8 May 2018
London. Italy’s collaboration with Libya to stop migrants and asylum seekers reaching Europe is facing a legal challenge over allegations that it has led to grave human rights violations against those crossing the Mediterranean, including torture and slavery.
Seventeen survivors of a fatal incident in which a boat carrying migrants found itself in distress off the coast of Libya filed an application against Italy today with the European Court of Human Rights. The applicants included the surviving parents of two children who died in the incident. The application was filed by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) and the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI), with support from the Italian non-profit ARCI and Yale Law School’s Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic. Their submission made use of evidence compiled by Forensic Oceanography, part of the Forensic Architecture agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London, who have produced a detailed reconstruction of the incident and the policies that have contributed to it.
About the incident:
On 6 November 2017, the Libyan Coast Guard interfered with the efforts of the NGO vessel Sea-Watch 3 to rescue 130 migrants from a sinking dinghy. At least twenty of them died. The Libyan vessel was donated by Italy a few months before. The intervention was partly coordinated from Rome by the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre (MRCC), an Italian Government agency. An Italian navy ship was nearby, part of the Mare Sicuro operation which has operated in Libyan territorial waters facilitating interceptions by the Coast Guard.
The Libyan Coast Guard ‘pulled back’ the survivors to Libya, where they endured detention in inhumane conditions, beatings, extortion, starvation, and rape. Two of the survivors were subsequently ‘sold’ and tortured with electrocution.
The consequences of the Libya – Italy agreement for migrants attempting to leave Libya have been catastrophic. Deaths by drowning, as well as violence and ill-treatment on board the Libyan Coast Guard vessel have been captured on camera by the crew of Sea-Watch 3.
Read the full press release on the legal action taken against Italy by GLAN Global Legal Action Network here.
Human Rights at Sea welcomes the legal action against Italy before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It is high time Italy, but also Europe, put an end to the outsourcing of borders control and international law obligations. The policies of containment of migrants and asylum seekers and the alleged human rights violations we witness in Libya must come to an end.