Lebanon: Authorities should lift immunity and allow interrogation of MPs into the Beirut port explosion


Responding to the news that two members of parliament, Ghazi Zeaiter and Ali Hassan Khalil, who had both refused to cooperate with the investigation into the Beirut blast, have been elected to the parliamentary committee for administration and justice, Diana Semaan, Amnesty International’s Acting Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

“The current investigative judge is still unable to question or prosecute Ghazi Zeaiter and Ali Hassan Khalil as they both enjoy parliamentary immunity. We reiterate our calls to the Lebanese authorities to immediately lift all immunities granted to officials, regardless of their role or position, in order to comply with its obligation to ensure redress for violations of the right to life.

“Lebanon continues to fail to uphold its human rights obligations in holding perpetrators of the Beirut port blast, which killed more than 200 people, to account. Given the months of stalling, inaction and lack of political will, it remains obvious that an international, independent, and impartial investigative mission, such as a UN fact-finding mission, is essential in upholding justice to families of victims and survivors.”

Lebanon continues to fail to uphold its human rights obligations in holding perpetrators of the Beirut port blast, which killed more than 200 people, to account.

Diana Semaan, Amnesty International

Background

Members of parliament and former ministers Ghazi Zeaiter and Ali Hassan Khalil have continuously blocked and refused to cooperate with the investigation into the case of the 2020 Beirut port explosion. They were charged with criminal “negligence” but decried the decision as unjust and said it defied the Constitution. To this day, and after several complaints that led to the dismissal of former judge Fadi Sawwan and further delays to the work of the current judge Tarek Bitar, neither of them has attended any sessions in the investigation. On 7 June, the two were elected parliamentary committee for administration and justice.

Lebanon is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 6 of which protects the right to life. The Human Rights Committee, which interprets the ICCPR, has stated: “The duty to protect by law the right to life also requires .. investigating and prosecuting potential cases of unlawful deprivation of life, meting out punishment and providing full reparation.” The investigations into violations of the right to life must be “independent, impartial, prompt, thorough, effective, credible, and transparent,” and they should explore “the legal responsibility of superior officials with regard to violations of the right to life committed by their subordinates.”

Amnesty International and a coalition of more than 50 Lebanese and international organizations wrote to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2021 calling for an international investigation into the Beirut port blast.

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