Lebanon: Thousands march demanding justice over Beirut blast
Exactly three years after a massive explosion killed hundreds and wounded thousands in Beirut, nobody has been held legally accountable
Thousands of protesters marched in Lebanon on Friday to commemorate three years after one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history tore through the port of Beirut.
Many protesters wore black and some carried photographs of their loved ones who died as a result of the blast.
They chanted "We will not forget!" as they marched through the Lebanese capital to the port where the explosion happened.
Families unable to grieve
Not only did they mourn the lost, but they demanded that the government take action to find those responsible for the tragedy
"Three years have passed and you have been turning a deaf ear to this request and this hurts a lot," Mireille Bazergy Khoury, whose was killed by the blast, told the Associated Press.
"This crime is not a Lebanese issue. Victims are all of all nationalities. Please taken action."
Paul Naggear, who lost his 3-year-old daughter in the blast, also told the AFP news agency that he has "not been able to grieve for three years".
"We will keep demanding justice until our very last breath," he said.
At least 236 died as a result of the blast according to Lebanese rights group Maan. This figure is higher than the official government death toll of 191.
Another 6,000 people were wounded by the blast, which also caused billions of dollars' worth of damages around Beirut.
No justice after three years
Nobody has been held accountable for the disaster, and an investigation into the officials who apparently allowed hundreds of tons of highly flammable ammonium nitrate to be improperly stored for years is at a virtual standstill.
There have however been repeated attempts, so far abortive or halted, to initiate prosecutions against several individuals.
The probe, currently led by Judge Tarek Bitar, has been stalled since late 2021 by a slew of legal complaints filed against him by some of the suspects, including current and former officials.
Lebanese groups, international organizations, survivors of the blast, and families of victims sent an appeal to the UN Rights Council, saying that on the third anniversary of the explosion, "we are no closer to justice and accountability for the catastrophe."
"The political class have used every tool at their disposal — both legal and extra-legal — to undermine, obstruct, and block the domestic investigation into the blast," said Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International's deputy chief for the Mideast and North Africa.
France and the United States echoed calls for a full investigation on Friday.
In a memorial church service held on the eve of the blast anniversary, Lebanon's top Christian cleric, Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai, also backed calls for an international fact-finding committee.
"What hurts these families and hurts us the most is the indifference of state officials who are preoccupied with their interests and cheap calculations," Rai said