Beirut, Lebanon – Dozens of Lebanese parliamentarians have pledged to support a parliamentary motion to allow a special judiciary to investigate and try the caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and four former ministers in the Beirut port bombing last year, but legal activists and families of bomb victims The move was lashed out to protect officials from accountability.
This Beirut Port Explosion On August 4 last year, more than 200 people were killed, about 6,500 people were injured, and part of the Lebanese capital was razed. Many people accused officials of storing hundreds of tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate in the port, which caused the explosion.
A judicial source told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that at least 50 members of Congress initially signed a motion to try the officials of the Supreme Council, a judicial body responsible for impeachment matters.
The source said that in addition to Diab, the four former ministers included in the motion are former Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, former Public Works Ministers Gazizait and Yusuf Finanos, and former Ministers of Public Works. Minister of the Interior Nuhad Mahnuk. Khalil, Zeiter and Machnouk are currently members of Parliament.
According to sources, the committee is composed of eight senior judges and seven legislators appointed by their peers. “It has never tried a minister, president or legislator in its history.” Critics believe that the move is to sabotage a judicial investigation that has reached a deadlock.
In early July, the judge who led the judicial investigation of the bombing, Tarek Bitar, asked improve the immune system The identities of several senior politicians and former and current security officials so that he can prosecute them for suspected criminal negligence and possible intentional killing in the explosion.
However, if the former ministers were called to the Supreme Council, Bitar would not be able to accuse them.
Legislators supporting the motion stated that the motion complies with the Lebanese Constitution.
According to judicial sources, the motion requires the support of 61 members to pass a simple majority. Speaker Nabi Berry has not yet announced when the next parliament will be held.
Sources predict that the parliament may vote to transfer the case to the Supreme Council, but said that legislators may obstruct the next step, which will require two-thirds of the parliament to vote for the Supreme Council to convene them.
“Obviously, this is an attempt to obliterate the investigation,” the source said.
The relatives of the victims of the explosion were angry at the news.
“We totally reject and condemn this cover-up of the crimes of this century,” Mahdi Zahreddin, 21, told Al Jazeera that his brother Imad was killed in the explosion.
“I believe Judge Tarek Bitar will not remain silent on this.”
The local regulatory agency’s legal agenda stated that it identified 30 members of Congress who supported the motion, called them a “shame list,” and stated that the move would protect the accused officials from prosecution.
“The legal agenda considers this to be a fraudulent act of smuggling the suspect from the judicial investigator Tarek Bitar,” it said.
Future Movement MP Mohammad Hajjar, who signed the motion, told Al Jazeera that they are only complying with Lebanese law, adding that they have always supported international investigations.
“Lebanese law is very clear, no one can override the constitution,” he said.
After the news, members of Parliament Salim Saadeh, Samy Fatfat, Dima Jamali, Adnan Traboulsi and Nicholas Nahhas have withdrawn their names from the motion.
Other members of Congress who signed the motion did not respond to Al Jazeera’s call.
Call for international investigation
Since the announcement of legal proceedings against current and former senior political and security officials earlier this month, the parliamentary motion is the latest obstacle facing Judge Bitar.
The Caretaker Interior Minister Mohamed Fahmi rejected Bitar’s request to interrogate Major General Abbas Ibrahim, the Chief of Security.
Prior to Bitar’s appointment, the Lebanese Supreme Court of Appeal cancelled the investigation into the devastating explosion led by Judge Fadi Sawan in February, after Khalil and Zeiter filed legal proceedings against him.
They argued that Sawan’s house was damaged in the explosion, so he could not maintain justice.
Human rights organizations said that the latest parliamentary motion further proved their reason for calling for an international investigation, believing that the country’s political parties will continue to obstruct local investigations.
“As long as Lebanon’s current system still exists, our hope of seeing justice through domestic procedures is very slim,” Human Rights Watch Lebanon researcher Aya Majzoub told Al Jazeera.
“We need to build on the work done by Judge Bitar to conduct an international investigation that is not restricted by Lebanon’s domestic politics.”