Halting Beirut blast investigation 'inhuman' and 'irresponsible', says UN Lebanon Co-ordinator

Investigation stopped after former ministers requested judge be changed

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The UN's Co-ordinator for Lebanon on Tuesday condemned delays besetting the investigation into a deadly blast that struck the capital in August, killing more than 200 people.

"It is inhuman and irresponsible not to move forward with the technical investigation of the #Beirut port blast. How can people get compensation from insurance companies if there is no verdict what caused the blast?" asked Jan Kubis in a tweet.

Mr Kubis was appointed yesterday as Special Envoy to Libya, where he will also lead the UN’s support mission.

Last August a large stockpile of ammonium nitrate, which is used both in fertilisers and bomb-making, caught fire and exploded after being stored at the Beirut port unsafely for six years.

More than five months after the devastating blast, the investigation into the cause of the explosion has made little progress. Judge Fadi Sawan, who is leading the investigation, arrested 25 people and charged caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, as well as three former ministers, two of whom are parliamentarians. The officials refused to be questioned by the judge.

The probe was halted last month after former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil and former public works minister Ghazi Zeaiter, both of whom were charged by Judge Sawan, requested that the case be transferred to another judge, alleging that current and former ministers should enjoy immunity.

Lebanon's Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for the investigation to continue but it has yet to rule on the request to remove Judge Sawan from the investigation.