Lebanese researcher at the Human Rights Watch, Aya Majzoub, has condemned the decision to remove lead investigator Judge Fadi Sawan from the Beirut blast probe, calling the move an “insult to the victims.”
“The removal of Fadi Sawan from the Beirut Blast case because of a complaint filed by two politicians he charged makes a mockery of justice and is an insult to the victims of the blast and the public,” Majzoub wrote.
“More than 6 months later, we are back to square one,” she added.
According to a judicial source, the Criminal Court of Cassation’s decision was based on two main arguments:
Sawan was allegedly violating the constitution by summoning and charging officials of the parliament and/or lawyers who have immunity due to their work in the parliament. However, the charges filed against them are not related to their parliamentary work or as lawyers.
The second argument is that Sawan could not allegedly be neutral in the orders he issued because he, as well, is a victim of the blast in that his apartment in Achrafieh was damaged from the explosion.
The court ruled that neither Sawan nor any other judge affected by the incident can be fully objective.
That leaves, defacto, no one eligible to replace him since the Beirut Blast did not leave anyone unaffected, whether physically, mentally, or financially.
After Lebanon’s officials had pledged 5 days “at the most” to uncover the truth, a controversial decision comes over 6 months after the blast to further hinder the investigation.
The decision came simultaneously with the release of two officials that Judge Sawan had detained since August: Head of Beirut Port Authority Hassan Kraytem and Head of Safety and Security at the port Mohammad Ziad Al-Awf.
Notably, a day before the removal of Judge Sawan by court order, a former minister publicly announced on Twitter his refusal to show up for questioning.
HRW researcher Aya Majzoub commented that “there were serious problems with Sawan’s investigation and there may have been legitimate reasons to challenge him. But the mere fact that he charged politicians is not one of them.”
“Courts have shown, again, that they will shield politicians from accountability at the public’s expense,” she added.
The probe was put on hold for nearly two months, after which the Court of Cassation granted Sawan on January 11 the authority to continue the investigation.
With him starting by summoning officials to be questioned, accused politicians used the court to stop him, he who has said “no red lines” will stand in his way to bring out the truth.
“Now, a new judge needs to be appointed, and he will have to start the investigation again. But the “red lines” have been set: you cannot charge politicians,” Majzoub added in bitter sarcasm.
The Human Rights researcher calls on “this charade” to end. “We need answers, and Lebanon has shown it is incapable of providing them.”
Enraged, the families of the Beirut Blast victims took to the streets to protest, and an online petition for an International Investigation has now been launched.