From the Rhosus’ Departure to the Port Explosion, Chronicle of a Disaster Foretold,” Le Commerce Du Levant.

[57] See Annex 2, December 20, 2013 Enforcement Department impounds Rhosus.

[58] Meuse, “Lebanon probes procurement of ‘death ship’ Rhosus,” Asia Times; “Lebanese Government renews Spectrum Multi-Client licence,” Spectrum press release, January 18, 2012, https://www.spectrumgeo.com/wp-content/uploads/2011-01-18-Lebanese-Government-Renews-Spectrum-Deal-FINAL.pdf (accessed July 12, 2021); See Annex 2, February 13, 2013 Letter from Energy Ministry to Customs and September 6, 2013 Letter from Energy Ministry to Customs.

[59] See Annex 2, February 13, 2013 Letter from Energy Ministry to Customs and September 6, 2013 Letter from Energy Ministry to Customs.

[60] Rozelier, “From the Rhosus’ Departure to the Port Explosion, Chronicle of a Disaster Foretold,” Le Commerce Du Levant; See Annex 2, February 13, 2013 Letter from Energy Ministry to Customs and September 6, 2013 Letter from Energy Ministry to Customs; Meuse, “Lebanon probes procurement of ‘death ship’ Rhosus,” Asia Times.

[61] Meuse, “Lebanon probes procurement of ‘death ship’ Rhosus,” Asia Times.

[62] Lynn Sheikh Moussa, “What is Savaro Ltd and how is it linked to the Beirut Blast,” Beirut Today, February 11, 2021, https://beirut-today.com/2021/02/11/what-is-savaro-ltd-and-how-is-it-linked-to-the-beirut-blast/ (accessed June 25, 2021).

[63] Ibid.; United Kingdom Companies House, Savaro Limited entry, https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/05841913 (accessed July 12, 2021); Martin Chulov, “Businessmen with ties to Assad linked to Beirut post blast cargo,” The Guardian, January 14, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/15/businessmen-with-ties-to-assad-linked-to-beirut-port-blast-cargo (accessed June 23, 2021); “Treasury Sanctions Networks Providing Support to the Government of Syria, Including For Facilitating Syrian Government Oil Purchases from ISIL,” US Department of the Treasury press release, November 25, 2015, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0287.aspx (accessed June 29, 2021).

[64] Ellen Francis, Tom Bergin, and Maria Tsvetkova, “Beirut blast chemicals possibly linked to Syrian businessmen - report, company filings,” Reuters, January 27, 2021 https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-lebanon-crisis-blast-idUSKBN29M0AJ (accessed June 29, 2021); “Treasury Sanctions Networks Providing Support to the Government of Syria, Including For Facilitating Syrian Government Oil Purchases from ISIL,” US Department of the Treasury press release; “Treasury Sanctions Networks Providing Support to the Government of Syria,” US Department of Treasury, July 21, 2016, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0526.aspx (accessed July 12, 2021).

[65] Tom Bergin, “British lawmakers seek investigation into UK-registered firm possibly linked to Beirut blast,” Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-lebanon-crisis-blast-britain-idUKKBN29S014 (accessed July 12, 2021); United Kingdom Companies House, Savaro Limited entry..

[66] Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, “A Hidden Tycoon, African Explosive, and a Loan from a Notorious Bank: Questionable Connections Surround Bierut Explosion Shipment;” “Charalambos Manoli insists relationship with Beirut ship Rhosus ceased in June 2012,” Insurance Marine News, September 9, 2020, https://insurancemarinenews.com/insurance-marine-news/charalambos-manoli-insists-relationship-with-beirut-ship-rhosus-ceased-in-june-2012/ (accessed July 21, 2021).

[67] Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, “A Hidden Tycoon, African Explosive, and a Loan from a Notorious Bank: Questionable Connections Surround Bierut Explosion Shipment; Rozelier, “From the Rhosus’ Departure to the Port Explosion, Chronicle of a Disaster Foretold,” Le Commerce Du Levant.

[68] “Charalambos Manoli insists relationship with Beirut ship Rhosus ceased in June 2012,” Insurance Marine News. “Charalambos Manoli insists relationship with Beirut ship Rhosus ceased in June 2012,” Insurance Marine News; Manoli also stated that in November 2013 there was no indebtedness to FBME, and he shared an October 18, 2013 ruling by Limassol District Court in Cyprus that he said supported his position. 

[69] Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, “A Hidden Tycoon, African Explosive, and a Loan from a Notorious Bank: Questionable Connections Surround Bierut Explosion Shipment;” US Department of the Treasury, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Notice of Finding That FBME Bank Ltd., Formerly Known as Federal Bank of the Middle East, Ltd., Is a Financial Institution of Primary Money, July 8, 2014, Federal Register vol. 79, no. 140, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2014/07/22/2014-17171/notice-of-finding-that-fbme-bank-ltd-formerly-known-as-federal-bank-of-the-middle-east-ltd-is-a (accessed July 21, 2021).

[70] Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, “A Hidden Tycoon, African Explosive, and a Loan from a Notorious Bank: Questionable Connections Surround Bierut Explosion Shipment.”

[71] Human Rights Watch interview with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[72] Hubbard, Abi-Habib, El-Naggar, McCann, Singhvi, Glanz, and White, “How a Massive Bomb Came Together in Beirut’s Port,” New York Times.

[73] Human Rights Watch interview with source, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[74] Ibid.

[75] “Lebanon asks Interpol to arrest Russian ship captain, owner overt port explosion,” Reuters, October 1, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/lebanon-crisis-blast-ship-int-idUSKBN26M7MG (accessed July 22, 2021).

[76] See Annex 2, Rhosus’s Bill of Lading. See Trans-Service Maritime Agency’s list of Common English abbreviation and terms used in description of vessels, https://www.trans-service.org/en.php?section=info&page=sokr_os (accessed July 21, 2021). MTS stands for metric tons.

[77] Fertilizers Europe, “Guidance for Sea Transport of Ammonium Nitrate Based Fertilizers,” 2004, https://maritimecyprus.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/guidance_for_sea_transport_of_ammonium_nitrate_based_fertilizers_2014.pdf (accessed July 12, 2021); “Class 5.1: Oxidizing substances (agents) by yielding oxygen increase the risk and intensity of fire,” Searates website, https://www.searates.com/reference/imo/5.1/ (accessed July 12, 2021).

[78] See Annex 2, Rhosus’s Transit Manifest

[79] Lebanon Business Database, National Trading & Shipping Agency webpage, https://lbn.bizdirlib.com/node/45285 (accessed July 6, 2021); See Annex 2, Rhosus’s Transit Manifest.

[80] See Annex 2, November 16,2013 Notice and Recognition.

[81] “Who is a Shipping Agent?” Mariners Insight News Network, October 7, 2019, https://www.marineinsight.com/careers-2/who-is-a-shipping-agent/ (accessed July 6, 2021)

[82] See Annex 2, February 22, 2014 Letter Noting Rhosus’s Unified List Does Not List Ammonium Nitrate.

[83] Human Rights Watch interview with Riad Kobeissi, Beirut, Lebanon, June 23, 2021.

[84] See Annex 2, February 21, 2014 Letter from Head of Anti-Narcotics and Anti-Money Laundering Section in Customs to Customs Administration Anti-Smuggling Department.

[85] Ibid; See Annex 2, February 22, 2014 Letter Noting Rhosus’s Unified List Does Not List Ammonium Nitrate.

[86] رياض قبيسي و ليال بو موسى يكشفان معطيات جديدة وصور تعرض للمرة الاولى عن حادثة مرفأ بيروت,” August 15, 2020, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shvxEAUWhKY (accessed June 23, 2021), at 46:18; See Annex 2, February 28, 2014 Letter from the National Trading and Shipping Agency.

[87] See Annex 2, February 28, 2014 Letter from the National Trading and Shipping Agency.

[88] See Annex 2, August 11, 2020 General Directorate of Customs Report to the Minister of Finance.

[89] Ibid.

[90] See Annex 2, August 11, 2020 General Directorate of Customs Report to the Minister of Finance; March 27, 2014 Acting Customs Beirut Regional Director forwards file to Beirut Brigades.

[91] See Annex 2, March 31, 2014 Manifest Detachment Responds to Beirut Maritime Section; August 11, 2020 General Directorate of Customs Report to the Minister of Finance. See also Annex 2, March 31, 2014 Manifest Detachment Responds to Beirut Maritime Section, for a copy of the General Directorate of Customs regulation.

[92] See Annex 2, April 1, 2014 Letter from Head of Maritime Section to the Head of the Beirut Brigades; August 11, 2020 General Directorate of Customs Report to the Minister of Finance

[93] See Annex 2, April 1, 2014 Letter from Head of Maritime Section to the Head of Beirut Brigades.

[94] Ibid.; August 11, 2020 General Directorate of Customs Report to the Minister of Finance.

[95] See Annex 2, August 11, 2020 General Directorate of Customs Report to the Minister of Finance.

[96] Ibid.

[97] See Annex 2, February 1, 2016 Letter from Manifest Department.

[98] Library of Congress, “Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: Lebanon,” https://www.loc.gov/law/help/firearms-control/lebanon.php (accessed June 25, 2021); Legislative Decree 137 (Weapons and Ammunition Law), June 12, 1959, http://77.42.251.205/LawView.aspx?opt=view&LawID=180890 (accessed June 25, 2021).

[99] Lebanese Customs Law  https://www.lebanesecustoms.gov.lb/post/219/%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%83 (accessed July 21, 2021), art. 57 and art. 59.  

[100] Ibid., art. 57. 

[101] World Bank, “Reforming and Rebuilding Lebanon’s Port Sector: Lessons from global Best Practices,”, p. 20 and para. 23; “أمن الدولة: القانون سينصف من يعمل بصمت وسيعاقب من ضلل التحقيق ومن تقاعس عن القيام بواجباته”, NNA; See also Annex 2, May 13, 2014, General Security Office’s Information Report; April 1, 2014 Letter from Head of Maritime Section to the Head of the Beirut Brigades; Nadine Khairallah, “تحقيق عسكري,” Lebanese military webpage, July 2018, https://www.lebarmy.gov.lb/ar/content/%D9%85%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%91%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%AA%D8%A7%D8%AF (accessed June 25, 2021); United States Agency for International Development (USAID), “Middle East Economic Growth Best Practices Project: Port of Beirut Assessment,” February 15, 2020, p.135-138.

[102] World Bank, “Reforming and Rebuilding Lebanon’s Port Sector: Lessons from global Best Practices,” p. 20 and para. 22; Leenders, “Timebomb at the Port,” Arab Reform Initiative.

[103] World Bank, “Reforming and Rebuilding Lebanon’s Port Sector: Lessons from global Best Practices,” p. 7, 20, and para. 22.

[104] Ibid., p. 12 and para. 10.

[105] Lebanese Penal Code Articles 190 and 564 set out that there is liability when a harmful act results from negligence, recklessness, or the failure to comply with laws or regulations and that resulting deaths are punishable by six months to three years imprisonment. Lebanese Penal Code, Decree no. 340, March 1, 1943, http://www.legallaw.ul.edu.lb/LawView.aspx?opt=view&LawID=244611 (accessed July 23, 2021), art. 190 and art. 564.

[106] UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), General comment no. 36 (Right to Life), September 3, 2019, para. 21, UN Doc CCPR/C/GC/35, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CCPR/Shared%20Documents/1_Global/CCPR_C_GC_36_8785_E.pdf (accessed July 9, 2021).

[107] The former investigative judge charged some officials, and Tarek Bitar is attempting to prosecute others, with a form of intentional homicide classified under Lebanese law as “homicide with probable intent” (i.e., the accused foresaw the occurrence of the crime and accepted the risk of its occurrence). Human Rights Watch interview with defendants’ lawyer 1, June 11, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with defendant’s lawyer 2, June 8, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with defendant’s lawyer January 28, 2021. “القاضي بيطار يبدأ بملاحقة سياسيين وأمنيين وعسكريين في قضية انفجار مرفأ بيروت,” NNA, July 2, 2021, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/show-news/552654/ (accessed July 6, 2021).

[108] Lebanese Criminal Code Chapter III, Section II, Subsection 1, Article 189 and Chapter VIII, Section I, Subsection 1, https://www.stl-tsl.org/sites/default/files/documents/legal-documents/relevant-lebanese-law/CHATC-150903-2_OAR_T_EN.pdf (accessed July 21, 2021).

[109] UN HRC, General comment no. 36.

[110] Legal Decree No. 151, September 16, 1983, http://www.legallaw.ul.edu.lb/LawView.aspx?opt&LawID=194091&TYPE=PRINT&language=ar (accessed June 25, 2021); Arab Center for the Development of the Rule of Law and Integrity (ACRLI) and UNDP, “الاختناق القضائي في لبنان,” 1994,https://arabruleoflaw.org/files/judiciary_backlog_in_lebanon_book.pdf (accessed June 25, 2021). 

[111] In some documentation, the captain of the Rhosus signed his name as “Prokoshev Borys.” See for example Annex 2, April 7, 2014 Letter from Baroudi and Associates Law Firm to Head of Beirut Port.

