Sectarian violence to cover up a political scandal. It has happened again, once again, in the country where tragedies pile up and serve as an excuse to sustain a stagnant system of sectarian quotas where a few benefit by profiting from its benefits and a majority suffer. We are talking about Lebanon. This time, efforts to bring justice to the victims of the Beirut port explosion have been poisoned by a bloody battle in the heart of the capital.
The Civil Court of Cassation ruled today on the third lawsuit of the lawyers of the former Finance Minister of the Shiite party Amal, Ali Hassan Khalil, for the dismissal of Judge Tarek Bitar, instructor of the cause for the explosion that left 218 dead in August 2020. They made their motion last Tuesday, a few hours after Bitar ordered the arrest of the politician later for not coming to testify. For Amal and Hezbollah, the sister Shiite force, Bitar is “politicized.”
The Court ruled against those investigated, but that mattered little when chaos broke out. For a few hours, along the famous green line, which four decades ago divided the Shiite and Christian neighborhoods of central Beirut with trenches and barbed wire, rifles and even grenades returned. A passerby died. Children from nearby schools, terrified, had to hide in the hallways. Finally, there were six dead and 30 injured.
Who started it? In a statement shared on social networks, the Lebanese army, which was deployed in the affected streets and threatened to shoot anyone carrying a weapon, indicated that “when the protesters [de Hezbolá y Amal] They were heading to the Beirut Court of Justice, they came under fire from the Tayuouné and Badaro districts ”. That is, from the area controlled by the Lebanese Forces, a right-wing Christian group financed by Saudi Arabia.
Hezbollah – in turn backed by Iran – and Amal complied with the truce that seemed to be consolidated during Thursday afternoon, blaming their rivals for a “deliberate operation” through the use of “snipers.” The Christians reacted to the presence of sympathizers and members of the Shiite parties in the streets where they are in the majority, near the Court of Justice. Its leader, Samir Geagea, blamed the violence on the widespread presence of weapons in Lebanese society.
Although the dismissal of the Court of Cassation allows Judge Bitar to continue calling politicians to give them a statement and thus clarify the catastrophe in the port of Beirut, what happened increases the pressure on him. For most observers, the attempts to relieve the magistrate – Tarek Bitar, in fact, entered in February to replace the previously suspended judge with similar motions – are intended to hinder the investigation of the case.
The ultimate goal is, the victims fear, to bring another tragedy caused by the widespread corruption of the Lebanese political class to a halt with no one being held accountable. Meanwhile, the country continues to crawl into the abyss. To the financial crisis that has been shaking the country for years, in need of an urgent rescue from the International Monetary Fund, is added galloping inflation and a fuel shortage, which left Beirut in the dark for 24 hours last weekend.