The Lebanese Association of Lawyers march at the First Anniversary of Port Blast, Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4, 2021.
© 2021 Elisa Gestri/Sipa USA/AP Images
This week the European Parliament heeded calls from survivors of the August 2020 Beirut blast, families of the victims, and many human rights groups to establish an international, independent fact-finding mission within the United Nations framework into the disaster. It is the first parliament to publicly make this demand. The resolution also called on European Union member states to use targeted sanctions against corrupt Lebanese officials and those blocking critical economic and governance reforms in the country.
More than a year after the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port that killed at least 218 people and decimated half the capital, no one has been held accountable. Instead, Lebanon’s domestic investigation has repeatedly been stalled, undermined, and delayed by the country’s politicians, and it has suffered from serious due process and fair trial violations that render it incapable of credibly delivering justice. In the latest demonstration of the political establishment’s disregard for justice, former Prime Minister Hassan Diab left Lebanon days before his scheduled interrogation as a suspect in the case.
The European Parliament also expressed alarm over the dire economic and humanitarian situation in the country – among the worst globally since the mid-nineteenth century – which it said is a “man-made disaster caused by a handful of men across the ruling political class.” Earlier this month, the United Nations found that more than 80 percent of the population now suffers from multi-dimensional poverty, lacking access to basic rights including health, education, water, and food.
Given the “extremely high level of mismanagement” over relief funds delivered to Lebanon in the past, the European Parliament called for humanitarian aid to bypass the government and instead be channeled through civil society directly to those in need until Lebanon delivers on long-awaited governance and anti-corruption reforms.
The European Parliament today stood with the people of Lebanon and the victims of the Beirut blast and sent a powerful message to Lebanon’s leaders that their corruption, obstruction of justice, and human rights abuses will no longer be tolerated. EU member states should heed the European Parliament’s call and put forward a resolution at the Human Rights Council establishing a fact-finding mission into the disaster and adopting targeted sanctions against Lebanese officials responsible for ongoing rights abuses and efforts to impede justice.