[112] See Annex 2, April 7, 2014 Letter from Baroudi and Associates Law Firm to Head of Beirut Port. The Beirut Habor Master is sometimes referred to in documentation as the “Head of Beirut Port.” It is likely that this communication was sent to the Beirut Harbor Master.

[113] Ibid.

[114] Ibid.

[115] Ibid.

[116] “The Hazards and Dangers of Ammonium Nitrate,” Nortech Labs press release, https://nortechlabs.com/customer-service/articles-press-releases/hazards-ammonium-nitrate/ (accessed July 12, 2021).

[117] Ibid.

[118] “Ibid.; Ammonium nitrate compound summary, National Library of Medicine (National Center for Biotechnology Information), https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Ammonium-nitrate#section=DSSTox-Substance-ID (accessed July 12, 202).

[119] See Annex 2, March 17, 2014, Letter from Beirut Harbor Master to the Head of Maritime Transport Service; April 2, 2014 Letter from Beirut Harbor Master to the Director of the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport.

[120] The judge of urgent matters is a civil judge that is competent to rule on urgent issues, but whose rulings are temporary and “without prejudice to the right of the following matters.” See Articles 30 – 33, Lebanon’s Code of Criminal Procedure, Act No, 328, https://bit.ly/3zrLs1r (accessed July 21, 2021).

[121] See Annex 2, April 17, 2014 Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport Response to Baroudi and Associates Law Firm Letter.

[122] See Annex 2, April 8, 2014 Letter from the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport to the Case Authority and April 14, 2014 Letter from the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport to the Case Authority.

[123] See Annex 2, June 2, 2014 Letter from the Directorate General of Land Maritime Transport to the Case Authority.

[124] See Annex 2, April 7, 2014 Baroudi and Associates Law Firm letter to head of Beirut Port.

[125] See Annex 2, April 30, 2014 Letter from Case Authority to Urgent Matters Judge; April 2, 2014 Ministry of Public Works and Transport Ship Inspection and Report.

[126] See Annex 2, April 2, 2014 Ministry of Public Works and Transport Ship Inspection and Report.

[127] Human Rights Watch interview with Marwan Karkabi, the former head of Case Authority, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021.

[128] See Annex 2, April 30, 2014 Letter from Case Authority to the Urgent Matters Judge.

[129] Ibid.

[130] See Annex 2, May 7, 2014 Urgent Matters Judge Decision.

[131] See Annex 2, June 2, 2014 Letter from the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport to the Case Authority.

[132] See Annex 2, June 5, 2014 Letter from Case Authority to the Urgent Matters Judge.

[133] See Annex 2, June 27, 2014 Ruling by the Urgent Matters Judge.

[134] See Annex 2, July 11, 2014 Letter from Case Authority Lawyer to Case Authority.

[135] See Annex 2, September 26, 2014 Urgent Matters Judge Ledger.

[136] Ghazi Zeaiter was preceded by Ghazi Aridi, who was the Caretaker Minister of Public Works and Transport when the Rhosus docked, until his resignation in December 2013. Jana El Hassan, “Aridi resigned from caretaker Cabinet,” Daily Star Lebanon, December 16, 2013, https://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2013/Dec-16/241261-aridi-testifies-over-embezzlement-following-floods.ashx (accessed July 23, 2021).

[137] Fenianos was the Minister of Public Works and Transport in Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government, which resigned in October 2019. However, Fenianos remained acting minister until Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government was formed in January 2020. “Lebanon announces new government, protesters far from impressed,” France 24, January 21, 2020, https://www.france24.com/en/20200121-lebanon-beirut-hassan-diab-saad-hariri-new-government-protests-cabinet (accessed July 22, 2021); “Declaration of New Cabinet: 30 Ministers, 5 Innovative Ministries,” NNA, December 18, 2016, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/en/show-news/72621/ (accessed July 23, 2021).

[138] See Annex 2, May 16, 2014 Letter from the Director General of General Security; See Annex 5, Letter from Abbas Ibrahim.

[139] See also “"الجديد" تحصل على بريد سري أرسله اللواء عباس ابراهيم عن حجز الباخرة روسوس في مرفأ بيروت,” July 3, 2021, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylregfaHnDc (accessed July 21, 2021) at 00:56-2:05; See Annex 2, August 20, 2014 Letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Received by the Minister of Public Works and Transport and June 27, 2014 Ruling by the Urgent Matters Judge.

[140] See Annex 2, December 18, 2017 Letter from Minister of Public Works and Transport to Case Authority; March 5, 2018 Ministry of Public Works and Transport Letter to Case Authority; September 12, 2018 Minister of Public Works and Transport Letter to Case Authority.

[141] Ibid.

[142] Ibid.

[143] “رياض قبيسي و ليال بو موسى يكشفان معطيات جديدة وصور تعرض للمرة الاولى عن حادثة مرفأ بيروت,” August 15, 2020, YouTube, at 11:00.

[144] See Annex 2, April 8, 2014 Letter from the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport to the Case Authority; April 14, 2014 Letter from the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport to the Case Authority; June 2, 2014 Letter from the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport to the Case Authority; March 9, 2015 Letter from Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport; December 18, 2017 Letter from Minister of Public Works and Transport to Case Authority; March 5, 2018 Ministry of Public Works and Transport Letter to Case Authority; and September 12, 2018 Minister of Public Works and Transport Letter to Case Authority.

[145] Timour Azhari, “Lebanese officials deflect blame as anger grows over Beirut blast,” Al Jazeera, August 6, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/8/6/lebanese-officials-deflect-blame-as-anger-grows-over-beirut-blast (accessed June 24, 2021).

[146] “Beirut blast: who knew what, when?,” RFI, August 12, 2020, https://www.rfi.fr/en/wires/20200812-beirut-blast-who-knew-what-when (accessed June 23, 2021); Human Rights Watch interview with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[147] “Beirut blast: who knew what, when?,” RFI..

[148] “الجديد توثق تهريب مستندات من وزارة الأشغال العامة والنقل بعد حادثة مرفأ بيروت - هادي الأمين,” August 13, 2020, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_CvqiTKdsU (accessed June 24, 2021).

[149] See Annex 2, June 27, 2014 Ruling by the Urgent Matters Judge.

[150] Ibid.

[151]رياض قبيسي و ليال بو موسى يكشفان معطيات جديدة وصور تعرض للمرة الاولى عن حادثة مرفأ بيروت,” August 15, 2020, YouTube, at 8:48-9:06.

[152] Ibid., at 9:06-9:50; See Annex 2, November 14, 2014 General Security Office’s Information Report.

[153] See Annex 2, September 3, 2014 Letter from the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport to Beirut’s Port Authority.

[154] See Annex 2, October 21, 2014 Letter from Beirut Port’s Director General to the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport; October 23, 2014 General Security Office’s Information Report; October 24, 2014 Letter from Head of the Manifest Department to the Head of the Customs Port of Beirut Service; November 26, 2014 Letter from Directorate of Land and Maritime Transport to Case Authority. See also “رياض قبيسي و ليال بو موسى يكشفان معطيات جديدة وصور تعرض للمرة الاولى عن حادثة مرفأ بيروت,” August 15, 2020, YouTube, at 8:10-8:18.

[155] See Annex 2, November 14, 2014 General Security Office’s Information Report.

[156] Ibid.; See Annex 2, May 28, 2020 Head of State Security at Beirut Port Report.

[157] See Annex 2, November 26, 2014 Letter from Directorate of Land and Maritime Transport to Case Authority.

[158] See Annex 2, December 18, 2014 Response from Case Authority Lawyer to the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport.

[159] Hubbard, Abi-Habib, El-Naggar, McCann, Singhvi, Glanz, and White, “How a Massive Bomb Came Together in Beirut’s Port,” New York Times ; Samaneh Moafi et al, “The Beirut Port Investigation,” Forensic Architecture report, November 17, 2020, https://forensic-architecture.org/investigation/beirut-port-explosion (accessed June 22, 2021).

[160] Hubbard, Abi-Habib, El-Naggar, McCann, Singhvi, Glanz, and White, “How a Massive Bomb Came Together in Beirut’s Port,” New York Times.

[161] See Annex 2, July 20, 2020 State Security Report.

[162] Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining, “AMAT Insights: Reducing Risks Associated with Ammonium Nitrate,” September 2020, https://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/GICHD-resources/rec-documents/AMAT_Insights_Issue_1_Reducing_Risks_Associated_with_Ammonium_Nitrate.pdf (accessed July 22, 2021), p. 2

[163] Ibid., at p. 14.

[164] Samaneh Moafi et al, “The Beirut Port Investigation,” Forensic Architecture report; UK Health and Safety Executive, “Storing and Handling Ammonium Nitrate,” https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg230.pdf (accessed June 22, 2021), p. 3 -4; Government of Canada, Ammonium Nitrate Storage Facilities Regulations, CRC c. 1145, June 18, 2015, https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/C.R.C.,_c._1145/FullText.html, SCHEDULE II (s. 32) Storage Hazards of Ammonium Nitrate 2 (c); United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Regulations (Standards – 29 CFR), July 1993, https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/, 1910.109 1910.109(i)(5)(i)(a), 1910.109(i)(5)(ii)(b), 1910.109(i)(5)(ii)(c); Government of Western Australia, Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, “Code of Practice: Safe storage of solid ammonium nitrate,” 3rd ed, https://www.dmp.wa.gov.au/Documents/Dangerous-Goods/DGS_COP_StorageSolidAmmoniumNitrate.pdf (accessed June 22, 2021), p.6. 

[165] Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining, “AMAT Insights: Reducing Risks Associated with Ammonium Nitrate,” p. 14 – 18.

[166] UK Health and Safety Executive, “Storing and Handling Ammonium Nitrate,” p. 4-5.

[167] Government of Western Australia, Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, “Code of Practice: Safe storage of solid ammonium nitrate,” 3rd ed, p. 7-8.

[168] See Annex 2, October 21, 2014 Letter from Beirut Port’s Director General to the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport.

[169] Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining, “AMAT Insights: Reducing Risks Associated with Ammonium Nitrate,” p. 12-18.

[170] See Annex 2, October 24, 2014 Letter from Head of the Manifest Department to the Head of the Customs Port of Beirut Service.

[171] Ibid.

[172] See Annex 2, July 20, 2020 State Security Report.

[173] Article 73 of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Resolution 31/1, Certification of the Lebanese port and port system, January 26, 1966, http://transportation.gov.lb/ar/Karar31_1 (accessed July 6, 2021).

[174] See Annex 2, January 12, 2015 Internal Port Management Memo.

[175] See Annex 2, December 18, 2014 Response from Case Authority Lawyer to the Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport.

[176] See Annex 2, March 9, 2015 Letter from Directorate General of Land and Maritime Transport.

[177] See Annex 2, September 11, 2015 Urgent Matters Judge Decision; يسقط حكم الفاسد 5-3-2021,” March 5, 2021, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=VtsXxAShKAE (accessed June 23, 2021), at 35:05-36:00.

[178] See Annex 2, May 16, 2014 Letter from the Director General of General Security; See also “"الجديد" تحصل على بريد سري أرسله اللواء عباس ابراهيم عن حجز الباخرة روسوس في مرفأ بيروت,” July 3, 2021, YouTube, at 00:56-2:05; Annex 2, August 20, 2014 Letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Received by the Minister of Public Works and Transport.

[179] See Annex 2, December 18, 2017 Letter from Minister of Public Works and Transport to Case Authority; March 5, 2018 Ministry of Public Works and Transport Letter to Case Authority; September 12, 2018 Minister of Public Works and Transport Letter to Case Authority.  

[180] See Annex 2, July 20, 2015, Letter from Case Authority to Urgent Matters Judge; February 15, 2018 Request from Case Authority Lawyer to Urgent Matters Judge.  

[181] See Annex 2, March 5, 2018 Ministry of Public Works and Transport Letter to Case Authority; See Annex 2, April 17, 2018 Request from Case Authority Lawyer to Enforcement Department..

[182] See Annex 2, October 15, 2018 Decision by the Enforcement Department of Beirut.

[183] Article 9 of Decision 98 (30/04/1941) on shipwrecks, http://77.42.251.205/LawView.aspx?opt=view&LawID=188816 (accessed July 23, 2021).

[184] See Annex 2, March 26, 2019 Request from Case Authority Lawyer to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

[185] See Annex 2, June 18, 2019 Enforcement Department Decision.

[186] “رياض قبيسي و ليال بو موسى يكشفان معطيات جديدة وصور تعرض للمرة الاولى عن حادثة مرفأ بيروت,” August 15, 2020, YouTube, at 28:08-30:05 and 53:00-53:27.

[187] “رياض قبيسي و ليال بو موسى يكشفان معطيات جديدة وصور تعرض للمرة الاولى عن حادثة مرفأ بيروت,” August 15, 2020, YouTube, at 53:44-54:22.

[188] Sader, “Justice served? 25 people were detained after the port explosion, but don’t know the charges against them,” L’Orient Today.

[189] Waseem Saifeddin, “Lebanese premier charged over Beirut port blast,” Andalou Agency, December 10, 2020, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/lebanese-premier-charged-over-beirut-port-blast/2072768 (accessed June 23, 2021).

