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Beirut blast: UN ignored appeals for information from victims, says report

Beirut blast: UN ignored appeals for information from victims, says report

A BBC investigative report has claimed that the United Nations turned a deaf ear to pleas for information from victims of the Beirut blast which killed at least 218, injured countless others and left over 300,000 people homeless, in the port blast in August last year. The exact cause of the blast is unknown, with the only clear information being that it was improperly stored ammonium nitrate in a warehouse on the port.

Letters sent by the Beirut Bar Association to UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez have gone un-answered according to the organization that represents over 2,000 survivors and victim's families. They requested two things namely, all available satellite photos taken on the day of the blast by member states. And secondly, whether Unifil (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) checked the MV Rhosus - the ship that carried the explosive material which caused the explosion - back in 2013, before it arrived at Beirut port.

It was a stock of abandoned ammonium nitrate from the MV Rhosus ship that was stored in a warehouse and later exploded.

The BBC interviewed Aya Majzoub, Lebanon Researcher with Human Rights Watch who said that satellite images of the blast were crucial to determine whether the explosion was initiated deliberately by someone or whether it was an accident. Russian space agency Rascosmos had recently promised to hand over satellite imagery to Lebanon following an appeal from President Michel Aoun.

After two letters went unanswered, the Bar Association sent a third, with the message: "Seven months have passed since the blast and five months since our letter, and unfortunately our letters remain unanswered and unacknowledged. Lebanon is a founder member of the UN and is asking for help." This letter is dated 17 March 2021.

"I'm sure the secretary general is inundated with letters and requests, but it's been disappointing to see the lack of co-operation with the Lebanese authorities. Also the lack of an international investigation into the blast, there's much more the international community could be doing that they aren't," Mazjoub was quoted as saying by the BBC.

The UN did not provide the BBC with any clarity on the matter when asked. In addition to UN silence, the victims and survivors must content with Lebanese political bickering between leaders and parties which is stalling crucial aspects of the investigation as political parties refuse to co-operate over the matter. A protest against Tarek Bitar, the lead judge in the offical Lebanese investigation, left 7 dead and many injured as politicians called in to give testimony complained instead. The dispute has split Lebanon's cabinet, which hasn't met for a month now in a country that desperately needs leadership if it's to escape its current crises.

The Bar Association has vowed to fight on for the rights of the victims.

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TAGS:BeirutBlastLebanonUnited NationsBeirut BlastControversy
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