Lebanese authorities have failed time and again to hold anyone responsible for the 2020 explosion that decimated the Lebanese capital
Three years have passed since the city of Beirut was nearly turned to rubble by history’s biggest non-nuclear explosion, which killed well over 200 people and injured thousands.
In the intervening time, no official has been held accountable for allowing a vast stockpile of industrial chemical ammonium nitrate to be haphazardly stored in the heart of Beirut for seven years.
The dangerous chemicals ignited on 4 August 2020, creating a massive shockwave that tore through several neighborhoods, causing over $15 billion in damage. According to experts, had the blast not happened by the sea, the entire city of Beirut would have been wiped off the map, as the shockwave was felt as far away as Cyprus.
“This is a day of commemoration, mourning, and protest against the Lebanese state that politicizes our cause and interferes in the judiciary … The judiciary is shackled, justice is out of reach, and the truth is shrouded,” Rima al-Zahed, whose brother was killed in the explosion, told AFP on Friday.
According to an investigation by The Cradle columnist Radwan Mortada, 2,750 tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate were abandoned in the heart of Beirut for seven years due to negligence from the Lebanese army and the country’s judiciary.
“If the army had carried out its function, entrusted exclusively to Lebanon’s military under the country’s Weapons and Ammunition Law, by supervising the nitrate storage, destruction, or re-export, the devastating explosion would have been averted,” Mortada asserts.
“Similarly, if judges had done their job, a legally binding – not a political one – the decision would have ensured the destruction or immediate exportation of the explosive materials from Warehouse 12 in the Port of Beirut,” The Cradle columnist adds.
But despite the responsibility held by the country’s army and judiciary, from the moment the blast happened until today, western-friendly officials and news outlets have placed the blame on Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, alleging that the group stored the dangerous materials in the port – which is controlled by the US-funded army.
“From the first moment after the port explosion, some malicious TV stations said that Hezbollah was behind blowing up the port,” Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said during a televised speech on Thursday after expressing his sympathies with the victims’ families.
“Those who blocked the truth in the port blast case are the ones who politicized this case. The real reason behind the loss of the truth in the Beirut port explosion is that some parties link the case to regional events,” Nasrallah added.
Earlier this year, UK-registered company Savaro Ltd was found liable by London’s High Court of Justice for the Beirut Port blast. According to court documents, Savaro was transporting the ammonium nitrate to an explosives company in Mozambique in 2013 before the cargo was impounded at Beirut’s port over a dispute over unpaid transportation fees and the seaworthiness of the vessel transporting it.
The British ruling says Savaro remained the legal owner of the ammonium nitrate and was responsible for its proper storage and any damage caused by it. The ruling also argues that abandoning the dangerous chemicals in Beirut did not absolve the company of any duty of care.
Savaro – a shell company with few employees and no actual activities – has been trying to obtain its dissolution from the UK corporate registry Companies House since 2021, reportedly to evade responsibility for the tragedy.
Last year, several of the victims’ families filed a $250 million lawsuit against the US–Norwegian firm TGS suspected of being involved in transferring the explosive material to the port.