[190] “Lebanon PM Diab, ex-ministers indicted over port blast,” France 24, December 10, 2020, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20201210-lebanon-pm-diab-ex-ministers-indicted-over-port-blast (accessed June 23, 2021).

[191] Ibid.

[192] Najia Houssari, “Lebanese ministers refuse questioning in Beirut blast investigation,” Arab News, December 16, 2020, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1778491/middle-east (accessed June 28, 2021).

[193] “Fenianos: According to My Own Timing I Will Appear Before Judge,” Naharnet, December 16, 2020, http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/277687 (accessed June 28, 2021).

[194] Lebanese Constitution, ratified 1926, with amendments through 2004, https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Lebanon_2004.pdf?lang=en (accessed July 22, 2021).

[195] “Fenianos: According to My Own Timing I Will Appear Before Judge,” Naharnet, December 16, 2020, http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/277687 (accessed June 28, 2021); “MPs summoned, a new plan for subsidies, warning over medical supplies: Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday,” L’Orient Today, December 16, 2020, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1245084/mps-summoned-a-new-plan-for-subsidies-warning-over-medical-supplies-everything-you-need-to-know-to-start-your-wednesday.html (accessed June 28, 2021).

[196] Youssef Fenianos’ Twitter page, February 17, 2021, https://twitter.com/youssefenianos/status/1362090019276664841 (accessed June 24, 2021)

[197] Ellen Francis, “Lebanese court removes investigator who charged politicians over Beirut blast,” Reuters, February 18, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/lebanon-crisis-blast-int-idUSKBN2AI1GP (accessed July 24, 2021).

[198] “القاضي بيطار يبدأ بملاحقة سياسيين وأمنيين وعسكريين في قضية انفجار مرفأ بيروت,” NNA.

[199] Ibid. Lebanese law provides that no legal proceedings can be undertaken against a lawyer for an action resulting from the practice of their profession without a decision by the Bar Association authorizing those proceedings. 

[200] Nizar Saghieh’s Twitter Account, July 28, 2021, https://twitter.com/nsaghieh/status/1420392443451748353 (accessed on July 28, 2021); Nizar Saghieh’s Twitter Account, July 29, 2021, https://twitter.com/nsaghieh/status/1420706489216475140 (accessed on July 29, 2021).

[201] See Annex 2, February 21, 2014 Letter from Head of Anti-Narcotics and Anti-Money Laundering Section in Customs to Customs Administration Anti-Smuggling Department.

[202] “Officials long warned of explosive chemicals at Beirut port,” CNBC, August 7, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/08/officials-long-warned-of-explosive-chemicals-at-beirut-port.html (accessed June 23, 2021); Nakhoul, Francis, and Gregory, “In Beirut port, all of Lebanon’s ills are laid bare,” Reuters; Hussein Yassine, “Lebanese Colonel Asked That Ammonium Nitrate Be Moved, Then Died Suddenly, “ The 961, August 17, 2020, https://www.the961.com/lebanese-colonel-ammonium-nitrate-died/ (accessed July 24, 2021).

[203] Human Rights Watch made several attempts to correspond with Colonel Pierre al-Hajj between July 19-July 30, 2021 regarding the findings of this report, including via fax, phone, courier, and the website of the company his LinkedIn profile identifies as his place of business, but was unable to reach him.

[204] See Annex 2, February 21, 2014 Letter from Head of Anti-Narcotics and Anti-Money Laundering Section in Customs to Customs Administration Anti-Smuggling Department.

[205] Human Rights Watch Interview with Ibrahim Shamseddine, former Head of Central Station, by phone, July 23, 2021.  

[206] See Annex 2, October 24, 2014 Letter from Head of the Manifest Department to the Head of the Customs Port of Beirut Service.

[207] See Annex 2, May 9, 2015 Letter from Head of the Manifest Department.; February 1, 2016 Letter from Manifest Department; March 14, 2018 Letter from Head of the Manifest Department.

[208] See Annex 2, June/September 2016 Customs-Ministry of Finance Letter to Case Authority.

[209] Ibid.

[210] See Annex 2, December 5, 2014 Letter from Customs Officials to Urgent Matters Judge; May 20, 2016 Letter from Customs to Urgent Matters Judge; December 28, 2017 Letter from Customs to Urgent Matters Judge.

[211] “Cabinet approves military, judicial appointments,” NNA, March 8, 2017, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/en/show-news/76328/nna-leb.gov.lb/en (accessed July 24, 2021).

[212] The Case Authority represents the state in legal proceedings. Only ministries can address the Case Authority directly. All other state institutions must address the Case Authority through their relevant ministries.

[213] See Annex 2, June/September 2016 Customs-Ministry of Finance Letter to Case Authority.

[214] Ibid.

[215] See Annex 2, December 8, 2014 Urgent Matters Judge Returns Customs Letter; July 1, 2015 Urgent Matters Judge Response to Customs; June 1, 2016 Urgent Matters Judge Response to Customs; October 17, 2016 Urgent Matters Judge Decision; August 14, 2017 Urgent Matters Judge Decision; See Annex 2, December 28, 2017 Judge of Urgent Matters Responds to Customs.

[216] Human Rights Watch interview with judicial source 1, Beirut, Lebanon, July 7, 2021.

[217] Lebanon’s Code of Civil Procedure, Legislative Decree No. 90.83. http://legiliban.ul.edu.lb/LawArticles.aspx?LawArticleID=982018&LawId=244565&language=ar (accessed July 29, 2021), art. 363.

[218] Human Rights Watch interview with judicial source 1.

[219] Human Rights Watch interview with judicial source 1; Human Rights Watch interview with judicial source 2; Human Rights Watch interview with former head of Case Authority, Judge Marwan Karkabi, June 16, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with high-level judicial source 1, Beirut, Lebanon; Human Rights Watch interview with high-level judicial source 2, Beirut, Lebanon.

[220] Noting that Daher kept asking for judicial authorization to remove the ammonium nitrate when he had the authority to do so himself. Leenders, “Timebomb at the Port,” Arab Reform Initiative; Le Commerce Du Levant reported that Daher could have disposed of the ammonium nitrate but instead persisted in asking for an authorization of sale from the urgent matters court even though the judge informed him they did not have jurisdiction over the matter. Rozelier, “From the Rhosus’ Departure to the Port Explosion, Chronicle of a Disaster Foretold,” Le Commerce Du Levant.. Lebanese legal experts told the Asia Times that when it comes to hazardous materials, no permission is required to order their removal. See also Meuse, “Lebanon probes procurement of ‘death ship’ Rhosus,” Asia Times.

[221] “رياض قبيسي  بالمستندات الإهمال الذي سبب حادثة مرفأ بيروت لم يكن عفويًا,” February 19, 2021, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FI3g2fqz7D4 (accessed June 23, 2021) at 28:10; See Annex 2, September 12, 2018 Letter from Customs Director to Ministry of Finance..

[222] See Annex 2, August 16, 2018 Treveria Environment Letter.

[223] Human Rights Watch interview with former head of Case Authority, Judge Marwan Karkabi, June 16, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with high-level judicial source 1, Beirut, Lebanon; Human Rights Watch interview with high-level judicial source 2, Human Rights Watch interview with judicial source 1; Human Rights Watch interview with judicial source 2.

[224] Human Rights Watch interview with former head of Case Authority, Judge Marwan Karkabi, Jeita, Lebanon, June 16, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with high-level judicial source 1, Beirut, Lebanon; Human Rights Watch interview with high-level judicial source 2, Beirut, Lebanon; Human Rights Watch interview with judicial source 1, Beirut, Lebanon, July 7, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with judicial source 2, Beirut, Lebanon, July 13, 2021.

[225] Human Rights Watch interview with high-level judicial source 2, Beirut, Lebanon; Human Rights Watch interview with judicial source 1, Beirut, Lebanon, July 7, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with judicial source 2, Beirut, Lebanon, July 13, 2021.

[226] Lebanon’s Code of Civil Procedure, Legislative Decree No. 90.83, art. 366.

[227] Ali Hassan Khalil was preceded by Mohammad Safadi who was Caretaker Finance Minister at the time that the Rhosus docked in Beirut’s port.

[228] Waseem Saifeddin, “Lebanese premier charged over Beirut port blast,” Andalou Agency, December 10, 2020,  https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/lebanese-premier-charged-over-beirut-port-blast/2072768 (accessed June 23, 2021).

[229] “Lebanon PM Diab, ex-ministers indicted over port blast,” France 24, December 10, 2020,  https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20201210-lebanon-pm-diab-ex-ministers-indicted-over-port-blast (accessed June 23, 2021).

[230] Ibid.

[231] Ali Hassan Khalil’s Twitter page, December 10, 2020, https://twitter.com/alihasankhalil/status/1337085721484664834 (accessed June 24, 2021); Ibid., https://twitter.com/alihasankhalil/status/1337118809522659329 (accessed July 22, 2021); Ibid., https://twitter.com/alihasankhalil/status/1337119411237498884 (accessed July 22, 2021).

[232] Ellen Francis, “Lebanese court removes investigator who charged politicians over Beirut blast,” Reuters.

[233] “القاضي بيطار يبدأ بملاحقة سياسيين وأمنيين وعسكريين في قضية انفجار مرفأ بيروت,” NNA. Lebanese law provides that no legal proceedings can be undertaken against a lawyer for an action resulting from the practice of their profession without a decision by the Bar Association authorizing those proceedings. 

[234] Ibid.

[235] Nizar Saghieh’s Twitter Account, July 28, 2021, https://twitter.com/nsaghieh/status/1420392443451748353 (accessed on July 28, 2021).

[236] Sader, “Justice served? 25 people were detained after the port explosion, but don’t know the charges against them,” L’Orient Today.

[237] “Judge files charges against 2 over Lebanon port blast,” Associated Press, November 24, 2020, https://apnews.com/article/beirut-lebanon-16f64c53e32e0f139e7841c36f834a38 (accessed June 24, 2021).

[238] General Joseph Aoun succeeded Kahwaji as the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces on March 8, 2017.

[239] “مكتب بقرادوني: العماد قهوجي حضر امام المحقق العدلي كشاهد في انفجار المرفأ واكد ان الجيش قام بكل واجباته عملا بالقوانين,” NNA, February 11, 2021, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/show-news/529118/ (accessed June 25, 2021); “Lebanese ex-army chief testifies in Beirut port blast probe,” ABC News, February 11, 2021, https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/lebanese-army-chief-testifies-beirut-port-blast-probe-75831554 (accessed June 25, 2021).  

[240]See Annex 2, November 19, 2015 Army Request for a Sample to be Analyzed.  

[241] See Annex 2, October 24, 2014 Letter from Head of the Manifest Department to the Head of the Customs Port of Beirut Service and May 9, 2015 Letter from Head of the Manifest Department.

[242] “تعيين العميد الركن انطوان سليمان منصور مديراً للمخابرات,” Lebanese Army website, April 11, 2017, https://www.lebarmy.gov.lb/ar/content/%D8%AA%D8%B9%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B7%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B3%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%85%D9%86%D8%B5%D9%88%D8%B1-%D9%85%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%8B-%D9%84%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA (accessed July 24, 2021); Radwan Murtada, “كارثة المرفأ.. بالأسماء والحقائق: هؤلاء كانوا يعلمون,” Lebanon 24, August 11, 2020, https://bit.ly/3eJWarZ (accessed June 25, 2021); Human Rights Watch interview with high-level judicial source 1, Beirut, Lebanon; Human Rights Watch interview with security source, July 1, 2021; United States Agency for International Development (USAID), “Middle East Economic Growth Best Practices Project: Port of Beirut Assessment,” February 15, 2020, p. 136; See Annex 2, July 20, 2020 State Security Report.

[243] Human Rights Watch interview with Major General Tony Saliba, Director General of State Security, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021; See Annex 2, July 20, 2020 State Security Report.

[244] Legislative Decree 137 (Weapons and Ammunition Law), June 12, 1959, http://77.42.251.205/LawView.aspx?opt=view&LawID=180890 (accessed June 25, 2021).

[245] Ibid.

[246] See Annex 2, February 1, 2016 Letter from the Manifest Department; February 27, 2016 Response from Customs to the Army.   

[247] Legislative Decree 137 (Weapons and Ammunition Law), June 12, 1959, http://77.42.251.205/LawView.aspx?opt=view&LawID=180890 (accessed June 25, 2021).

[248] Ibid., art. 17.

[249] Nadine Khairallah, “تحقيق عسكري,” Lebanese military webpage, July 2018.

[250] USAID, “Middle East Economic Growth Best Practices Project: Port of Beirut Assessment,” February 15, 2020, p. 137.

[251] See Annex 2, February 27, 2016 Response from Customs to the Army.

[252] See, April 7, 2016 Letter from the Army to Customs.

[253] “Sawan listens to Kahwaji’s testimony,” NNA, February 11, 2021, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/en/show-news/124829/Sawan-listens-to-Kahwaji-39-testimony-as-witness (accessed June 25, 2021).

