The Unfinished Investigation of the “Explosion of the Century”.

AA/ Hatem Kattu

Grain silos at the port of Beirut collapsed on Sunday, July 31, 2022, four days before the infamous anniversary of the massive explosion that destroyed the port of Lebanon’s capital on August 4, 2020.

The collapse of the silos was caused by a fire, which broke out two weeks ago and which did not elicit or prompt any response from the authorities to attempt to remedy the situation, which resulted in the collapse of the silos and a thick cloud of smoke in a projection port area.

However, it should be recalled that after the outbreak of the fire, a minister of the Mikati government deliberately opposed the call to destroy these silos, on the grounds that it was a monument to preserve and in the midst of this wait. -See attitudes mixed with helplessness against a backdrop of mismanagement, the inevitable has happened.

As if to hide forever the traces of the explosion and the evidence of the involvement of some part of the tragic accident, these structures, already badly damaged for two years, have to disappear.

– Let’s go back in time

On Tuesday August 4, 2020, around 6pm, a double explosion, with a huge second, rocked the capital port of Beirut, causing massive casualties (215 killed and 6,500 injured) in addition to the 300,000 thrown into the streets, from the blast to the city. Affected different districts.

Apart from the irreversible human loss, the explosion of about 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate which was stored in the now famous hangar number 12 in the port area, caused an estimated material loss according to World Bank statistics. euro

Stored in inadequate and unsafe conditions, it is probably 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that could cause an explosion.

Conditional is de rigueur, if necessary, so far no investigation has been successful and no information has been definitively provided, although in 2020 Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who resigned, announced five months after the tragedy that the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI ) amount of nitrate is 500 tonnes based on its investigation.

– Several assumptions but a broken investigation

Among the speculations mentioned and which could be the source of the explosion is that three days after the explosion, the president of Lebanon, Michel Aoun, and who called for “external action with a missile or a bomb”.

Lebanon’s head of state, still in office, while denying an international investigation, asked French President Emmanuel Macron, who arrived in Lebanon shortly after the blasts, to provide Lebanon with satellite images to see if “there was a plane.” […] or missiles” in Beirut airspace.

However, the most plausible hypothesis remains the explosion of a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored in one of the port warehouses.

Despite the causes of the devastating explosion, what is noteworthy is that the investigation conducted by the authorities to explain the exact circumstances and determine the responsibilities of the parties involved was inconclusive and did not succeed.

– A stalled investigation

A first element already mentioned, but which deserves to be recalled, given its importance, the Lebanese authorities reject any international investigation. This should be taken into account when we look at the fate of the national inquiry conducted since.

In fact, the first judge appointed to lead the investigation, Fadi Sawan, was dismissed from his post. Reason: He accused two former ministers in office during the event of “negligence”.

His replacement magistrate, Tarek Bitar, on his part, faced multifaceted threats and multiple pressures to end his investigation, as his performance was ineffective as the responsible political and security forces were summoned. Presenting themselves to justice is left with no future.

Tensions reached a peak last October when the dominant Shiite formations, Amal and Hezbollah, staged an armed demonstration in Beirut that escalated into clashes with “Lebanese forces”. Results: Seven killed and 32 wounded.

A classic of Lebanon’s intertwining of political politics and confessional conflict, all linked to security levels against the backdrop of a judicial investigation. An episode that recalls the investigation – this time international – following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

Three weeks after this bloody episode, Judge Vita withdrew from the investigation, officially following a “recusal” filed by a former minister… who refused to appear when summoned by the judge. This is Youssef Fenianos, Minister of Transport.

Apart from the latter, the magistrate in charge of the investigation “had the courage” to summon former Prime Minister Hasan Diab, former finance portfolio holder Ali Hasan Khalil and his colleague of Public Works Gazi Zoiter. Nauhad Machnuk, former Minister of Interior.

All these senior officials and many others cited immunity as a reason for refusing to appear.

Since then, the investigation has stalled and made no progress, and this situation seems to satisfy a political class that has changed little since then.

In fact, and with the exception of 13 independent deputies, who achieved a significant success in the legislative elections last May, practically nothing has changed in the political and political spectrum of Lebanon, which is a product of the end of the war in 1990 and the famous Taif Agreement. With some developments generated by repeated coalitions and missals according to national and regional events.

In fact, 13 new deputies out of a total of 128 in the Lebanese parliament, presided over by Nabih Berri for almost three decades, did little to remedy Lebanon’s recession against an unprecedented social and economic background. the crisis

The country that was christened the “Switzerland of the Middle East” more than half a century ago is plunged into an unprecedented socio-economic crisis, which, among other things, caused power outages, causing the Lebanese pound to drop in value. Currently, the world’s highest inflation rate, shortage of basic food commodities and high prices…

Two rather telling statistics that hurt the soul can end this list. The first refers to the price of gasoline multiplying by 15 in a year, so much so that the full price of a car is now a quarter of a civil servant’s salary.

The second is provided by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia which indicates that 82% of Lebanon’s population currently lives in multidimensional poverty.
Thus, the massive explosion of the port of Beirut is just another example of the mismanagement and corruption that plagues the land of the Cedars. Recall that the magistrates pointed to various acts of corruption that would have contributed to the explosion.

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