April 2, 2023

Hit with one disaster after one other, some man-made, some pure, Lebanon has been in a state of mourning for years. However in current historical past, no catastrophe devastated the long-suffering nation greater than the large – and as we’ve since realized, utterly preventable – explosion on the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020.

On that fateful day, a fireplace on the Beirut port brought about the detonation of some 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which had been improperly saved in a port warehouse for some years. The ensuing explosion, believed to be one of many largest non-nuclear explosions in historical past, ripped by way of the Lebanese capital, killing no less than 218 individuals, injuring greater than 7,000 and leaving some 300,000 displaced.

It has been greater than two years because the blast, however its victims are but to seek out any justice.

The ruling elites, who paved the best way for the blast by permitting explosive supplies to be precariously saved in a dense inhabitants centre, now seem to care extra about saving their positions and reputations than delivering justice and accountability to the victims.

Certainly, within the aftermath of the blast, Lebanese authorities not solely didn’t correctly assist residents who’ve been injured and displaced, but additionally made each effort to hinder the probe into the tragedy. The investigation needed to be suspended in December 2021 as a result of quite a few authorized challenges raised by outstanding suspects in addition to robust strain from influential political factions.

Some 13 months later, in January 2023, Tarek Bitar, the choose tasked with main the probe, stunned the nation by saying his determination to proceed with the investigation and to cost the Lebanese prime minister on the time of the blast, Hasan Diab, and two different former ministers with murder with possible intent. A number of different high officers, together with the nation’s public prosecutor, Ghassan Oweidat, and the previous head of its home intelligence company, Main Basic Abbas Ibrahim, have been additionally charged in reference to the explosion.

The costs briefly led to hopes that the reality about what brought about this disaster could also be revealed and people personally liable for the explosion might ultimately be held accountable. Regrettably, nonetheless, just some days later, Prosecutor Basic Oweidat filed counter-charges towards Bitar and ordered the discharge of all suspects detained in reference to the case. Now the way forward for the probe is as soon as once more unsure and the victims of the blast are but once more left questioning whether or not they may ever discover justice.

It’s disappointing that the fees introduced towards Lebanese officers in positions of energy have come to nothing. Their prosecution would undoubtedly have been a step in direction of accountability – and a necessary one at that.

However we must always not make the error of centering all efforts for justice on the prosecution of half a dozen or so people. Focussing an excessive amount of on them runs the chance of making the impression that when Lebanon’s “unhealthy guys” are charged, prosecuted and imprisoned, justice will prevail and life will return to regular.

This isn’t the case.

The reality is that Lebanon’s sectarian constructions feed these “unhealthy guys,” and allow their crimes and cronyism. Profitable prosecutions and particular person accountability are essential, however treating them as a panacea results in the state avoiding much-needed structural reforms that will handle its persistent issues and forestall the repeat of such tragedies.

So the dialog on the Beirut blast needs to be centered not on the alleged culpability of half a dozen ministerial, judicial, and safety officers, however on the corrupt state tradition that enabled their lethal crimes.

The explosion, in spite of everything, was not a mistake or an anomaly. It was a bloodbath brought on by corruption, negligence and impunity. It was the results of Lebanon’s grasping political class being allowed to wield unchecked energy for many years.

However Lebanon’s kleptocracy was not the only real wrongdoer of this disaster, both. The worldwide group’s indifference to Lebanese struggling and inaction within the face of persistent corruption additionally performed a task on this tragedy.

International powers, from the USA and France to Saudi Arabia, enabled the corruption and mismanagement of the Lebanese institution by way of their donations, monetary assist and protections, paving the best way for the Beirut blast.

There isn’t any easy resolution to Lebanon’s myriad issues. Intensive systemic change is the one method to make sure the nation doesn’t proceed to endure preventable, man-made catastrophes. However the occasions of the previous two years clearly confirmed the Lebanese political class is not going to finish impunity and corruption voluntarily. Systemic reforms can solely come if the worldwide group applies significant strain on the Lebanese state and the elites controlling it.

International powers, and particularly the US as Lebanon’s largest donor, should demand accountability from the Lebanese state and demand on a radical, honest and significant investigation into the Beirut blast. They need to put their assist behind Decide Bitar and guarantee that he’s not silenced and victimized by the {powerful} elite. Extra importantly, different international locations have to cease offering lifelines to Lebanon’s corrupt elites by way of their donations and different provides of monetary and political assist.

This isn’t a name for sanctions – sanctions have harmed the Lebanese individuals and haven’t served as a deterrent to corruption or negligence. This can be a name for the worldwide group to alter the best way it engages with Lebanon – a name for it to finish its partnership with the political institution and begin a brand new, direct and sincere relationship with Lebanese civil society.

Two years after the devastating blast, those that deserve the world’s assist, understanding and support usually are not the members of Lebanon’s omnipotent political class, however the Lebanese residents who misplaced the whole lot due to their leaders’ negligence, corruption and incompetence.

Immediately, because the Lebanese individuals proceed their quest for justice and accountability, nobody else however them needs to be on the heart of the worldwide dialog about their nation.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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