[254] “مكتب بقرادوني: العماد قهوجي حضر امام المحقق العدلي كشاهد في انفجار المرفأ واكد ان الجيش قام بكل واجباته عملا بالقوانين,” NNA; “Lebanese ex-army chief testifies in Beirut port blast probe,” ABC News

[255] “Different Chemicals Found in Ward No. 15 at the Port of Beirut and Handled Safely,” Lebanese Army webpage, September 11, 2020, https://www.lebarmy.gov.lb/en/content/different-chemicals-found-ward-no-15-port-beirut-and-handled-safely (accessed June 25, 2021); “Destroying of Quantities of Fireworks Found in the Port of Beirut,” Lebanese Army webpage, September 18, 2020, https://www.lebarmy.gov.lb/en/content/destroying-quantities-fireworks-found-port-beirut (accessed June 25, 2021); “Inspecting Containers Filled with an Amount of Ammonium Nitrate,” Lebanese Army webpage, September 3, 2020, https://www.lebarmy.gov.lb/en/content/inspecting-containers-filled-amount-ammonium-nitrate (accessed June 25, 2021).

[256] Hubbard, Abi-Habib, El-Naggar, McCann, Singhvi, Glanz, and White, “How a Massive Bomb Came Together in Beirut’s Port,” New York Times.

[257] Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining, “AMAT Insights: Reducing Risks Associated with Ammonium Nitrate,” p. 12-18.

[258] Sader, “Justice served? 25 people were detained after the port explosion, but don’t know the charges against them,” L’Orient Today.

[259] “القاضي بيطار يبدأ بملاحقة سياسيين وأمنيين وعسكريين في قضية انفجار مرفأ بيروت,” NNA.

[260] “A Brief History,” Lebanese General Directorate of State Security webpage, https://bit.ly/3eKa3q2 (accessed June 22, 2021); “أمن الدولة: القانون سينصف من يعمل بصمت وسيعاقب من ضلل التحقيق ومن تقاعس عن القيام بواجباته” , NNA.

[261] Human Rights Watch interview with Major General Tony Saliba, Director General of State Security, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021.

[262] “A Brief History,” Lebanese General Directorate of State Security webpage, https://bit.ly/3eKa3q2 (accessed June 22, 2021); “أمن الدولة: القانون سينصف من يعمل بصمت وسيعاقب من ضلل التحقيق ومن تقاعس عن القيام بواجباته” , NNA; USAID, “Middle East Economic Growth Best Practices Project: Port of Beirut Assessment,” February 15, 2020, p. 138.

[263] Human Rights Watch interview with confidential source, Beirut, Lebanon, July 6, 2021.

[264] See Annex 2, May 28, 2020 Head of State Security at Beirut Port Report.

[265] See Annex 2, July 20, 2020 State Security Report.

[266] Webpage of Major General Tony Saliba, Lebanese General Directorate of State Security, https://bit.ly/2Uy4wMx (accessed June 25, 2021).

[267] Human Rights Watch interview with Major General Tony Saliba, Director General of State Security, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021; Hubbard, Abi-Habib, El-Naggar, McCann, Singhvi, Glanz, and White, “How a Massive Bomb Came Together in Beirut’s Port,” New York Times.

[268] See Annex 2, Undated State Security Internal Report; May 28, 2020 Head of State Security at Beirut Port Report.

[269] Human Rights Watch interview with high-level judicial source 1, Beirut, Lebanon; Human Rights Watch interview with security source, Beirut, Lebanon, July 1, 2021.

[270] Human Rights Watch interview with confidential source, Beirut, Lebanon, July 6, 2021.

[271] See Annex 2, May 28, 2020 Head of State Security at Beirut Port Report.

[272] Human Rights Watch interview with Major General Tony Saliba, Director General of State Security, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021. See also Annex 2, Undated State Security Internal Report.

[273] Ibid.

[274] See Annex 2, Undated State Security Internal Report.

[275] Ibid.

[276] See Annex 2, May 28, 2020 Head of State Security at Beirut Port Report.

[277] Human Rights Watch interview with Major General Tony Saliba, Director General of State Security, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021.

[278] See Annex 2, May 28, 2020 Head of State Security at Beirut Port Report.

[279] Ibid.

[280] Human Rights Watch interview with Major General Tony Saliba, Director General of State Security, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021.

[281] See Annex 2, May 28, Head of State Security at Beirut Port Report.

[282] See Annex 2, May 28, 2020 Head of State Security at Beirut Port Report.

[283] Human Rights Watch interview with Major General Tony Saliba, Director General of State Security, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021; See also Annex 2, Undated State Security Internal Report.

[284] Malak Aqeel, “عون يقبل استقالة جرمانوس... و"يَنسف" التشكيلات,” Asas Media, June 8, 2020, https://www.asasmedia.com/news/386262; “Germanos to resign from judicial duties: source,” Daily Star Lebanon, February 7, 2020, http://dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2020/Feb-07/500709-germanos-to-resign-from-judicial-duties.ashx (accessed July 22, 2021).

[285] See Annex 2, May 28, 2020 Head of State Security at Beirut Port Report.

[286] Ibid.

[287] Ibid.

[288] Ibid.

[289] Ibid.

[290] See Annex 2, June 4, 2020 Request from State Security to the Port Authority of Beirut.

[291] Ibid.

[292] Human Rights Watch interview with Major General Tony Saliba, Director General of State Security, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021.

[293] Human Rights Watch interview with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[294] Human Rights Watch interview with Major General Tony Saliba, Director General of State Security, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021.

[295] See Annex 2, July 20, 2020 State Security Report.

[296] Ibid.; See Annex 2, May 28, 2020 Head of State Security at Beirut Port Report.

[297] See Annex 2, July 20, 2020 State Security Report.                 

[298] Human Rights Watch interview with Major General Tony Saliba, Director General of State Security, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021.

[299] Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining, “AMAT Insights: Reducing Risks Associated with Ammonium Nitrate,” p. 13.

[300] Timour Azhari, “How Beirut firefighters were sent into disaster,” Al Jazeera, August 8, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/8/8/how-beirut-firefighters-were-sent-into-disaster (accessed July 21, 2021).

[301] “ترك اللواء صليبا رهن التحقيق باشارة من المحامي العام التمييزي,” NNA, August 10, 2020, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/show-news/495961/ (accessed June 25, 2021); “القاضي الخوري يستمع الى إفادة اللواء صليبا حول انفجار المرفأ,” NNA, August 10, 2020, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/show-news/495877/ (accessed June 25, 2021).

[302] “إنفجار المرفأ: استدعاء وزير سابق كمدعى عليه,” Tayyar, February 12, 2021, https://www.tayyar.org/News/Lebanon/399699/(accessed June 25, 2021) ; “إستجواب صليبا لم يتمّ وصوّان رفع يده,” Mahkama, December 17, 2020, https://bit.ly/3xYYJ0V (accessed June 25, 2021); Maroun Nassif, “تفاصيل الساعات الثلاث بين القاضي صوان واللواء صليبا,” El Nashra, December 10, 2020, https://bit.ly/3iPeVf5 (accessed June 25, 2021); “الطائفة السنية تتكتَّل لحماية "الشّبح" الذي دمَّر بيروت,” Lebanon Debate, December 15, 2020, https://www.lebanondebate.com/news/510890 (accessed June 25, 2021).

[303] Maroun Nassif, “تفاصيل الساعات الثلاث بين القاضي صوان واللواء صليبا,” El Nashra, December 10, 2020, https://bit.ly/3iPeVf5 (accessed June 25, 2021); “الطائفة السنية تتكتَّل لحماية "الشّبح" الذي دمَّر بيروت,” Lebanon Debate, December 15, 2020, https://www.lebanondebate.com/news/510890 (accessed June 25, 2021).

[304] Radwan Murtada, “صليبا لن يحضر جلسة الاستجواب خشية توقيفه | التحقيق في انفجار المرفأ: هل يُنحّى المحقق العدلي؟,” Al-Akhbar, December 17, 2020, https://al-akhbar.com/Politics/297777 (accessed July 25, 2021).

[305] “Sawan suspends investigations into Beirut Port explosion case for ten days,” LBC International, December 17, 2020, https://www.lbcgroup.tv/news/d/news-bulletin-reports/565798/sawan-suspends-investigations-into-beirut-port-exp/en (accessed June 25, 2021).

[306] “القاضي بيطار يبدأ بملاحقة سياسيين وأمنيين وعسكريين في قضية انفجار مرفأ بيروت,” NNA.

[307] Lebanese Employee Law, Decree No. 112, June 12, 1959, http://www.legiliban.ul.edu.lb/LawView.aspx?opt=view&LawID=179571 (accessed July 27, 2021), art. 61.

[308] “تقاذف المسؤوليات بخصوص منح إذن ملاحقة صليبا: “ابعدوا عنا كأس الحصانات,” Legal Agenda, July 17, 2021, https://legal-agenda.com/%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%B0%D9%81-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%A4%D9%88%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D8%AE%D8%B5%D9%88%D8%B5-%D9%85%D9%86%D8%AD-%D8%A5%D8%B0%D9%86-%D9%85%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AD%D9%82%D8%A9/ (accessed July 22, 2021).

[309] The Grand Serail’s Official Twitter Account, July 29, 2021, https://twitter.com/grandserail/status/1420645657799536640 (accessed July 29, 2021).

[310] “تقاذف المسؤوليات بخصوص منح إذن ملاحقة صليبا: “ابعدوا عنا كأس الحصانات,” Legal Agenda, July 17, 2021; Nizar Saghieh’s Twitter Account, July 29, 2021, https://twitter.com/grandserail/status/1420645659603001344/retweets/with_comments (accessed July 29, 2021). 

[311] Lebanese General Directorate of General Security webpage, Historical Overview, https://www.general-security.gov.lb/en/posts/2 (accessed July 25, 2021); Ministry of the Interior webpage, organization chart, http://www.interior.gov.lb/hierarchie.aspx (accessed July 25, 2021).

[312] “مؤتمر صحفي للوزير السابق نهاد المشنوق حول ملف نيترات الامونيوم في حادثة مرفأ بيروت,” July 23, 2021, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDqmyhmaV74 (accessed July 25, 2021), at 5:12; USAID, “Middle East Economic Growth Best Practices Project: Port of Beirut Assessment,” February 15, 2020, p. 138. See also Annex 5, Letter from Abbas Ibrahim.

[313] Human Rights Watch interview with confidential source, by phone, June 9, 2021.

[314] See Annex 2, May 13, 2014 General Security Office’s Information Report; See also Annex 5, Letter from Abbas Ibrahim

[315] Ibid.

[316] See Annex 5, Letter from Abbas Ibrahim; See Annex 2, May 16, 2014 Letter from the Director General of General Security; See also “"الجديد" تحصل على بريد سري أرسله اللواء عباس ابراهيم عن حجز الباخرة روسوس في مرفأ بيروت,” July 3, 2021, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylregfaHnDc (accessed July 21, 2021); Radwan Murtada, “المحقق العدلي يوقف ضباط مرفأ بيروت: ما هي المسؤوليات التي حمّلهم إياها؟,” Al-Akhbar, September 3, 2020, https://al-akhbar.com/Politics/293380 (accessed July 22, 2021).

[317] “مؤتمر صحفي للوزير السابق نهاد المشنوق حول ملف نيترات الامونيوم في حادثة مرفأ بيروت,” July 23, 2021, YouTube, at 6:25; Tala Ramadan, “MP and former Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk reveals ‘the only report’ he claims to have received regarding the shipment that brought the ammonium nitrate that exploded at the port on Aug. 4 to Beirut,” L’Orient Today, July 23, 2021, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1269272/mp-and-former-interior-minister-nouhad-machnouk-reveals-the-only-report-he-claims-to-have-received-regarding-the-shipment-that-brought-the-ammonium-ni.html (accessed July 25, 2021); Nohad Machnouk’s Twitter page, https://twitter.com/NohadMachnouk/status/1418562271505174531 (accessed July 25, 2021). See also Annex 5, Letter from Nohad Machnouk.

[318] “مؤتمر صحفي للوزير السابق نهاد المشنوق حول ملف نيترات الامونيوم في حادثة مرفأ بيروت,” July 23, 2021, YouTube, at 3:53 and 4:00.

[319] Ibid., at 4:50.

[320] See Annex 5, Letter from Nohad Machnouk.

[321] Ibid.

[322] Ibid.

[323] See Annex 2, October 23, 2014 General Security Office’s Information Report; November 14, 2014 General Security Office’s Information Report; February 22, 2018 General Security Office Information Report; February 7, 2020 General Security Office’s Information Report; June 9, 2020 General Security Office Information Report.

[324] Human Rights Watch interview with confidential source 2, by phone, June 9, 2021.

[325] See Annex 2, May 28, 2020 Head of State Security at Beirut Port Report;.See Annex 2, October 23, 2014 General Security Office’s Information Report; November 14, 2014 General Security Office’s Information Report; February 22, 2018 General Security Office Information Report; February 7, 2020 General Security Office’s Information Report; June 9, 2020 General Security Office Information Report.

[326] See Annex 2, October 23, 2014 General Security Office’s Information Report; November 14, 2014 General Security Office’s Information Report.

[327] See Annex 2, February 7, 2020 General Security Office’s Information Report; June 9, 2020 General Security Office Information Report.

