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Amnesty International calls for independent investigation into Lebanon blast

A colossal blast rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut on Tuesday evening. [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 August, 2020

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The rights group said the investigation should be 'free from any potential domestic political interference'.

Amnesty International joined calls for an independent probe into the explosion in Lebanon's capital that left scores dead and thousands injured.

The rights group said the investigation should be "free from any potential domestic political interference" in order to assure "truth, justice, and reparations" for the victims.

Over 130 people were counted dead and more than 4,000 were left injured in a blast which rocked Beirut on Tuesday evening, prompting countless questions on how the explosion was set off.

"Whatever may have caused the explosion, including the possibility of a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely, Amnesty International is calling for an international mechanism to be promptly set up to investigate how this happened," said Julie Verhaar, Acting Secretary General of Amnesty International, in a statement released on Wednesday.

Authorities say the incident occurred after a fire at Lebanon's primary port reached a warehouse storing more than 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a highly combustible fertiliser kept there since 2014.


Angry residents also point to political corruption and negligence as being behind the devastating explosion, and question why hundreds of tonnes of highly combustible material were stored near a residential area for more than six years.

Some Lebanese have issued renewed calls for the government's resignation.

Officials have deflected any responsibility, pointing fingers at various government agencies for failing to deal with the years-old store of ammonium nitrate.

"The horrific scenes in the aftermath of the explosion yesterday were devastating for a country already suffering under the strain of multiple crises. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families at this tragic time," Verhaar said.

It has caused significant damage to a city already devastated by one of the worst economic crises the country has seen - the local currency in freefall, amid a severe dollar shortage and rife unemployment.

Adding to the worstening living conditions, the blast plunged 300,000 additional people into homelessness, the governor of Beirut said on Wednesday.

Beirut's now destroyed port was the main entrance for goods into the country, which heavily relies upon imports.

"Amnesty International also calls on the international community to urgently increase humanitarian aid to Lebanon at a time when the country was already struggling with the severe economic crisis, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic," Verhaar added.

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