UN human rights experts call for justice over Beirut’s lethal explosion


More than three dozen independent rights experts issued a call for justice and accountability on behalf of the Lebanese people, for the catastrophic blast in Beirut, which led to the deaths of more than 200, thousands wounded, and at least 300,000 rendered homeless. Dozens remain missing.

According to the UN experts, Lebanon is suffering a devastating political, economic and financial crisis against the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic, and there has been a sharp deterioration of human rights protection and much suffering across the city.

“The scale and impact of the lethal explosion are unprecedented,” the UN human rights experts said in a joint statement issued on Thursday. “We are deeply concerned about the level of irresponsibility and impunity surrounding human and environmental devastation on this scale.”

The experts called for “urgent assistance, support and reparation to victim without discrimination”, as Beirut Port and the country’s main grain storage silos almost completely destroyed, hospitals and medical equipment severely impacted, and the authorities’ ability to protect the rights to food, adequate housing and health, also seriously diminished.

Citing reports that pollutants released by the explosion are leading to severe air and other environmental contamination across the capital city, the experts maintained that the Lebanese people have the right to clear and accurate information about the health and environmental risks posed.

“Such information must be available, accessible and functional,” they stated, while also calling on the national authorities to allow peaceful protests and to protect demonstrators and journalists, during the unrest that has followed since last week.

The explosion has brought into focus systemic problems, a deficit of good governance, and allegations of widespread corruption.

“This has resulted in a failure to ensure protection of the rights of all without discrimination, including the rights to life, personal liberty, health, housing, food, water, education, and to a healthy environment,” the statement said.

They expressed concern that the tragedy would expose “cracks in the executive, legislative, and justice institutions” of the country, leading to delays in ensuring effective remedies.

The experts supported calls for a “credible and independent investigation” to examine all claims as well as the underlying human rights failures – with a strong mandate to probe any systemic failures of the Lebanese authorities and institutions to protect basic rights.

The probe must protect the privacy, confidentiality and testimony of victims, witnesses, associates, colleagues and their families and its findings and recommendations should be made public, the experts stressed.

“The investigation should also consider Lebanon’s international obligations governing the handling of dangerous substances and the right of everyone to information on risks to life and health,” the experts said, offering their support. (Source: UN News)