A political cartel escapes all responsibility

The parts of the city affected are still scarred by the explosion, repair work is progressing slowly – and is being financed primarily by international donors or with funds from the Lebanese diaspora community. The Lebanese state is largely holding back. In many cases, the psychological after-effects that many of those affected have to contend with are just as bad.

To date, the explosion in Lebanon has hardly been dealt with legally. (Source: Bilal Hussein/dpa)

Lebanese journalists and international organizations such as Human Rights Watch have examined the background and responsibilities in the context of the port explosion in great detail. The FBI and the French authorities have also carried out investigations. The various investigations together give a very good picture of how the accident could have happened. How 2,754 tons of ammonium nitrate, which reached Beirut on a Russian freighter in 2013, was stored in the heart of the Lebanese capital and thus became a ticking time bomb with the knowledge of numerous politicians and officials up to the highest levels.

Hoping for international help

In contrast, the legal processing of the events is hardly progressing. A chief coroner was removed from his post in the spring of 2021 when he sought to bring three former ministers and a prime minister to justice. The work of his successor, Judge Tarek Bitar, is also hampered wherever possible: Shortly after a fully mandated government was in office for the first time in more than a year in September last year, the Shiite parties Amal and Hezbollah declared their boycott of government work to force Bitar’s recall.

In October, seven people were killed in fighting on the fringes of a demonstration against the investigation, which the two Shiite parties had called on their supporters to attend. Countless flimsy political and legal objections were raised against the continuation of the investigation. Ministers and MPs invoke their immunity to avoid questioning. The investigations have now been at a standstill for around six months because a court that has to decide on the objection of a politician affected by the investigations does not have a quorum. The necessary filling of vacant posts is being blocked in the finance ministry, which in turn is under the control of the Amal party.

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Most people in Lebanon no longer rely on the authorities

With such tricks, it is always possible to delay legal processes or to let them come to nothing and ultimately to evade political responsibility. It can therefore hardly be assumed that the legislative proposals to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, which are currently being discussed in Parliament on the initiative of two opposition MPs, will be successful.

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