Three years have passed since one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history rocked Beirut, and hundreds of demonstrators marched in solidarity with the relatives of the victims to seek the long-overdue justice.
Since the investigation is being hampered by political and legal constraints, no one has been held accountable for the tragedy.
On August 4, 2020, a huge explosion at Beirut’s harbor leveled large portions of the Lebanese city and left more than 220 people dead and at least 6,500 injured.
Authorities claimed that a fire in a warehouse that had been carelessly storing a significant stockpile of ammonium nitrate fertilizer for years was what ultimately caused the disaster.
Three years later, the investigation is essentially dead in the water, leaving the survivors still searching for answers.
Many of the protesters were dressed in all black as they marched toward the port while carrying pictures of the victims and yelling statements like, “We will not forget.”
“Our pain inspires our persistence to search for the truth,” said 54-year-old protester Tania Daou-Alam, who lost her husband in the explosion.
The biggest manifestation of Lebanon’s widespread corruption, she claimed, is the lack of justice, which is intolerable.
The explosion happened in the midst of a financial crisis that the World Bank has dubbed one of the worst in recent memory and that is mostly attributed to a ruling class that is accused of corruption and poor leadership.
Following a storm of lawsuits, mostly from politicians he called on allegations of carelessness, Bitar terminated his investigation in December 2021.
Bitar has been refusing to leave her position but has been absent from Beirut’s Justice Palace for months.
Due to the sensitivity of the subject, a legal expert with knowledge of the case noted, “Work [on the investigation] is ongoing.” The expert continued that Bitar is adamant about keeping his pledge to provide victims’ families with justice.
300 people and groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, renewed their plea for the UN to send a fact-finding team on Thursday. Lebanese authorities have repeatedly rejected this demand.
“If those responsible are not held accountable, it will put the country on a trajectory that allows this kind of crime to be repeated,” HRW’s Lama Fakih said during the demonstration, according to the Agence France-Presse news agency.