UN experts call for international investigation into 2020 Beirut explosion

GENEVA (3 August 2022) – UN experts* called on the Human Rights Council to launch an international investigation into the massive explosion in Beirut two years ago that killed more than 200 people and decimated a vast swath of the Lebanese capital city, saying victims must have justice and accountability.

The powerful blast – in which a stockpile of ammonium nitrate stored in a port warehouse exploded on 4 August 2020 – destroyed 77,000 apartments, wounded 7,000 people, displaced over 300,000 more and least at least 80,000 children homeless.

“This tragedy marked one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in recent memory, yet the world has done nothing to find out why it happened," the experts said. "On the second anniversary of the blast, we are disheartened that people in Lebanon still await justice, and we call for an international investigation to be initiated without delay."

Shortly after the explosion, 37 UN human rights experts issued a joint statement calling on the Government and the international community to respond effectively to calls for justice and restitution.

Instead, the national investigation process has been blocked several times. Families of the victims have therefore appealed to the international community to establish an independent investigation under the Human Rights Council, hoping that an inquiry mandated through this multilateral system would give them the answers the Lebanese authorities have failed to provide.

The explosion and its aftermath have brought into focus systemic problems of negligent governance and widespread corruption, the experts said. Human rights experts who recently visited Lebanon found that responsibility for the explosion has yet to be established, affected areas remain in ruins and reconstruction funds from the international community have barely begun to reach beneficiaries.

Access to food is under serious threat. Lebanon imports up to 80 percent of its food, and the explosion damaged the nation's main entry point and grain silo, which partially collapsed a few days ago after catching fire earlier in July.

The tragedy has unfolded as the country descends into what the World Bank has described as a prolonged and "deliberate depression" caused by authorities themselves. People in Lebanon are struggling to access fuel, electricity, medicine and clean water; the currency has lost more than 95 per cent of its value over the past two years and the average inflation rate in June was about 210 per cent.

Some countries have promised to assist people in Lebanon after the blast but have not done enough to deliver justice and initiate an international investigation, the experts said.


*The experts: Mr. Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Mr. Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights;
Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Obiora Okafor, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Mr. David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal,Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.