• A rights group warns that Lebanon can’t handle the investigation itself
  • Even with foreign investigators on the ground, an impartial probe is difficult
  • Lebanon’s political elite blamed for much of the problem

An investigation by Human Rights Watch found political interference meant Lebanon’s probe into the August 4 explosion at the port at Beirut is riddled with difficulties.

An explosion of a massive cache of ammonium nitrate at Beirut’s port on August 4 left hundreds of people dead, thousands more injured and devastated parts of the city, including many homes.

Aya Majzoub, a Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the people of Beirut deserve a fair shot at justice in the investigation into the incident.

“Only an independent, international investigation will uncover the truth about the blast,” she said in a statement.

In September, the U.N.’s International Support Group for Lebanon called on the political leaders to form a new government quickly for the sake of the nation. The group is expected to convene to review the blast investigation next week and Human Rights Watch warned against letting Lebanon’s political class take control over the probe.

The government quickly disbanded after the blast. Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is tapped once again to form a unity government. A complex power-sharing agreement that outlines the distribution of political offices and ministerial positions complicates Lebanon’s ability to set up a new government.

"I will work on forming a government quickly because time is running out," Hariri said Thursday, calling it the country's "only and last chance."

The official death toll stands at 171, with some 6,500 injured. An estimated 300,000 were left temporarily homeless in the country's worst peacetime disaster.

An investigation from Agence France Presse in August found that Lebanese officials had been issuing warnings about the ammonium nitrate cache, but did little to address the concerns despite fears it could cause a massive blaze.

Human Rights Watch noted that there are foreign investigators, including those from the US FBI, on the ground working alongside Lebanese authorities, but “their involvement does not cure the fundamental flaws with the current approach.”