In response to the recent tragic explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020, ICTJ and 14 prominent nongovernmental organizations recently issued a joint statement, demanding immediate action to promote accountability and a new non-sectarian political system in Lebanon.
The likely preventable explosion represents another appalling consequence of a dysfunctional sectarian political system that has been in place since the end of the country’s 15-yearlong civil war in 1990 and that has afforded impunity to perpetrators of human rights abuses for decades and entrenched a culture of cronyism and corruption in the country. This latest catastrophe should mark a turning point for the country, one that catalyzes meaningful action to curb impunity, promote accountability, and invest in a deep transformation of the state. Otherwise, the many survivors of the explosion, who have been left to grapple with aftermath alone, will inevitably join the masses of wartime and more recent victims of political violence who still await truth, justice, and accountability.
In the joint statement, the signatories propose the following urgent actions the Lebanese government should take to address the county’s myriad crises:
- a credible, impartial, and independent investigation into the August 4 explosion;
- a reconsideration of the full scope of the wide immunity currently granted to government officials and parliamentarians;
- a full and swift transition to a non-sectarian political system that favors justice and ensures that accountability at all levels is endorsed and upheld;
- the prompt implementation of the necessary measures to strengthen the independence and effectiveness of the judicial and security sectors to bring them into compliance with international standards;
- the promulgation of a set of political reform legislation that is not based on a confessional or otherwise sectarian system and that instead guarantees all citizens full equality in their rights and duties;
- a comprehensive plan for dealing with the economic and financial crisis;
- public debate on the concept and meaning of active citizenship in Lebanon; and
- additional reforms and initiatives that will actively promote tolerance and respect for the equal rights of all.
PHOTO: Lebanese protesters march to the site of the explosion at Beirut's port on October 17, 2020. The demonstration was held to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the October Revolution, the country's largest anti-government protest since the end of the civil war. (Mohamad Youssef/Al Liwaa)