In the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion that happened on August 4, 2020, organizations and individuals came together from different regions to help the victims of the capital and its suburbs that were destroyed by the detonation of around 2750 tons of ammonium nitrate in warehouse 12; killing hundreds, injuring thousands, and displacing hundreds of thousands.
In the midst of this situation, the Lebanese State has looked for a way to benefit from this disaster, which was evident by the official agencies' perpetration of numerous abuses and unwarranted practices on the ground during this period.
Beirut was declared a disaster city within hours after the port explosion, which led to the declaration of a State of Emergency by the Government and handing over control to the Lebanese Army, under the pretext of protecting public and private properties and institutions in the stricken area. Yet, in practice, people have seen little help or protection in the early days after the explosion.
The violations that took place following the declaration of the State of Emergency were the result of several repressive practices by official agencies in the hours and days following the explosion of Beirut’s port. There was a series of arbitrary and unjustified arrests of individuals without identity papers; noting that many rushed to help, search for missing persons or check on their property without carrying their identity papers.
Moreover, during the August 8 demonstration demanding accountability for the explosion, riot police used tear gas and hurled bombs directly at demonstrators to disperse them, injuring many protesters in the head and neck. Rubber bullets, metal pellets and live ammunition were also used on demonstrators and excessive violence was used to disperse them, such as beating with hands, sticks and other weapons on joints and sensitive places.
The methods adopted by the security services resulted in serious injuries among the demonstrators, as the Lebanese Red Cross and the Islamic Relief Organization declared 728 people were injured during August 8th’s demonstration, including 153 who were taken to hospitals to receive treatment.
On August 10th, the Army Intelligence arrested an army veteran who had previously entered the Foreign Ministry on Saturday in a manner resembling kidnappings, on charges of breaking a picture of the President. A photo of him blindfolded in an army car was circulated widely on social media.
On August 14th, 2020, ten days after the Beirut Port explosion, a communiqué was issued by the Governor of Beirut stating that all volunteer agencies in the relief work must obtain permission from the Emergency Operations Room of the Lebanese Army and that non-cardholders will be denied access to all streets and neighborhoods that were damaged by the explosion. After backing off the decision, the Interior Minister said that Organizations should be obliged to cooperate with the official and security bodies. This statement is a strong reminder of repressive police practices.
The Lebanese Army distributed food rations to those affected in the days and weeks following the port explosion, but the distribution was based on selective, discriminatory criteria that neglected the most marginalized groups such as refugees and foreign workers.
On August 29th, the Army announced that there were no other hazardous substances in the port, but on September 3rd, 4350 tons of ammonium nitrate were found in the Customs Detention Center outside the port near entrance 9. It was detonated two days later in the army's detonation fields.
A fire broke out on September 8th in Beirut's port, which, according to civil defense, was found to be caused by the burning of the remains of the explosion at a waste collection point and a second fire erupted in the port on September 10th inside a warehouse of oil and tires that extended to other warehouses. The cause of the fire remained unknown, but some investigative authorities said it was likely due to acts of renovation in the harbor.
All that is stated above shows the scale of the State’s massive neglect and disregard for the safety of its citizens after the August 4 disaster. This is also evidence of the lack of transparency in the investigation of this crime and the absence of any intention to hold its perpetrators and officials accountable, as no information was made public about the investigations two months after the explosion which proves the unprofessionalism in conducting this investigation.
The measures taken by Security Services whether arbitrary arrest or excessive violence against demonstrators, the repressive decisions of the governor of Beirut and other officials, the restrictions on the work of associations and the neglect that caused fires in the crime scene constitute a clear violation of the most basic citizens’ rights.
Based on all that was stated above, the undersigned organizations and individuals ask the Lebanese State to:
- Conduct a clear investigation and public hearings with all suspects.
- Immediately cease violations and respect human rights when taking any measures or decisions that are supposed to protect all residents of Lebanon without discrimination.
- Conduct a transparent investigation on human rights violations committed whose findings and publish the findings.
- Assign independant and transparent bodies to manage relief operations and coordinate with civil society organizations.
They also ask donors to ensure that Human Rights standards are respected, especially by service providers and non-governmental partner associations.
- Proud Lebanon
- Lebanon Support
- Refugees + Parnters