‘UN ignored plea for Beirut blast probe evidence’

The BBC has learned that the United Nations (UN) has repeatedly ignored requests from bereaved families for information to help the official investigation into the Beirut port explosion which killed 219 people in August last year.
The probe has been beset by delays, rows and recriminations, leaving families and survivors no closer to finding out who, if anyone, was to blame, as BBC Middle East correspondent, Anna Foster, reports.
When Ariana Papazian describes her mother Delia’s death, she does it clearly and calmly. She remembers every detail. The sound, and the silence that followed. The way she touched her mum’s hair, and the exact words she used as she desperately tried to wake her up.
Ariana was just 16 on the day of the blast, and she wants answers about why she lost her beloved parent.
“I feel like my mother doesn’t have a value; my mother’s life doesn’t have a value. My own health doesn’t have a value. Like we are not humans.”
The official investigation into the devastating explosion was supposed to provide the truth. But, it has stalled. It’s been suspended several times because senior political figures who were called to give evidence made complaints. A protest against the lead judge, Tarek Bitar, led to violent clashes in which seven people died.
The dispute has split Lebanon’s cabinet which hasn’t met for a month now in a country that desperately needs leadership if it’s to escape its current crises.
That lack of progress has led to international criticism. But, a vital organisation that could have helped has ignored requests – the United Nations.
One week after the explosion, it called for “a prompt and independent investigation that leads to justice and accountability.” But, the BBC has learned that when bereaved families asked for information to help that very inquiry, the UN didn’t reply.
The Beirut Bar Association represents nearly 2,000 families and survivors at the investigation. Its chairman sent three separate letters directly to UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, asking for some specific details. -BBC

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