HRW, Amnesty Int'l call for UN fact-finding mission into port blast


Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to "urgently pass a resolution to create an impartial fact-finding mission into the Beirut port explosion".

"It is patently clear that the Lebanese authorities are determined to obstruct justice," Amnesty's Aya Majzoub said in the joint statement, after Lebanon's top prosecutor in the politically charged case, Judge Ghassan Oueidat, charged Beirut port blast investigator Judge Tarek Bitar on Wednesday and summoned him for questioning on Thursday morning.

Relatives of the dead have been holding monthly vigils, seeking justice and accountability over the disaster, which they blame on an entrenched political class widely seen as inept and corrupt.

Lawyer Cecile Roukoz, who lost her brother in the explosion, called the situation "madness".

Oueidat on Wednesday ordered the "release of all those detained over the Beirut port explosion case, without exception" and banned them from travel.

Those ordered released include the port chief and the head of customs Badri Daher.

"The investigating judge is supposed to decide if (detainees) are released and the prosecutor general who takes the action," lawyer Roukoz said.

"They are doing the opposite."

Lawyer and activist Nizar Saghieh said Oueidat had "no authority" to release the detainees and that his moves were akin to "crowning the port explosion case with impunity".

For Paul Najjar, who lost his three-year-old daughter in the blast, releasing all of the detainees means "Lebanon has become a total failed state".

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