Here’s The Timeline Of The Beirut Blast Investigation, A Year Later


On August 4, 2020, a massive explosion erupted at the Port of Beirut, destroying it, wreaking havoc in the Lebanese capital, killing more than 230 people, and changing the lives of thousands of other victims.

A year later, there has yet to be justice or accountability for the catastrophic event, despite the many promises made to the people throughout the past 12 months.

The troubled journey of the investigation into the Beirut Explosion became a case in itself, turning complex with notable and interwoven events, meetings, names, and resistance from ruling politicians.

Hence, the must of a timeline of the sequence of events since the beginning of the investigation to date, as we mark the first anniversary of the Beirut Blast that remains without justice.

August 2020

  • Lebanese government announces the launch of a 5-day probe into the Beirut Port Explosion
  • Lebanese government decides to place all Beirut Port officials under house arrest
  • Judge Fadi Sawwan is tasked with leading the investigation into the blast
  • Beirut Port Director-General Badri Daher and 15 other Beirut Port and Lebanese Customs officials are detained
  • People take to the streets in massive protests
  • Interpol deploys response team to help investigate the explosion
  • President Aoun refuses an international investigation into the explosion
  • The Lebanese government, headed by Prime Minister Hassan Diab, resigned under pressure from protests
  • Evidence surfaces that President Michel Aoun and caretaker PM Hassan Diab had been warned about the ammonium nitrate at the Port of Beirut weeks prior to the explosion
  • It is announced that the FBI will help with the investigation
  • German national newspaper Die Welt alleges Hezbollah’s involvement in purchasing the ammonium nitrate
  • International investigative report reveals new information about the owner of the ammonium nitrate shipment. The report concludes that only 700-1000 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in Beirut
  • Canada offers to join the investigation

September 2020

  • 25 people, including four military officers, are detained in relation to the explosion
  • Customs officials are interrogated over a new batch of ammonium nitrate found at the Port of Beirut
  • FBI and foreign experts from France and the UK leave Beirut with samples after completing their missions
  • Judge Fadi Sawwan questions caretaker PM Hassan Diab
  • Caretaker Public Works Minister Michel Najjar says welding could have started the fire at the Port of Beirut
  • Beirut Bar Association prepares hundreds of complaints related to the explosion, pro bono

October 2020

  • Jordan provides Lebanon with new details about the ammonium nitrate ship
  • Judge Fadi Sawwan issues arrest warrants for the captain and the owner of the ship that transported the ammonium nitrate shipment to Lebanon
  • FBI submits its investigative report, reaching no conclusion regarding the cause of the explosion
  • Caretaker PM Hassan Diab says Lebanon has requested satellite images from France and Italy
  • Protesting Beirut blast victims demand that every official who knew about the presence of ammonium nitrate in Beirut be prosecuted
  • Human Rights Watch demands a U.N.-led investigation into the blast
  • Nearly 700 out of 1,400 lawsuits are filed against the Lebanese government by victims, with help from the Beirut Bar Association

November 2020

  • UK Fire Brigade Union joins Amnesty International in calling for a full international probe into the Beirut explosion
  • Beirut blast victims vow to escalate protests for justice in response to the delayed probe results
  • Two customs officials are charged in relation to the blast, the total number of charged individual are now 33, only 25 of whom are under arrest
  • Judge Fadi Sawwan asks Parliament to investigate 10 former ministers over potential responsibility
  • People protest outside Judge Fadi Sawwan’s residence to demand justice

December 2020

  • Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea threatens to resort to the International Criminal Court if the local probe fails
  • Caretaker PM Hassan Diab and three former ministers – Ghazi Zaiter, Ali Hassan Khalil, and Youssef Fenianos – are charged in relation to the Beirut blast
  • Caretaker PM Hassan Diab’s office states that he won’t cooperate with Judge Fadi Sawwan
  • Lebanese politicians condemn Diab’s indictment
  • President Michel Aoun says he became aware of the presence of the ammonium nitrate at the Port of Beirut in July 2020
  • Caretaker Interior Minister Mohammad Fahmi asserts that he will not order the arrest of caretaker PM Hassan Diab and the charged former ministers
  • State Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oueidat withdraws his involvement in the probe
  • Interrogation of the indicted top officials is postponed due to immunity issues
  • People protest againt the political obstruction of the investigation
  • Former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi testifies before Judge Fadi Sawwan
  • Indicted ministers Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zaiter request that another judge handles the probe
  • The New York Times publishes a report highlighting attempts by Lebanese officials to limit Judge Fadi Sawwan’s investigative efforts
  • Caretaker PM Hassan Diab cites FBI report when he states that no more than 500 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded in Beirut
  • Caretaker PM Hassan Diab reveals that the Beirut explosion happened hours after a probe was launched into the ammonium nitrate stored at the Beirut Port
  • Caretaker PM Hassan Diab retracts remarks about the estimated amount of ammonium nitrate that exploded in Beirut

