As port blast anniversary approaches, UN raps Lebanon politicians for failing victims

Lack of accountability for Beirut blast has spurred Lebanon’s political and economic crisis

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Before the anniversary of the Beirut port explosion, a UN envoy on Thursday rapped Lebanon’s politicians for failing to effectively investigate the blast and hold any senior officials to account.

Joanna Wronecka, the UN envoy to Lebanon, said during closed-door UN Security Council talks that there had been no impartial, thorough and transparent investigation since the August 4 blast.

The explosion killed more than 200 people, wounded thousands and destroyed large areas of the capital. It was caused by a cache of explosive chemicals that had been stored unsafely at the port for years.

“The families of the victims and thousands whose lives have been changed forever by that terrible blast are still waiting,” Ms Wronecka said, according to a copy of her comments obtained by The National.

“They deserve justice and dignity.”

This month, Lebanon’s caretaker interior minister, Mohamed Fahmy, denied a request from the judge investigating the port blast to question a top security official the latest sign of unwillingness to properly probe the tragedy.

Families of the blast victims have frequently staged protests in the capital while holding photos of their relatives to express their anger that no senior officials have been held to account for the deadly chemical dump.

Lebanon has been run by caretaker officials for almost a year while its currency has collapsed, jobs have disappeared and banks have frozen accounts in one of the worst financial crises of modern times.

Lebanon's prime minister-designate, Saad Hariri, stepped down on July 15, saying President Michel Aoun had rejected his latest list of Cabinet picks, upending hopes that the nation was close to witnessing the formation of a new government.

The Lebanese pound has lost more than 90 per cent of its value against the dollar on the black market since 2019 and Lebanese workers with devalued salaries have seen their purchasing power plummet.

Soaring inflation has left Lebanese families spending five times the minimum wage to put food on the table, a study released this week by the Crisis Observatory at the American University of Beirut showed.

Ms Wronecka bashed Lebanon’s politicians for the economic and political failures that had pushed more than half of the population below the poverty line, stoking fears that Lebanon was becoming a failed state.

“The United Nations is doing what it can to mitigate the situation, but ultimately, the responsibility for salvaging Lebanon lies in the hands of Lebanon’s leaders,” she told the Security Council.

Updated: August 02, 2021, 9:18 AM