Rights expert urges Italy to stop criminalizing activists who save migrants’ lives at sea — Global issues

Preliminary criminal proceedings were opened last May in Sicily against 21 people charged with aiding and instigating illegal immigration in connection with certain search and rescue missions carried out from 2016 to 2017.

Those charged include four crew members of Iuventaa former fishing boat that is credited with saving the lives of some 14,000 Mediterranean Sea migrants and human rights activists from other civilian vessels.

‘Unity no smuggling’

The ongoing proceedings are a “dark stain on the commitment of Italy and the EU to human rights”, speak Mary Lawlor, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

“They are being criminalized for their human rights work. Saving people is not a crimeand solidarity is no smuggling.”

Ms. Lawlor has been working with the authorities on this matter.

‘A very worrying sign’

She noted that the proceedings were hampered by procedural violations, including failure to provide adequate explanatory information to the non-Italian defendants and the translation of important documents.

Last month, the Italian Prime Minister’s Office and the Interior Ministry applied to join the lawsuit as plaintiffs, demanding compensation for damages allegedly caused by the alleged crime.

“Countries that respect human rights promote the work of human rights defenders. “Government’s decision to seek participation in the case directly against this principle – that is a very worrying sign.”

Living at higher risk

The incident is taking place amid new restrictions imposed by Italian authorities on civilian search and rescue operations.

Since December, NGO ships have been continuously instructed to bring the rescued people ashore at ports in northern and central Italy, or after several days of sailing from rescue sites in the Middle East. Sea.

Furthermore, new civilian search and rescue regulations, introduced in January, effectively prevent NGOs from performing multiple rescues in a single mission.

Now they must request a port of discharge and get there immediately or risk heavy fines and their vessel impounded.

Ms. Lawlor called on the Italian Government repeal the lawinconsistent with its obligations under international law.

“New laws and guidelines on ports of discharge are hindering the essential operations of civilian lifeboats,” she said. “They are widening the search and rescue gap in the Central Mediterranean, putting people’s lives and rights at greater risk.”

About the UN Rapporteur

Special Rapporteur appointed by the United Nations based in GenevaDong Nhan Quyen Association to monitor and report on a specific human rights topic or country situation.

They are not employees of the UN and do not receive a salary for their work.


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