January 2021

  • U.S. Senate passes a resolution that suggests Hezbollah’s responsibility in the Beirut explosion
  • The families of blast victims mark 5 months since the explosion and demand justice
  • Judge Fadi Sawwan is granted permission to question officials again after 3-week-long hiatus
  • Interpol issues Red Notices for the owner and the captain of the ship that transported ammonium nitrate to Lebanon
  • An investigative report aires on Al-Jadeed, alleging Syria’s involvement in the ammonium nitrate shipment
  • Remarks made by Higher Judicial Council Secretary-General Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Al-Asmar contradict President Michel Aoun’s previous statements about the ammonium nitrate
  • British MPs call for the investigation of a UK firm, Savaro Ltd., which is possibly linked to the Beirut explosion
  • Lebanon seeks to get hold of a Portuguese ammonium nitrate trader linked to the shipment that exploded in Beirut

February 2021

  • The families of the blast victims take to the streets to renew their call for justice
  • French Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Grillo criticizes the delay in the investigation, 6 months on
  • The investigation resumes after two months of stagnation, with new summons that include former Lebanese Armed Forces Commander Gen. Jean Kahwaji
  • The UK stops the liquidation of Savaro Ltd. due to its connection to the Beirut explosion
  • Former Minister Youssef Fenianos is summoned for interrogation again, along with the former customs chief at the Beirut Port, Moussa Hazimeh
  • Former Minister Youssef Fenianos refuses to cooperate with Judge Fadi Sawwan
  • Judge Fadi Sawwan is removed from his position in the investigation by a judicial order
  • The families of blast victims take to the streets to protest Judge Fadi Sawwan’s dismissal
  • Human Rights Watch says Judge Fadi Sawwan’s removal is a mockery to justice and an insult to the victims
  • The first judge nominated to take over the investigation is rejected by the Higher Judicial Council due to his closesness to President Aoun
  • Judge Tarek Bitar is tasked with taking over the investigation
  • Judge Tarek Bitar meets with the families of the blast victims and assures them that he would pursue the case diligently
  • Lebanese Forces MPs sign a petition calling for an international investigation into the Beirut explosion

March 2021

  • Judge Tarek Bitar goes after Savaro Ltd.
  • Judge Tarek Bitar questions former Customs Director-General Chafic Merhi, as well as Badri Daher, who was Customs Director-General at the time of the explosion

April 2021

  • Families of blast victims slam caretaker Economy Minister Raoul Nehme for dismissing the possibility of a terrorist act being the cause of the Beirut explosion
  • Judge Tarek Bitar orders the release of six detainees held in connection to the Beirut explosion

May 2021

  • Lebanon issues 13 requests for countries to provide satellite images of the Beirut Port
  • Judge Tarek Bitar receives an important report from France about the Beirut explosion

June 2021

July 2021

  • Judge Tarerk Bitar seeks the prosecution of senior politicians and security officials and requests the lifting of pertinent immunities
  • Former Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zaiter express willingness to appear before Judge Tarek Bitar for questioning
  • A report indicates that Judge Tarek Bitar is aiming to deliver his findings regarding the Beirut explosion by October
  • A report reveals that Judge Fadi Sawwan has allegedly received threats of bodily harm
  • Caretaker Interior Minister Mohammad Fahmi refuses to grant permission to lift the immunity of General Security Director-General Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, contradicting a previous pledge to grant the required permission
  • Lebanese Parliament delays the decision to lift the immunities of the former ministers targeted by Judge Tarek Bitar for questioning
  • The families of the blast victims take to the streets to push for immunity lifting
  • Judge Tarek Bitar escalates his request to lift the immunity of General Security Chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim
  • Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri affirms that no immunity will be granted to wrongdoers in the Beirut explosion case
  • Judge Tarek Bitar refuses a parliamentary request for additional evidence to support his request to have immunities lifted
  • The families of blast victims storm the residence of caretaker Interior Minister Mohammad Fahmi in their latest call for justice
  • Caretaker Interior Minister Mohammad Fahmi asserts that he will not back out of his decision regarding teh immunity of General Security Chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim.
  • A report reveals that more than 50 MPs have signed a request to launch a parallel investigation to that of Judge Tarek Bitar into the Beirut explosion. Some MPs withdraw their signatures later on under intense pressure of the public opinion
  • Lebanese Parliament affirms its right to form an investigative committee
  • The families of the blast victims express full trust in Judge Tarek Bitar
  • Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri resigns from his position
  • PM Saad Hariri calls for the suspension of all legal articles that grant immunity to all state officials and civil servants. even the president.
  • Deputy Parliament Speaker Elie Ferzli supports PM Saad Hariri’s call for the suspension of immunities
  • Former Ministers Ali Hassan Khalil, Ghazi Zaiter, and Youssef Fenianos lose their immunity as lawyers
  • A report citing the FBI’s investigation results suggests that no more than 552 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded in Beirut
  • A report suggests that Judge Tarek Bitar is aiming to question President Michel Aoun
Protesters gather near the Port of Beirut on August 11th, 2020.
Protesters gather near the Port of Beirut on August 11th, 2020.
EPA-EFE/Nabil Mounzer

August 4th, 2021

A year on, with no accountability in sight, the Lebanese people marked the first anniversary of the Beirut Blast by taking to the streets once again, with several marches in Beirut and demonstrations in the diaspora.

They are determined to pursue justice all the way and to continue to push back against the false promises and the corruption that started it all.

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Here's The Timeline Of The Beirut Blast Investigation, A Year Later

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