[328] See Annex 5, Letter from Abbas Ibrahim.

[329] Ibid.

[330] Ibid.

[331] Ibid.

[332] Ibid.

[333] Ibid.

[334] Ibid.

[335] “معلوف عن مذكرة التوقيف بحق جوزيف النداف: حذّر من خطورة نترات الأمونيوم المكدسة بالعنبر 12,” El Nashra, September 1, 2020, https://www.elnashra.com/news/show/1442826/%D9%85%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%88%D9%81-%D9%85%D8%B0%D9%83%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D9%88%D9%82%D9%8A%D9%81-%D8%A8%D8%AD%D9%82-%D8%AC%D9%88%D8%B2%D9%8A%D9%81-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%81:-%D8%AD%D8%B0%D9%91%D8%B1-%D8%AE%D8%B7%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D9%86 (accessed July 25, 2021).

[336] “Judge Bitar releases six people held for Beirut blast,” The Daily Star Lebanon, April 15, 2021, https://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2021/Apr-15/519361-judge-bitar-releases-six-people-held-for-beirut-blast.ashx (accessed June 22, 2021); “تخلية فياض والحاج في ملف المرفأ,” NNA, July 2, 202, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/show-news/552629/nna-leb.gov.lb (accessed July 6, 2021).

[337] “القاضي بيطار يبدأ بملاحقة سياسيين وأمنيين وعسكريين في قضية انفجار مرفأ بيروت,” NNA.

[338] Ibid. 

[339] Lebanese Employee Law, Decree No. 112, June 12, 1959, art. 61.

[340] “Lebanese minister denies request to quiz security chief over Beirut blast,” Reuters, July 9, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanon-interior-minister-rejects-request-question-security-chief-over-beirut-2021-07-09/ (accessed July 21, 2021).

[341] Lebanese Employee Law, Decree No. 112, June 12, 1959, art. 61. 

[342] “عويدات يتنحّى عن ملفّ انفجار المرفأ,” Mahkama, December 14, 2020; Al Jadeed, “النيابة العامة اللبنانية : القاضي عويدات لم يتولَ البتّ بالخلاف حول الإذن بملاحقة اللواء إبراهيم”, You Tube, July 21, 2021; The Public Prosecutor’s Twitter Page, July 21, 2021, https://twitter.com/ProsecutorGenLB/status/1417853711716585484 (accessed on July 29, 2021).

[343] Nader Fawz, “السلطة تُسقط التحقيق وتحاصر البيطار: لا ملاحقة لابراهيم وصليبا,” Al Modon, July 26, 2021,  https://www.almodon.com/politics/2021/7/26/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B3%D9%82%D8%B7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AD%D9%82%D9%8A%D9%82-%D9%88%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%84%D8%A7-%D9%85%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AD%D9%82%D8%A9-%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%87%D9%8A%D9%85-%D9%88%D8%B5%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A8%D8%A7 (accessed on July 28, 2021).

[344] Human Rights Watch interview with Cassation Attorney General Ghassan Khoury, by phone, July 29, 2021.

[345] Nizar Saghieh’s Twitter page, July 27, 2021, https://twitter.com/nsaghieh/status/1420098373181444103 (accessed July 29, 2021).

[346] Ibid. See also Lebanese Employee Law, Decree No. 112, June 12, 1959, art. 61.

[347] “مؤتمر صحفي للوزير السابق نهاد المشنوق حول ملف نيترات الامونيوم في حادثة مرفأ بيروت,” July 23, 2021, YouTube, at 11:36, 15:39, 20:21, and 23:05.

[348] Ibid., at 9:38.

[349] See for example “Interior Minister Chairs Central Security Council’s Meeting, Talks Cooperation with UNDP,” NNA, September 23, 2019, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/en/show-news/107850/nna-leb.gov.lb/nna-leb.gov.lb (accessed July 25, 2021); “Lebanon Central Security Council demands strict sentences against random gunfire suspects,” Daily Star, May 11, 2017, https://dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2017/May-11/405434-lebanon-central-security-council-demands-strict-sentences-against-random-gunfire-suspects.ashx (accessed July 25, 2021).

[350] “مؤتمر صحفي للوزير السابق نهاد المشنوق حول ملف نيترات الامونيوم في حادثة مرفأ بيروت,” July 23, 2021, YouTube, at 7:20

[351] Ibid., at 7:13.

[352] “المجلس الأعلى للدفاع,” Lebanese Presidency webpage, https://www.presidency.gov.lb/Arabic/HigherDefenseCouncil/Pages/HigherDefenseCouncil.aspx (accessed June 25, 2021).

[353] See for example “Sleiman Chairs Higher Defense Council Meeting, Meets Mikati,” NNA, February 27, 2013, http://www.nna-leb.gov.lb/en/show-news/6029/nna-leb.gov.lb/fr (accessed July 25, 2021); “Aoun Chairs Higher Defense Council’s Meeting, Stresses Necessity of Strengthening Measures to Combat Smuggling,” NNA, May 26, 2021, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/en/show-news/128154/nna-leb.gov.lb/en (accessed July 25, 2021); “المجلس الاعلى للدفاع قرر ضبط الحدود واقفال المعابر غير الشرعية ووضع خطة لاستحداث مراكز مراقبة عسكرية وامنية وجمركية,” May 13, 2020, PCM webpage, http://www.pcm.gov.lb/arabic/subpg.aspx?pageid=17528 (accessed July 25, 2021);

[354] “المجلس الأعلى للدفاع,” Lebanese Presidency webpage, https://www.presidency.gov.lb/Arabic/HigherDefenseCouncil/Pages/HigherDefenseCouncil.aspx (accessed June 25, 2021).

[355] Ibid.

[356] “A Brief History,” Lebanese General Directorate of State Security webpage, https://bit.ly/3eKa3q2 (accessed June 22, 2021).

[357] Human Rights Watch interview with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[358] Ibid.

[359] Human Rights Watch interview with Major General Tony Saliba, Director General of State Security, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021.

[360] Human Rights Watch interview with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[361] Ibid.

[362] Human Rights Watch interview with Major General Tony Saliba, Director General of State Security, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021; See Annex 2, June 3, 2020 WhatsApp Message from the Head of the State Security Office in the Port to the Head of the Ministerial Guard with an image of the Rhosus’s Entry Form Noting Ammonium Nitrate is Explosive.

[363] See Annex 2, June 3, 2020 WhatsApp Message from the Head of the State Security Office in the Port to the Head of the Ministerial Guard with an image of the Rhosus’s Entry Form Noting Ammonium Nitrate is Explosive.

[364] Human Rights Watch interview with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[365] Human Rights Watch interview with Major General Tony Saliba, Director General of State Security, Beirut, Lebanon, June 16, 2021.

[366] Imad Marmal, “هل تمّ تضليل دياب؟ وكيف طارت زيارة المرفأ؟,” Al Joumhouria, August 14, 2020, https://bit.ly/3hROu9c (accessed June 24, 2021); “Hassan Diab and the port explosion: what does he know?” May 29, 2021, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c099Hy31wPA at 02:17-3:02(accessed June 24, 2021); Radwan Murtada, “توزيع أوّليّ للمسؤوليات عن انفجار المرفأ: هؤلاء كانوا يعلمون,” Al Akhbar, August 12, 2020, https://al-akhbar.com/Politics/292583 (accessed June 24, 2021).

[367] See Annex 2, July 20, 2020 State Security Report.

[368] Lebanese Presidency’s Twitter page, December 12, 2020, https://twitter.com/LBpresidency/status/1337722267967647749 (accessed June 24, 2021).

[369] Human Rights Watch interview with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[370] Ibid.

[371] See Annex 2, July 20, 2020 State Security Report; May 28, 2020 Head of State Security at Beirut Port Report.

[372] See Annex 2, July 20, 2020 State Security Report.

[373] Ibid.

[374] See Annex 5, Letter from Abbas Ibrahim; see also “"الجديد" تحصل على بريد سري أرسله اللواء عباس ابراهيم عن حجز الباخرة روسوس في مرفأ بيروت,” July 3, 2021, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylregfaHnDc (accessed July 21, 2021); Radwan Murtada, “المحقق العدلي يوقف ضباط مرفأ بيروت: ما هي المسؤوليات التي حمّلهم إياها؟,” Al-Akhbar; See Annex 2, May 16, 2014 Letter from the Director General of General Security.

[375] See Annex 5, Letter from Tammam Salam to Human Rights Watch.

[376] See Annex 5, Letter from Najib Mikati to Human Rights Watch.

[377] Human Rights Watch interview with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[378] Ibid.

[379] “المجلس الاعلى للدفاع انهى بإعادة تمديد حالة التعبئة العامة لغاية الخامس من تموز والابقاء على الأنشطة الاقتصادية التي سمح لها بإعادة العمل تدريجياً مع التشدد في قمع المخالفات,” Presidency of Lebanon’s website, June 4, 2020, http://www.presidency.gov.lb/Arabic/HigherDefenseCouncil/Pages/Details.aspx?nid=25990 (accessed July 25, 2021).

[380] Human Rights Watch interview with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[381] Ibid.

[382] Major General Mahmoud al-Asmar’s Facebook page, Photo of Letter to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and Ministry of Justice, August 8, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/masmarofficial/photos/a.2425079864192687/3515251855175477/ (accessed July 21, 2021).

[383] Human Rights Watch interview with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[384] Ibid.

[385] See Annex 5, Letter from Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab to Human Rights Watch.

[386] See Annex 2, July 20, 2020 State Security Report.  

[387]  Correspondence from Prime Minister Diab’s Advisor received on July 24, 2021 on file with Human Rights Watch said that he did read the report but did not go through its “technicalities” because he is not an explosives expert. See also, Correspondence from Prime Minister Diab’s Advisor received on July 31, 2021 on file with Human Rights Watch.

[388] Human Rights Watch interview with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[389] Ibid.

[390] Lebanese Presidency’s Twitter page, December 12, 2020, https://twitter.com/LBpresidency/status/1337722333365153792 (accessed June 24, 2021) (translated from Arabic).

[391] Zeina Karam, “Lebanon president says he knew of explosive chemicals at port in July,” PBS, August 7, 2020, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/lebanon-president-says-he-knew-of-explosive-chemicals-at-port-in-july (accessed June 24, 2021).

[392] Bel Trew, “Beirut explosions: Lebanon’s president admits knowing about stockpile nearly three weeks ago,” The Independent, August 7, 2020, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/beirut-explosion-lebanon-stockpile-president-aoun-ammonium-nitrate-a9660596.html (accessed June 24, 2021).

[393] “الرئيس ميشال عون لـ ريكاردو كرم : لا أطلع على مجريات التحقيق بحادثة المرفأ فالتحقيقات سرية,” August 30, 2020, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VxZdrS3jXs at 48:05-48:53 (accessed June 24, 2021).  

[394] “Aoun in an interview upon Greater Lebanon centenary: Sectarian system in Lebanon established limits for action,” NNA, August 31, 2020, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/en/show-news/119518/nna-leb.gov.lb/en (accessed June 24, 2021).

[395] Ibid.

[396] Major General Mahmoud al-Asmar’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/masmarofficial/posts/3482775661756430 (accessed July 21, 2021). 

[397] اللواء الركن محمود الأسمر : وصلنا تقرير أمن الدولة عن وجود النيترات في المرفأ في 20 تموز الماضي,” January 17, 2021, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExZdPCdpZ2U (accessed June 23, 2021) at 14:30-14:35.

[398] Ibid., at 10:43-11:23.

[399] “ كيف برر اللواء محمود الاسمر للجديد عدم وضعه ملف الامونيوم نيترات على جدول اعمال المجلس الاعلى,” August 26, 2020, video clip, YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjWcZLKt0_g (accessed July 28, 2021), at 00:00-1:38 (accessed June 23, 2021).

[400] اللواء الركن محمود الأسمر : وصلنا تقرير أمن الدولة عن وجود النيترات في المرفأ في 20 تموز الماضي,” January 17, 2021, YouTube, at 11:33-12:55.

[401] Human Rights Watch interview with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[402] “من حذف بند متفجرات المرفأ عن جدول أعمال المجلس الاعلى للدفاع. فتش عن دور اللواء الاسمر,” August 15, 2020, video clip, YouTube,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQPnW7A1VTo (accessed June 23, 2021).

[403] Youssef Diab, “Lebanese Judges Could be Summoned for Questioning over Port Blast,” Asharq Al-Awsat, September 16, 2020, https://english.aawsat.com/home/article/2511396/lebanese-judges-could-be-summoned-questioning-over-port-blast (accessed June 23, 2021); “خبراء المتفجرات الأجانب يغادرون لبنان بعينات من موقع الانفجار للتحليل,” Asharq Al Aawsat, September 17, 2020, https://bit.ly/2W1aupr (accessed July 9, 2021).

[404] “من حذف بند متفجرات المرفأ عن جدول أعمال المجلس الاعلى للدفاع فتش عن دور اللواء الاسمر,” August 15, 2020, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQPnW7A1VTo (accessed June 23, 2021).

[405] Waseem Saifeddin, “Lebanese premier charged over Beirut port blast,” Andalou Agency, December 10, 2020, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/lebanese-premier-charged-over-beirut-port-blast/2072768 (accessed June 23, 2021).

