The catastrophic blast which led to the deaths of more than 200 in Beirut on 4 August, has prompted more than three dozen independent rights experts on Thursday, to issue a call for justice and accountability on behalf of the Lebanese people.
"The scale and impact of the lethal explosion are unprecedented", the UN human rights experts said in a joint statement. "We are deeply concerned about the level of irresponsibility and impunity surrounding human and environmental devastation on this scale".
Against the backdrop of COVID-19 combined with a devastating political, economic and financial crisis, there has been a sharp deterioration of human rights protection and much suffering across the city, according to the UN experts.
Moreover, at least 200 have been reportedly killed, thousands wounded, and at least 300,000 rendered homeless. Dozens remain missing.
The experts called for "urgent assistance, support and reparation to victimswithout discrimination", with Beirut Port and the country's main grain storage silos almost completely destroyed, hospitals and medical equipment severely impacted, and the authorities' ability to protect the rights to food, adequate housing and health, also seriously diminished.
The people's voice
Citing reports that pollutants released by the explosion are leading to severe air and other environmental contamination across the capital city, the experts maintained that the Lebanese people have the right to clear and accurate information about the health and environmental risks posed.
"Such information must be available, accessible and functional", they stated, while also calling on the national authorities to "allow peaceful protests and to protect demonstrators and journalists", during the unrest that has followed since last week, which many Lebanese see as stemming from successive governments' failure to safely deal with the ammonium nitrate that appears to have led to the blast, stored in a port warehouse.
The explosion has brought into focus systemic problems, a deficit of good governance, and allegations of widespread corruption.
"This has resulted in a failure to ensure protection of the rights of all without discrimination, including the rights to life, personal liberty, health, housing, food, water, education, and to a healthy environment", the statement said.
They expressed concern that the tragedy would expose "cracks in the executive, legislative, and justice institutions" of the country, leading to delays in ensuring effective remedies.
UNFPA are distributing dignity kits to women in Beirut following the devasting explosion.
The experts supported calls for a "credible and independent investigation" to examine all claims as well as the underlying human rights failures with a strong mandate to probe any systemic failures of the Lebanese authorities and institutions to protect basic rights.
The probe must protect the privacy, confidentiality and testimony of victims, witnesses, associates, colleagues and their families and its findings and recommendations should be made public, the experts stressed.
"The investigation should also consider Lebanon's international obligations governing the handling of dangerous substances and the right of everyone to information on risks to life and health", they upheld, offering their support.
A Council matter
In view of the seriousness of their concerns, the independent experts urged the UN Human Rights Council to convene a special debate next month "to explore all possible avenues" to ensure that effective, transparent and impartial justice is realized for the victims, and the Lebanese people at large; long-term systemic reforms are implemented, based on open consultations; and calling on the international community to provide urgent assistance, addressing the immediate needs of shelter, food, medical, health and other disaster-related needs.
"We also stand in solidarity with the people of Lebanon, and especially extend our concern and condolences to the victims", the statement concluded.
Following are the names of the experts that signed the statement:
Mr. Marcos A. Orellana, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes; Ms. Agns Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Ms. Fionnuala D. N Aolin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Mr. Clment Nyaletsossi Voule,Special Rapporteur on the rights of peaceful assembly and association;Mr. Lo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation; Mr. Diego Garca-Sayn, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers; Ms. Claudia Mahler, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons;Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, Surya Deva, Elbieta Karska, Githu Muigai, Dante Pesce (Vice-Chair), Anita Ramasastry (Chair); Ms. Yuefen Li, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights; Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Mr. Obiora C. Okafor, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Ms. Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Ms. Melissa Upreti (Vice Chair), Ms. Alda Facio, Ms. Meskerem Geset Techane, Ms. Ivana Radai, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Mr. David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; Mr. Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context;Ms. Isha Dyfan, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia; Mr. Joe Cannataci,Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy; Ms. Siobhn Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health; Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Members of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Ms. Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Ms. Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), Mr. Jos Guevara Bermdez, Mr. Seong-Phil Hong, Mr. Stondji Adjovi; Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.