Two years after the Beirut Port Blast impunity reigns supreme

Makram Rabah
Makram Rabah
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Two years after the apocalyptic Beirut Port explosion, which destroyed half of the Lebanese capital, the deep scars and trauma of the people and its physical destruction of the buildings still lingers.

For the city’s inhabitants, especially those who have lost their loved ones, the destroyed grain silos at the port are a continuous reminder of the failure of the Lebanese establishment. It went out of its way to prevent the judiciary from conducting an effective and transparent investigation to finally reveal who was responsible for this calamity.

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Rather than pursuing justice, the Lebanese state insists on leveling the grain silos. For the past few weeks, they have been smoldering from the fermentation of the grains not correctly handled after the blast. While the silos have no economic significance, many victims’ families and the broader public believe this structure should stay as a symbol of fighting impunity and pursuing justice.

Since the onset of the investigation, the Lebanese political class protected by Hezbollah and its Iranian weapons has refused to cooperate with the judiciary. Many former and current officials and ministers have refused subpoenas to appear before the inquiry judge. Tarek Bitar, the second judge to take over the investigation, reached a dead end after Hezbollah led a full-out attack against him, accusing him of bias and going as far as to threaten his life. Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, openly accused Bitar of politicizing the investigation, branding the whole investigation as one which is masterminding by the enemies of Hezbollah, mainly Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Nasrallah’s verbal assault translated into a violent demonstration that turned into a fire fight in the vicinity of the Palace of Justice. Supporters of Hezbollah tried to storm the nearby Christian neighborhood of Ain El Remmaneh, only to be confronted by the Lebanese army and local people. It resulted in the death of seven and the literal suspension of the investigation into the port blast. The political establishment’s insolence went further as the minister of finance, a crony of the Shia Amal Movement, refused to sign the decree, which puts judiciary appointments to allow the resumption of the port investigation to stall.

The sequence of events has underscored the refusal of the Lebanese political elite to take any responsibility for the governance and economic collapse of the country. It has failed to allow justice to be served on any level. The failure to reach conclusive results on the port investigations and the hundreds of political crimes committed over the last two decades, including that of Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim, do not rest in the absence of resources of the Lebanese judiciary. It rests on a conscious decision not to allow for accountability to become the norm.

As it stands, the various Lebanese and regional investigative reports have concluded that it was not a simple case of criminal negligence but that the cargo ship which unloaded the tons of ammonium nitrate had a direct connection with the Assad regime. It left Hezbollah to be its custodian in the port of Beirut.

Two years since the tragedy, the families of the victims of the port explosion have been left alone to demand justice. Rather than going onto the streets to demand justice, the Lebanese are busy fighting each other for bread in front of the bakeries or pleading with their immigrant relatives to wire them money. This act speaks volumes of the culture of impunity that rules over Lebanon and its people. It is both tragic and educational for generations to come.

The Lebanese, through their dangerous negligence and lack of accountability towards justice and fighting impunity, have allowed the Lebanese political elite to turn into a fire-breathing monster that, like the mythical Greek chimera, has many heads and feasts on the innocent.

Lebanon will never fully recover from its ongoing collapse as long as justice is not a pillar of the state. While people might care about feeding their families, an economic recovery hinges on their ability to slay the many illusions within and rise and demand a normal country, whatever that might mean.

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