[406] “Charges in Beirut blast investigation hit political pushback,” Reuters, December 11, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/lebanon-crisis-blast-idUSKBN28L13C (accessed July 6, 2021).

[407] Sarah Dadouch and Nader Durgham, “Six months after massive Beirut explosion, official investigation has been upended,” Washington Post, February 21, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/beirut-explosion-blast-investigation/2021/02/20/632f75a6-72ba-11eb-8651-6d3091eac63f_story.html (accessed June 22, 2021); Najia Houssari, “Beirut blast investigation falters as judge removed from case,” Arab News, February 18, 2021, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1811686/middle-east (accessed July 6, 2021).

[408] Human Rights Watch interview with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[409] Tess Graham and Elena Hodges, “ ‘Red Lines’ in Beirut Blast Investigation: How Exactly Lebanese Politicians Escape Accountability,” Just Security, March 9, 2021, https://www.justsecurity.org/75252/red-lines-in-beirut-blast-investigation-how-exactly-lebanese-politicians-escape-accountability/ (accessed June 23, 2021).

[410] Lebanese Constitution, ratified 1926, with amendments through 2004, https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Lebanon_2004.pdf?lang=en (accessed July 22, 2021), art. 60.

[411] “Beirut Blast: Who Knew What, When?,” Barron’s, August 12, 2020, https://www.barrons.com/news/beirut-blast-who-knew-what-when-01597245304 (accessed June 23, 2021).

[412] Marie Jo Sader, “ What started the fateful fire at Beirut port on Aug. 4? An investigation into the leading theories,” L'Orient-Today, April 26, 2021, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1259921/what-started-the-fateful-fire-at-beirut-port-on-aug-4-an-investigation-into-the-leading-theories.html (accessed June 22, 2021). 

[413] Ibid.

[414] Samaneh Moafi et al, “The Beirut Port Investigation,” Forensic Architecture report, at 8:05

[415] Sader, “ What started the fateful fire at Beirut port on Aug. 4? An investigation into the leading theories,” L'Orient-Today.

[416] Sader, “ What started the fateful fire at Beirut port on Aug. 4? An investigation into the leading theories,” L'Orient-Today.

[417] “Beirut explosion: PM and president knew about 2,750 tonnes of chemicals last month,” Al Arabiya, August 10, 2020, https://english.alarabiya.net/2020/08/11/Beirut-explosion-PM-and-president-knew-about-2-750-tonnes-of-chemicals-last-month (accessed June 23, 2021); “Beirut blast: who knew what, when?,” RFI.

[418] Samia Nakhoul, “Initial investigations point to negligence as cause of Beirut blast, source says,” Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-security-blast-warehouse-idUSKCN2511G7 (accessed June 23, 2021).

[419] “FBI says it has reached no conclusion on cause of Beirut blast,” Reuters, October 13, 2020, https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-lebanon-crisis-fbi-idUKKBN26Y31H (accessed July 6, 2021); “Judge probing Beirut blast receives FBI’s investigation,” ABC News, October 13, 2020, https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/judge-probing-beirut-blast-receives-fbis-investigation-73580972 73580972 (accessed July 6, 2021).

[420] Moafi et al, “The Beirut Port Investigation,” Forensic Architecture report, at 0:39.

[421] Ibid.; Sader, “ What started the fateful fire at Beirut port on Aug. 4? An investigation into the leading theories,” L'Orient-Today.

[422] Moafi et al, “The Beirut Port Investigation,” Forensic Architecture report, at 5:41.

[423] Ibid., at 5:15.

[424] Ibid., at 2:15.

[425] Ibid.

[426] Nader Fawz, “القاضي البيطار لـ"المدن": استدعاء السياسيين بعد إنهاء التحقيق التقني”, Al-Mondon, June, 3, 2021, https://bit.ly/3kJ02gS (accessed July 22, 2021).

[427] Sader, “What started the fateful fire at Beirut port on Aug. 4? An investigation into the leading theories,” L'Orient-Today ; “Israel not involved in Beirut blast, Israeli official says,” Reuters, August 4, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-security-blast-israel/israel-not-involved-in-beirut-blast-israeli-official-says-idUSKCN2502C2 (accessed July 23, 2021).

[428] “Which Theory Behind The Beirut Port Explosion is Correct?,” Albawaba ¸June 6, 2021 ,  https://www.albawaba.com/news/which-theory-behind-beirut-port-explosion-correct-1431607 (accessed July 23, 2021).

[429] Ibid.; Nader Fawz, “القاضي البيطار لـ"المدن": استدعاء السياسيين بعد إنهاء التحقيق التقني”, Al-Mondon, June, 3, 2021, https://bit.ly/3kJ02gS (accessed July 22, 2021).

[430] Sader, “What started the fateful fire at Beirut port on Aug. 4? An investigation into the leading theories,” L'Orient-Today.

[431] Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, “A Hidden Tycoon, African Explosive, and a Loan from a Notorious Bank: Questionable Connections Surround Bierut Explosion Shipment.”

[432] Human Rights Watch interview with Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[433] Hubbard, Abi-Habib, El-Naggar, McCann, Singhvi, Glanz, and White, “How a Massive Bomb Came Together in Beirut’s Port,” New York Times.

[434] Human Rights Watch interview with source, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[435] Human Rights Watch interview with source, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021.

[436] Samia Nakhoul and Imad Creidi, “Months after Beirut blast, victims await answers,” Reuters, December 24, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-crisis-blast-victims-idUSKBN28Y0R6 (accessed July 25, 2021).

[437] Human Rights Watch interview with Paul Naggear, via phone, July 25, 2021.

[438] Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining, “AMAT Insights: Reducing Risks Associated with Ammonium Nitrate,” p. 16.

[439] Human Rights Watch interview with Karlin Hitti, Qartaba, Lebanon, July 14, 2021.

[440] Ibid.

[441] Abbie Cheeseman, “After Beirut explosion, Lebanese volunteers flock to help clean up,” NBC, August 12, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/after-beirut-explosion-lebanese-volunteers-flock-help-clean-n1236403 (accessed July 22, 2021); Sarah Dadouch, “They return to homes damaged in Beirut’s blast to discover someone has already cleaned them,” Washintgton Post, August 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/they-return-to-homes-damaged-in-beiruts-blast-to-discover-someone-has-already-cleaned-them/2020/08/10/85c3bda0-db04-11ea-b4f1-25b762cdbbf4_story.html (accessed July 22, 2021).

[442] Human Rights Watch interview with Paul Naggear, via phone, July 25, 2021.

[443] Human Rights Watch interview with Mirna Habboush, Beirut, Lebanon, July 19, 2021.

[444] Ibid.

[445] “Lebanon government resigns as anger mounts,” Financial Times, August 10, 2020, https://www.ft.com/content/1341b818-03ac-4f57-88eb-ddf4ef252685 (accessed June 22, 2021).

[446] “Lebanon Speaker Nabih Berri urges change to confessional system,” Ahram online, August 31, 2020, https://english.ahram.org.eg/News/378995.aspx (accessed June 22, 2021).

[447] “التحقيق قي مجزرة المرفأ : معركة ضد فنون الافلات من العقاب,” Ibrahim Hoteit, contribution to panel discussion July 26, 2021, attended by Human Rights Watch researcher, https://www.facebook.com/Justice4Beirut/videos/215981350421660 (accessed on July 29, 2021).

[448] List of those killed from the Republic of Lebanon Ministry of Health, https://www.moph.gov.lb/userfiles/files/News/Final%20Death%20List%203-9-2020.pdf; “Beirut blast death toll includes dozens of refugees, emergency response ramps up,” UNHCR briefing note, August 11, 2020, https://www.unhcr.org/uk/news/briefing/2020/8/5f32469f4/beirut-blastdeath-toll-includes-dozens-refugees-emergency-response-ramps.html (accessed June 22, 2021); “UNICEF: At Least 3 Children Dead, 1,000 Injured, in Beirut Explosions,” VOA News, August 11, 2020, https://www.voanews.com/middle-east/unicef-least-3-children-dead-1000-injured-beirut-explosions (accessed June 22, 2021); Alaa Abolenin, “Foreigners among victims of Beirut explosion,” Andalou Agency, August 5, 2020, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/foreigners-among-victims-of-beirut-explosion/1932054 (accessed June 22, 2021); Nadda Osman, “Beirut explosion: Who were the victims of the catastrophic blast?,” Middle Easy Eye, August 11, 2020, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/beirut-explosion-names-and-faces-victims (accessed June 22, 2021).

[449] Moafi et al, “The Beirut Port Investigation,” Forensic Architecture report; Arwa Ibrahim, “Scarred for life: Beirut blast victims and life-altering wounds,” Al Jazeera, August 25, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/25/scarred-for-life-beirut-blast-victims-and-life-altering-wounds/ (accessed June 22, 2021); Legal Action Worldwide, “Report on Behalf of Victims of the Beirut Explosion of 4 August 2020,” November 13, 2020, http://www.legalactionworldwide.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/REPORT.pdf (accessed July 9, 2021), p. 4; “Beirut explosion: Tens of thousands of new homeless face winter crisis,” Norwegian Refugee Council press release, August 31, 2020, https://www.nrc.no/news/2020/august/beirut-explosion-tens-of-thousands-of-new-homeless-face-winter-crisis/ (accessed June 22, 2021).

[450] “UNICEF: At Least 3 Children Dead, 1,000 Injured, in Beirut Explosions,” VOA News, August 11, 2020, https://www.voanews.com/middle-east/unicef-least-3-children-dead-1000-injured-beirut-explosions (accessed June 22, 2021)

[451] “80,000 children displaced due to Beirut explosions – UNICEF,” UNICEF press release, August 6, 2020, https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/80000-children-displaced-due-beirut-explosions-unicef (accessed June 22, 2021)

[452] UNESCO, “Fact Sheet on Schools Rehabilitation in Beirut,” September 5, 2020, https://en.unesco.org/news/fact-sheet-schools-rehabilitation-beirut-september-5-2020 (accessed June 22, 2021); Louisa Loveluck, Loveday Morris, and Erin Cunningham, “Half of Beirut’s health-care centers are out of commission after the explosion,” Washington Post, August 12, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/half-of-beiruts-health-care-centers-are-out-of-commission-after-the-explosion/2020/08/12/8e52b552-dca8-11ea-b4f1-25b762cdbbf4_story.html (accessed June 22, 2021); World Bank Group, “Beirut Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment,” August 2020, https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/650091598854062180/Beirut-Rapid-Damage-and-Needs-Assessment.pdf (accessed June 22, 2021).

[453] World Bank Group, “Beirut Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment,” August 2020, p. 31.

[454] “Decisive Action and Change Needed to Reform and Rebuild a Better Lebanon,” World Bank press release, August 31, 2020, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/08/30/beirut-explosion-decisive-action-and-change-needed-to-reform-and-rebuild-a-better-lebanon (accessed June 22, 2021).

[455] Federica Versea, “Beirut: Children’s Rights Threatened by an Environmental Disaster,” Humanium, October 12, 2020, https://www.humanium.org/en/beirut-childrens-rights-threatened-by-an-environmental-disaster/ (accessed July 25, 2021).

[456] Sajid ur Rehman, Rida Ahmed, Kun Ma, Shuai Xu, Muhammad Adnan Aslam, Hong Bi, Jianguo Liu, Junfeng Wang, “Ammonium nitrate is a risk for environment: A case study of Beirut (Lebanon) chemical explosion and the effects on environment,” Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety,

Volume 210 (2021), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2020.111834, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0147651320316705 (accessed July 21, 2021); Abdallah, Wael et al. “Beirut blast: creating our expectations through heartbreak,” Future science OA vol. 7,2 FSO653, November 9, 2020, doi:10.2144/fsoa-2020-0171, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7787176/ (accessed July 21, 20210.  

[457] Tullis, Paul, “How Fertilizer Is Making Climate Change Worse,” Bloomberg Green, September 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-10/synthetic-fertilizer-ammonium-nitrate-makes-climate-change-worse (accessed July 21, 2021).

[458] Haitao Wang, Sarah Köbke, Klaus Dittert, “Use of urease and nitrification inhibitors to reduce gaseous nitrogen emissions from fertilizers containing ammonium nitrate and urea,” Global Ecology and Conservation, Volume 22 (2020) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2020.e00933, available via: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2351989419306961; Orellana, Marcos, “ Beyond the Beirut explosion: The many dangers of ammonium nitrate,” Al Jazeera, February 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2021/2/4/beyond-the-beirut-explosion-the-dangers-of-ammonium-nitrate-use (accessed July 25, 2021).

[459] “Beirut facing acute environmental crisis, warns UN energy specialist,” United Nations news release, September 1, 2020, https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/09/1071462 (accessed July 21, 2021).

[460] Ibid.  

[461] In 2018, the Human Rights Committee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights noted its concern about the undue political pressure exerted on the judiciary. See, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force March 23, 1976, http://docstore.ohchr.org/SelfServices/FilesHandler.ashx?enc=6QkG1d%2FPPRiCAqhKb7yhst0EqMtyqQ%2BAVhHZipQtX7YClXY%2BNLLw9Rz7B7DByyyVaC60%2B1n%2BtiD%2F0TvvppjSXeM3q43F5g5aAG58UffTRjtRD4JA%2BK9D9FANv2759gxx (accessed July 23, 2021), para. 41.

