Lebanon parliament to lift immunity for Beirut blast probe
Lebanon's parliament speaker Nabih Berri said on Thursday the legislature was ready to lift the immunity of its members in order allow for questioning over the storage of ammonium nitrate in the port of the capital Beirut that caused a massive explosion, killing over 200 people.
Following a meeting with the Future Movement, the parliament's main Sunni bloc led by Saad Hariri, Berri said in a statement that "the priority of parliament was and will continue to be complete cooperation with the judiciary."
Berri, who heads the Shia party Amal and has held the position of speaker of parliament since 1992, did not specify when immunity would be lifted and how.
The move would constitute a decisive step in the probe into August 4, which has so far failed to deliver justice to the families of the victims.
The probe, led by judge Tarek Bitar, has been hindered over the past month as requests to lift parliamentary immunity were declined or stalled.
More than 50 Lebanese parliamentarians signed a motion earlier this month to transfer a key part of the blast probe to an obscure judicial body, in what was called an attempt to 'obstruct' the investigation.
A group of MPs also requested more evidence before immunity for three ex-ministers could be waived. Bitar had demanded that parliament lift the immunity of ex-finance minister Ali Hasan Khalil, former public works minister Ghazi Zaiter and ex-interior minister Nohad Machnouk.
Lebanon: UN Should Set Probe into Beirut Blast https://t.co/JTuonekA22— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) June 15, 2021
International organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on Lebanon's parliament to lift immunity, while relatives of victims of the blast have staged protests outside Machnouk's and Zaiter's homes.
Hariri called for lawmakers' immunity to be lifted earlier this week by suspending all constitutional and legal regulations that allow for it.