Beirut blast: MPs sceptical government can deliver justice and accountability

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - As Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed to bring the full force of the law against those responsible for Tuesday night’s explosion but members of parliament have already said they no faith in a domestic investigation.

A blame game started in Beirut barely hours the explosion at the port on Tuesday, one of the single most devastating incidents in Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab said 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that should not have been at a warehouse in the port caused the explosion, which killed at least 100 people and damaged large parts of Beirut.

Mr Diab said on television that the carnage “will not pass without accountability."

"Those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price," he said, repeating the promise again on Wednesday.

Justice Minister Marie Najm said she has ordered a “primary investigations to reveal responsibility,” as she was “following the horrific developments”.

Following a meeting of the Higher Defence Council, Mr Diab said Cabinet would meet on Wednesday and a committee would be agreed to deliver an early investigation within five days.

Former prime minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement parliament bloc released a statement calling for an international investigation.

“[The Future Movement] considers the catastrophe that has befallen to be the size of a destructive war, lager than all civil wars and Israeli wars on Lebanon,” the bloc said. “There are serious suspicions surrounding the explosion, its timing, conditions and location, how it occurred and the inflammable material that caused it… It will not be possible to resolve doubts with ordinary security and judicial measures.

“In order for the Lebanese to reach a transparent investigation at this level, it is necessary to request international participation, international experts and specialized committees capable of revealing the truth and achieving justice for Beirut and its people.”

Destruction inside a church in the aftermath of the massive explosion. AFP

A man holds a damaged sculpture depicting Mary in his house near the site of Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area. Reuters

A man removes broken glass scattered on the carpet of a mosque damaged in Tuesday's blast in Beirut. Reuters

A woman cleans debris from her damaged apartment a day after an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut. AP Photo

People clean debris at Mohammed Al Amin mosque in the centre of Beirut. AFP

People clean debris at Mohammed Al Amin mosque in the centre of Beirut. AFP

Karim Corbani, 45, poses for a portrait inside his bedroom in Beirut. Getty Images

Workers throw a broken window from a damaged apartment a day after an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut. AP Photo

A helicopter trying to put out the fire a day after the explosion rocked Beirut. EPA

Women clear the damage outside a sideroad kiosk in Beirut. AFP

People help clear rubble and debris from the driveway of a residential building in Beirut. Bloomberg

The damaged Wardieh hospital is pictured in the aftermath of the blast that tore through Lebanon's capital. AFP

A woman sits in front of a building, damaged by the explosion a day earlier. Getty Images

Lebanese inspect the damage in the aftermath of yesterday's blast that tore through Lebanon's capital. AFP

A woman looks out of the collapsed facade of an apartment. Getty Images

A woman looks down from a balcony. Getty Images

A man looks from the balcony of a building. Getty Images

A woman stands inside her damaged home. Reuters

Future Block Movement MP Hadi Hobiesh elaborated on the bloc’s statement, saying they are in the process of setting a parliamentarian committee to begin investigating the incident and they will be calling for international assistance.

“There is obvious negligence and those involved have got to for forwarded to justice,” Mr Hobiesh told The National. He pointed out that there are politicians, cabinet officials and members of a security body involved and this needs to be questioned.

The movement was not alone in casting doubt on the government's ability to achieve justice. A senior Lebanese politician who is not represented in government blasted the administration and other political factions.

“The government will not do anything to hold those responsible. We are seeing an accumulation of decades of state collapse,” the legislator, who has been at the forefront of Lebanese politics for decades, told The National in Beirut.

He also said that even if political players buried their differences now, long-term aid to limit the economic collapse would not be forthcoming because that is contingent on needed reforms they remain unwilling to pass.

“We are unable to do it and we do not want to do it,” he said, referring to structural reforms demanded by possible donors and international financial institutions. “We will get medicine and field hospitals. But such a government will not receive structural help.”

Lebanese parliamentarian Hadi Abu Hassan, a member of the opposition Progressive Socialist Party, said it is impossible to hold those responsible accountable under a “corrupt political system that has not produced anything except tragedies and disasters”

“There is no trust in domestic investigation committees and the criminal, stupid authorities,” said Mr Aby Hassan, a member of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt’s party.

The huge explosion wounded thousands across the Lebanese capital. It was felt as far away as the island of Cyprus.

Even politicians not opposed to the Hezbollah backed government cast doubt on its ability to deliver.

Qassem Hashem, a Baath party MP and parliamentary ally of Speaker Nabih Berri, said the government is “not up to dealing with the tragedy”.

“Sadly, the government does not know how to deal with substances that are so dangerous,” he said. “If it did not know what those hangers contained that makes what befell the homeland even worse.”

Updated: August 5, 2020 06:17 PM

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