[462] Lebanon’s Code of Criminal Procedure, Act No, 328, August 7, 2001, https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/89874/103351/F-330451556/LBN89874%20Eng.pdf (accessed July 23, 2021), art. 355.

[463] Ibid., art. 360.

[464] Ibid., art, 357.

[465] International Commission of Jurists, “The Lebanese High Judicial Council in Light of International Standards,” February 2017, https://www.icj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lebanon-Memo-re-HJC-Advocacy-Analysis-Brief-2017-ENG.pdf (accessed July 23, 2021), p. 4, 9, 10, 11.

[466] “Lebanon: No Justice 6 Months After Blast,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 13, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/03/lebanon-no-justice-6-months-after-blast# (accessed June 22, 2021).

[467] Nizar Saghieh, “Twelve Bad Signs at the Outset of the Beirut Massacre Investigation,” Legal Agenda, September 28, 2020, https://english.legal-agenda.com/twelve-bad-signs-at-the-outset-of-the-beirut-massacre-investigation/ (accessed June 22, 2021).

[468] The 25 people who were detained are: Badri Daher, Shafic Merhi, Nehme Brax, Hanna Fares, Khaled al-Khatib, Elias Chahine, Abdel Hafiz El-Kayssi, Hassan Koraytem, Mohammad al-Mawla, Mohammad al-Awf, Samer Raad, Moustapha Farchoukh, Michel Nahoul, Mikhael Murr, Johnny Gerges, Wajdi al-Karkafi, Army Brig. Gen. Antoine Salloum, General Security Maj. Daoud Fayad, General Security Maj. Charbel Fawaz, State Security Maj. Joseph Naddaf, Nayla al-Hage, Salim Chebli, Ahmad al-Rajab, Khodr al-Ahmad, and Raed al-Ahmad. Sader, “Justice served? 25 people were detained after the port explosion, but don’t know the charges against them,” L’Orient Today; “A Legal Guide for Victims of the Beirut Port Blast of August 4, 2020,” Legal Agenda, March 2021, https://english.legal-agenda.com/wp-content/uploads/LA_Legal-Guide-Blast_Eng.pdf (accessed July 23, 2021), p. 20.

[469] The six released on April 15, 2021 are: Elias Chahine, Mikhael al-Murr, Johnny Gerges, General Security Maj. Charbel Fawaz, State Security Maj. Joseph Naddaf, and Khaled al-Khatib (source misspelled the last name). “Judge Bitar releases six people held for Beirut blast,” The Daily Star Lebanon. The two released on July 2, 2021 are: Major Daoud Fayad and Nayla el Hage. “تخلية فياض والحاج في ملف المرفأ,” NNA, July 2, 202, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/show-news/552629/nna-leb.gov.lb (accessed July 6, 2021).

[470] Sader, “Justice served? 25 people were detained after the port explosion, but don’t know the charges against them,” L’Orient Today.

[471] “Lebanon judge wants ministers investigated over port blast,” Daily Star Lebanon, November 25, 2020, https://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2020/Nov-25/514674-lebanon-judge-wants-ministers-investigated-over-port-blast.ashx (accessed June 25, 2021); Ellen Francis and Tom Perry, “Lebanese judge charges PM, ex-ministers over Beirut port blast,” Reuters, December 10, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/lebanon-crisis-blast-idUSKBN28K1KG (accessed on July 25, 2021). See also Annex 2, November 24, 2020 Letter from Former Judicial Investigator to Parliament.

[472] Zeina Karam, “Lebanese PM slams ‘diabolical’ move to charge him over blast,” Associated Press, December 29, 2020, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-beirut-lebanon-explosions-5bcd217639ede5ae0508d92656616cd2 (accessed July 6, 2021); Kareem Chehayeb, “Lebanese MPs accused of Beirut blast ‘cover up’ over trial move,” Al Jazeera, July 21, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/7/21/lebanese-mps-accused-of-beirut-blast-cover-up-over-trial-move (Accessed July 23, 2021).  

[473] Lebanese Judges’ Association Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=621198155485541&id=152231329048895 (accessed June 22, 2021); Nizar Saghieh, “تحقيقات مجزرة مرفأ بيروت: ماذا بعدما دقّت نقابة محامي بيروت ناقوس الخطر؟”, Legal Agenda, November 16, 2020, https://bit.ly/36OJSdH (accessed June 22, 2021).

[474] Lebanese Judges’ Association Facebook page.

[475] Ibid.

[476] Nizar Saghieh, “Lebanon’s Battle Over Ministerial Immunity is Threatened by Impunity Politics,” Legal Agenda, January 18, 2021, https://english.legal-agenda.com/lebanons-battle-over-ministerial-immunity-is-threatened-by-impunity-politics/ (accessed June 22, 2021).

[477] Ellen Francis and Tom Perry, “Lebanese judge charges PM, ex-ministers over Beirut port blast,” Reuters, December 10, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/lebanon-crisis-blast-idUSKBN28K1KG (accessed June 22, 2021).

[478] “Charges in Beirut blast investigation hit political pushback,” Reuters, December 11, 2020; Maysam Rizk, “برّي يرد على صوّان: أين فصل السلطات أيّها «القاضي المذكور»؟”, Al Akhbar, November 27, 2020, https://al-akhbar.com/Politics/296948 (accessed on July 25, 2021).

[479] “PM declines to be questioned in Beirut blast probe, official source says,” Reuters, December 14, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/lebanon-crisis-blast-investigation-int/pm-declines-to-be-questioned-in-beirut-blast-probe-official-source-says-idUSKBN28O17Z (accessed June 22, 2021); Ellen Francis, “Two ex-ministers snub judge after being charged over Beirut blast,” Reuters, December 16, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-crisis-blast-investigation-idUSKBN28Q1GF (accessed June 22, 2021). Youssef Fenianos’ Twitter page, February 17, 2021, https://twitter.com/youssefenianos/status/1362090019276664841 (accessed June 24, 2021).

[480] “صوان علق التحقيقات في ملف انفجار مرفأ بيروت عشرة أيام,” NNA, December 17, 2021, http://nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/show-news/519753/ (accessed July 23, 2021).

[481] Sarah Dadouch and Nader Durgham, “Six months after massive Beirut explosion, official investigation has been upended,” Washington Post; Najia Houssari, “Beirut blast investigation falters as judge removed from case,” Arab News.

[482] “Lebanon appoints new judge to lead Beirut blast investigation: justice minister,” Reuters, February 19, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-lebanon-crisis-blast-idUKKBN2AJ2E3 (accessed June 22, 2021).

[483] “القاضي بيطار يبدأ بملاحقة سياسيين وأمنيين وعسكريين في قضية انفجار مرفأ بيروت,” NNA.

[484] Lebanese Constitution, ratified 1926, with amendments through 2004,), art. 40.

[485] Ibid., art. 69.

[486] “القاضي بيطار يبدأ بملاحقة سياسيين وأمنيين وعسكريين في قضية انفجار مرفأ بيروت,” NNA.

[487] Ibid.

[488] Law Organizing the Profession of Lawyers, No. 8/70 with amendments, https://bba.org.lb/content/uploads/Syndicate/141020111552894~Law%20organizing%20the%20profession%20of%20the%20lawyers%20n.8-70%20and%20its%20amendments.pdf (accessed July 23, 2021), art. 79.

[489] “القاضي بيطار يبدأ بملاحقة سياسيين وأمنيين وعسكريين في قضية انفجار مرفأ بيروت,” NNA.

[490] Lebanese Employee Law, Decree No. 112, June 12, 1959, art. 61.

[491] “Lebanese minister denies request to quiz security chief over Beirut blast,” Reuters, July 9, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanon-interior-minister-rejects-request-question-security-chief-over-beirut-2021-07-09/ (accessed July 21, 2021).

[492] Lebanese Employee Law, Decree No. 112, June 12, 1959, art. 61.  

[493] “عويدات يتنحّى عن ملفّ انفجار المرفأ,” Mahkama, December 14, 2020; Al Jadeed, “النيابة العامة اللبنانية : القاضي عويدات لم يتولَ البتّ بالخلاف حول الإذن بملاحقة اللواء إبراهيم”, YouTube, July 21, 2021; The Public Prosecutor’s Twitter Page, July 21, 2021, https://twitter.com/ProsecutorGenLB/status/1417853711716585484 (accessed on July 29, 2021).

[494] Nader Fawz, “السلطة تُسقط التحقيق وتحاصر البيطار: لا ملاحقة لابراهيم وصليبا,” Al Modon, July 26, 2021,  https://www.almodon.com/politics/2021/7/26/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B3%D9%82%D8%B7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AD%D9%82%D9%8A%D9%82-%D9%88%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%84%D8%A7-%D9%85%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AD%D9%82%D8%A9-%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%87%D9%8A%D9%85-%D9%88%D8%B5%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A8%D8%A7 (accessed on July 28, 2021).

[495] Human Rights Watch interview with Cassation Attorney General Ghassan Khoury, by phone, July 29, 2021.

[496] Nizar Saghieh’s Twitter page, July 27, 2021, https://twitter.com/nsaghieh/status/1420098373181444103 (accessed July 28, 2021).

[497] Ibid. See also Lebanese Employee Law, Decree No. 112, June 12, 1959, art. 61.

[498] “قاذف المسؤوليات بخصوص منح إذن ملاحقة صليبا: “ابعدوا عنا كأس الحصانات“,” Legal Agenda, July 17, 2021.

[499] The Grand Serail’s Official Twitter Account, July 29, 2021, https://twitter.com/grandserail/status/1420645657799536640 (accessed July 29, 2021).

[500] “تقاذف المسؤوليات بخصوص منح إذن ملاحقة صليبا: “ابعدوا عنا كأس الحصانات“,” Legal Agenda, July 17, 2021; Nizar Saghieh’s Twitter Account, July 29, 2021, https://twitter.com/grandserail/status/1420645659603001344/retweets/with_comments (accessed July 29, 2021). 

[501] Nizar Saghieh’s Twitter Account, July 28, 2021, https://twitter.com/nsaghieh/status/1420392443451748353 (accessed on July 28, 2021); Nizar Saghieh’s Twitter Account, July 29, 2021, https://twitter.com/nsaghieh/status/1420706489216475140 (accessed on July 29, 2021).

[502] “لائحة العار: أسماء النواب المتورّطين في تهريب زملائهم من العدالة,” Legal Agenda, July 21, 2021, https://bit.ly/2TBaBYc (accessed July 23, 2021); Kareem Chehayeb, “Lebanese MPs accused of Beirut blast ‘cover up’ over trial move,” Al Jazeera.  

[503] Ibid.

[504] “القاضي بيطار يبدأ بملاحقة سياسيين وأمنيين وعسكريين في قضية انفجار مرفأ بيروت,” NNA.

[505] Human Rights Watch interview with defendants’ lawyer 1, Beirut, Lebanon, June 11, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with defendant’s lawyer 2, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with defendant’s lawyer, by phone, January 28, 2021.

[506] Ibid.

[507] Ibid.

[508] Ibid;

[509] “Judge Bitar releases six people held for Beirut blast,” The Daily Star Lebanon); “القاضي بيطار يبدأ بملاحقة سياسيين وأمنيين وعسكريين في قضية انفجار مرفأ بيروت,” NNA.

[510] Lebanon’s Code of Criminal Procedure, Act No, 328, art. 362 and art. 363.

[511] Lebanon’s Code of Civil Procedure, Legislative Decree No. 90.83, art. 2.

[512] Human Rights Watch interview with defendants’ lawyer 1, Beirut, Lebanon, June 11, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with defendant’s lawyer 2, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with defendant’s lawyer January 28, by phone, 2021; Sarah El Deeb, “ ‘Not like every time’: Beirut blast victims want the truth,” Associated Press, February 4, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-lebanon-crime-assassinations-beirut-dbbca633772c33b88612c075bf258329 (accessed June 22, 2021).

[513] Sarah El Deeb, “ ‘Not like every time’: Beirut blast victims want the truth,” Associated Press.

[514] Human Rights Watch interview with victims’ lawyer, Beirut, Lebanon, July 26, 2021.

[515] Nizar Saghieh, “Bar Association Sounds the Alarm about Beirut Port Investigation: What’s Next?,” Legal Agenda, December 10, 2020, https://english.legal-agenda.com/bar-association-sounds-the-alarm-about-beirut-port-investigation-whats-next/ (accessed June 22, 2021); BBA Lebanon’s Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/bbalebanon/posts/1646657578839531 (accessed July 23, 2021); Nader Fawz, “القاضي البيطار لـ"المدن": استدعاء السياسيين بعد إنهاء التحقيق التقني”; Human Rights Watch interview with defendants’ lawyer 1, Beirut, Lebanon, June 11, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with defendant’s lawyer 2, Beirut, Lebanon, June 8, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with defendant’s lawyer, by phone, January 28, 2021.

[516] Zeina Karam and Hassan Ammar, “ical at Beirut port sows panic after last month’s blast,” Associated Press, September 10, 2020, https://apnews.com/article/lebanon-fires-ap-top-news-middle-east-international-news-81089cc24f6d426751beae56f9aa3c30 (accessed June 22, 2021); Ghazi Balkis, Tamara Qiblawi, and Eliza Mackintosh, “Beirut port ablaze, weeks after massive blast,” CNN, September 10, 2020, https://edition.cnn.com/2020/09/10/middleeast/beirut-port-fire-intl/index.html (accessed June 22, 2021); Joanne Serrieh, “Firefighters extinguish new Beirut port fire, cause remains unknown: Reports,” Al-Arabiya News, September 8, 2020, https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2020/09/08/New-fire-breaks-out-at-Beirut-port-cause-remains-unknown-Reports (accessed June 22, 2021); “نقيب محامي بيروت يدعو صوان إلى التحقيق في حريق المرفأ الأخير,” France 24, September 15, 2020, https://bit.ly/3rst8m4(accessed June 28, 2021).  

[517] “الجديد توثق تهريب مستندات من وزارة الأشغال العامة والنقل بعد حادثة مرفأ بيروت - هادي الأمين,” August 12, 2020, YouTube.

[518] Nakhoul, Francis, and Gregory, “In Beirut port, all of Lebanon’s ills are laid bare,” Reuters.

[519] Michael Skaf’s Twitter page, August 8, 2020, https://twitter.com/mish_skaf/status/1292199557250482176 (accessed July 6, 2021).

[520] Makram Rabah, “What photographer Joe Bejjani’s death says about the dark days to come for Lebanon,” Al Arabiya, December 23, 2020, https://english.alarabiya.net/views/news/middle-east/2020/12/23/What-photographer-Joe-Bejjani-s-death-says-about-the-dark-days-to-come-for-Lebanon (accessed June 23, 2021); Souad Lazkani, “4 Suspicious Deaths and Killings in Lebanon That We Still Have No Answers For,” The 961, December 22, 2020, https://www.the961.com/suspicious-deaths-in-lebanon-with-no-answers/ (accessed June 23, 2021).

[521] Nader Fawz, “قتل العقيد أبو رجيلي.. مسلسل جرائم "جمركية",” Al-Mondon, December 5, 2020, https://bit.ly/2Uy7ErL (accessed July 21, 2021); Souad Lazkani, “4 Suspicious Deaths and Killings in Lebanon That We Still Have No Answers For,” The 961; Souad Lazkani, “Video: Army Photographer Was Just Assassinated Using Silenced Pistols in Front of Daughters,” The 961, December 21, 2020, https://www.the961.com/joseph-bejjani-assassinated-video/ (accessed June 23, 2021); ); Rawad Taha, “Lokman Slim’s assassination adds to a series of recent murders in Lebanon,” Al Arabiya, February 5, 2021, https://english.alarabiya.net/features/2021/02/05/Lokman-Hakim-s-assassination-adds-to-a-series-of-recent-murder-in-Lebanon (accessed June 23, 2021).

[522] Ghada Alsharif, “A man was murdered in broad daylight, shocking the country and sparking calls for a quick investigation,” L’Orient Today, December 21, 2020, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1245775/a-man-was-murdered-in-broad-daylight-shocking-the-country-and-sparking-calls-for-a-quick-investigation.html (accessed July 6, 2021); Makram Rabah, “What photographer Joe Bejjani’s death says about the dark days to come for Lebanon,” Al Arabiya.

[523] Ben Hubbard and Hwaida Saad, “Prominent Lebanese Critic of Hezbollah is Killed,” New York Times, February 4, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/04/world/middleeast/lokman-slim-killed-hezbollah.html (accessed June 23, 2021); Rawad Taha, “Lokman Slim’s assassination adds to a series of recent murders in Lebanon,” Al Arabiya

[524] Stefan Tarnowski, “Confirming the Already Confirmed,” London Review of Books, February 10, 2021, https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2021/february/confirming-the-already-confirmed (accessed June 23, 2021); “Lebanese journalist found shot dead in car,” Reporters Without Borders news release, February 4, 2021, https://rsf.org/en/news/lebanese-journalist-found-shot-dead-car (accessed July 6, 2021).

[525] Fady Noun, “L’assassinat d’un colonel des Douanes à la retraite soulève de nouvelles questions,” L’Orient Le Jour, December 4, 2020, https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1243531/lassassinat-dun-colonel-des-douanes-a-la-retraite-souleve-de-nouvelles-questions.html (accessed July 6, 2021); “A mass for the repose of Joe Bejjani’s sour, six months after his assassination,” LBC International, June 20, 2021, https://www.lbcgroup.tv/news/d/news-bulletin-reports/595893/a-mass-for-the-repose-of-joe-bejjanis-soul-six-mon/en (accessed July 6, 2021); “Saydet el-Jabal demande aux cinq Grands de financer le TSL,” L’Orient Le Jour, June 21, 2021, https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1265848/saydet-el-jabal-demande-aux-cinq-grands-de-financer-le-tsl.html (accessed July 6, 2021); Rawad Taha, “Lokman Slim's assassination adds to a series of recent murders in Lebanon,” Al Arabiya News; Makram Rabah, “What photographer Joe Bejjani’s death says about the dark days to come for Lebanon,” Al Arabiya; Rawad Taha, “Beirut Blast: Mystery over murder of two customs colonels killed three years apart,” Al Arabiya, December 5, 2021, https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2020/12/05/Beirut-Blast-Mystery-over-murder-of-two-customs-colonels-killed-three-years-apart (accessed July 6, 2021); “Lebanese journalist found shot dead in car,” Reporters Without Borders news release.

[526] Nicholas Frakes, “One month on: Lokman Slim assassination investigation yields little results,” Al Arabiya, March 4, 2021, https://english.alarabiya.net/perspective/features/2021/03/04/Lebanon-crisis-One-month-on-Lokman-Slim-assassination-investigation-yields-little-results (accessed July 23, 2021).

[527] David Enders, “In Publisher’s Death, Lebanese See One More Unsolved Murder,” Foreign Policy, February 13, 2021, https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/02/13/assassination-lebanon-lokman-slim-hezbollah/ (accessed July 23, 2021).

[528] See for example, “Lebanon: Judiciary Ignoring 2017 Anti-Torture Law,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 19, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/09/19/lebanon-judiciary-ignoring-2017-anti-torture-law; “Lebanon: Lethal Force Used Against Protesters,” Human Rights Watch news release, August 26, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/26/lebanon-lethal-force-used-against-protesters; Human Rights Watch, Without Protection: How the Lebanese Justice System Fails Migrant Domestic Workers, (New York, 2010), https://www.hrw.org/report/2010/09/16/without-protection/how-lebanese-justice-system-fails-migrant-domestic-workers; Human Rights Watch, “There is a Price to Pay”: The Criminalization of Peaceful Speech in Lebanon, (New York, 2019), https://www.hrw.org/report/2019/11/15/there-price-pay/criminalization-peaceful-speech-lebanon.

[529] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force March 23, 1976, ratified by Lebanon on [November 3, 1972], https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx (accessed July 25, 2021), art. 6.

[530] UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), General comment No. 36, Right to Life, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/GC/35 (2019), https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CCPR/Shared%20Documents/1_Global/CCPR_C_GC_36_8785_E.pdf (accessed July 9, 2021), para. 21.

[531] Ibid., para. 6

[532] Ibid., para. 20

[533] Hubbard, Abi-Habib, El-Naggar, McCann, Singhvi, Glanz, and White, “How a Massive Bomb Came Together in Beirut’s Port,” New York Times; United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive, “Storing and Handling Ammonium Nitrate,” https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg230.pdf (accessed June 22, 2021); Government of Western Australia, Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, “Code of Practice: Safe storage of solid ammonium nitrate,” 3rd ed, https://www.dmp.wa.gov.au/Documents/Dangerous-Goods/DGS_COP_StorageSolidAmmoniumNitrate.pdf (accessed June 22, 2021). Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining, “AMAT Insights: Reducing Risks Associated with Ammonium Nitrate,” September 2020, https://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/GICHD-resources/rec-documents/AMAT_Insights_Issue_1_Reducing_Risks_Associated_with_Ammonium_Nitrate.pdf (accessed July 22, 2021), p. 2; Government of Canada, Ammonium Nitrate Storage Facilities Regulations, CRC c. 1145, June 18, 2015, https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/C.R.C.,_c._1145/FullText.html, SCHEDULE II (s. 32) Storage Hazards of Ammonium Nitrate 2 (c); United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Regulations (Standards – 29 CFR), July 1993, https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/, 1910.109 1910.109(i)(5)(i)(a), 1910.109(i)(5)(ii)(b), 1910.109(i)(5)(ii)(c).

[534] HRC General Comment 36, para. 19.

[535] HRC General Comment 36, para. 27 and para. 29.

[536] Ibid.

[537] ICCPR, art. 2(3).

[538] See International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A(XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp (No. 16) at 49, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 993 U.N.T,S, 3, entered into force January 3, 1976, arts. 11, 12, and 13. See ICCPR, art. 9. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights, art. 17.

[539] “UN human rights experts call for justice and accountability in response to Beirut explosion,” OCHCR press release, August 13, 2020, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26163&LangID=E (accessed July 9, 2021).

[540] UN General Assembly, Basic Principles on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, March 21, 2006, UN doc A/RES/60/147, https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/remedyandreparation.aspx (accessed July 22, 2021), art. 11.

[541] Ibid., art. 12 and art. 24.

[542] Ibid., para. 15 and para. 16.

[543] Ibid., paras 19, 20, 21, 22, 23.

[544] The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (art. 14, para. 1) indicates the importance of the independence of the judiciary by establishing that: "All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.” https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx (accessed July 26, 2021).

[545] Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, endorsed by United Nations General Assembly resolutions 40/32 of 29 November 1985 and 40/146 of 13 December 1985.  https://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/IndependenceJudiciary.aspx (accessed July 22, 2021).

[546] Ibid., art. 2

[547] Ibid., art. 10.

[548] Ibid., art. 14.

[549] Ibid., art. 11.

[550] Ibid., art. 12.

[551] Ibid., art. 17.

[552] Ibid., art. 18.

[553] Ibid., art. 19.

[554] Legal Action Worldwide, “Report on Behalf of Victims of the Beirut Explosion of 4 August 2020,” November 13, 2020, http://www.legalactionworldwide.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/REPORT.pdf (accessed July 9, 2021), para. 116.

[555] UN HRC, Concluding observations on the third periodic report of Lebanon, May 9, 2018, UN doc CCPR/C/LBN/CO/3,http://docstore.ohchr.org/SelfServices/FilesHandler.ashx?enc=6QkG1d%2FPPRiCAqhKb7yhst0EqMtyqQ%2BAVhHZipQtX7YClXY%2BNLLw9Rz7B7DByyyVaC60%2B1n%2BtiD%2F0TvvppjSXeM3q43F5g5aAG58UffTRjtRD4JA%2BK9D9FANv2759gxx (accessed June 22, 2021).

[556] ICCPR, arts. 9(2), 9(3), and 14(3)(b). The Human Rights Committee has stated that the right to have adequate facilities for the preparation of a defense includes access to all materials the prosecution plans to introduce as evidence, as well as exculpatory materials. See also UN HRC, General Comment No. 32, The Right to equality before courts and tribunals and to fair trial, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/GC/32 (2007), https://www.refworld.org/docid/478b2b2f2.html (accessed July 28, 2021). para. 33,

[557] ICCPR, art. 9(3). See also Human Rights Committee, General Comment No, 35, Liberty and Security of Person, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/GC/35 (2014), Section IV, Judicial Control of Detention with Criminal Charges, https://docstore.ohchr.org/SelfServices/FilesHandler.ashx?enc=6QkG1d%2fPPRiCAqhKb7yhsrdB0H1l5979OVGGB%2bWPAXjdnG1mwFFfPYGIlNfb%2f6T%2fqwtc77%2fKU9JkoeDcTWWPIpCoePGBcMsRmFtoMu58pgnmzjyiyRGkPQekcPKtaaTG (accessed July 28, 2021).

[558] HRC, General Comment 35, Section IV, Judicial Control of Detention with Criminal Charges. See also the Basic Human Rights Reference Guide on Detention in the Context of Countering Terrorism, Guideline 7, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/newyork/Documents/DetentionCounteringTerrorism.pdf (accessed on July 26, 2021).

[559] UN HRC, General Comment 35, Section IV, Judicial Control of Detention with Criminal Charges, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (A/HRC/22/26), para. 35.

[560] ICCPR, art. 9(3). Human Rights Committee, General Comment 35, Section IV, Judicial Control of Detention with Criminal Charges.

[561] ICCPR, art. 14(5).

[562] ICCPR, art. 14(3)(b). See also UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 13, The Right to Education, U.N. Doc. E/C.12/1999/10 (1999), https://www.legislationline.org/download/id/4093/file/UN_Equality_before_courts_General_Comment_13_1984.pdf, (accessed July 28, 2021), para. 9.

[563] Lebanon’s Code of Civil Procedure, Legislative Decree No. 90.83, art. 2.

Region / Country