Humanity 1 detained – we are taking legal action!

Schiff der sogenannten libyschen Küstenwache auf dem zentralen Mittelmeer
Alessio Cassaro / SOS Humanity

On 2 March 2024, the crew of the Humanity 1 was threatened with armed force by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard as they observed an illegal interception of people on the move. Shortly afterwards, the so-called Libyan Coast Guard violently interrupted an ongoing rescue operation by Humanity 1 and put people’s lives in danger. Yet two days later, it was not the so-called Libyan Coast Guard that was held responsible by Italy, but us. An overview of what happened:

“Back, back, I fire gun!” shout the men on the patrol boat of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. There are people in the water. But our crew has no choice but to watch as around 50 people are forced onto the patrol boat. They are about to be illegally returned to Libya – the country from which they tried to flee. This is a clear violation of international law.

 

Yet there is no time to pause. Another distress call reaches us: the Humanity 1 sets course at full speed. It’s not just one boat in distress – there are three. The crew lower the RHIBs (fast rescue boats) into the water. While the crew of Humanity 1 is carrying out the rescue operation, the same patrol boat with armed men from the so-called Libyan Coast Guard returns and threatens our crew. Panic breaks out. People fall or jump into the water. The crew of the Humanity 1 throws rescue equipment into the water and begins to rescue people. Suddenly, the so-called Libyan Coast Guard shoots into the water.

This situation is life-threatening: for the people in the water, those on the unseaworthy boats and on Humanity 1’s speedboats. The crew of Humanity 1 is forced to call off the rescue operation due to the danger. As our speedboats move away, people are left in the water and the so-called Libyan Coast Guard forces many onto their patrol boat in order to bring them back to Libya in violation of international law.

Our crew manages to bring a total of 77 people on board the Humanity 1. On board, survivors report that the so-called Libyan Coast Guard left one person in the water. He is presumed to have drowned.

 

Fotobeweis von der Gewaltbereitschaft der sogeannten libyschen Küstenwache
Camilla Kranzusch / SOS Humanity
The so-called Libyan Coast Guard fires with guns towards people in distress and the crew of Humanity 1.
Alessio Cassaro / SOS Humanity
So-called Libyan Coast Guard is fireing bullets into the water while Humanity 1 is trying to take out a rescue operation
Alessio Cassaro / SOS Humanity
Menschen im Wasser zwischen hohen Wellen
Alessio Cassaro / SOS Humanity
Schiff der sogenannten libyschen Küstenwache auf dem zentralen Mittelmeer
Alessio Cassaro / SOS Humanity

EU finances breaches of the law in the Mediterranean

This death is not an accident or a tragedy. This death has political causes. The Libyan patrol boat that disrupted the rescue operations of Humanity 1 by force of arms was delivered to Libya last summer by Italian authorities, as part of an EU-funded operation. The EU funds the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, which threatens people with gunfire,  lets them drown instead of helping them, and forces them back to Libya illegally. The EU is therefore partly responsible for breaches of the law such as these in the Mediterranean!

Ausschiffung von 77 Geretteten in Italien vor der Festsetzung der humanity 1.
Alessio Cassaro / SOS Humanity

The Italian authorities first assign Porto Empedocle, then Bari and finally Crotone as a place of safety for disembarkation – a two-day journey. When the 77 survivors disembarked from the Humanity 1 on the evening of 4 March, we could hardly believe it:

Humanity 1 was detained – on unfounded and illegitimate charges.

Menschen im Wasser zwischen hohen Wellen
Alessio Cassaro / SOS Humanity
Illegitimate justifications for detention:

The Italian authorities made the accusation that the arrival of the Humanity 1 caused people to jump into the water, thereby creating a dangerous situation. In fact, the Humanity 1 was the first ship on the scene and our crew had already started rescue operations when the so-called Libyan Coast Guard arrived. Until then, the rescue was calm and professional.

It was only when the masked men arrived on the Libyan patrol boat and threatened us and the people in the water with firearms that the situation escalated and people jumped or fell into the water. When these men fired a shot, the Humanity 1’s crew had to abort the rescue due to the violence and leave the scene, even though there were still people in the water. It was the so-called Libyan Coast Guard who broke the law and created a life-threatening situation. At least one person is believed to have drowned as a result of their violent intervention.

The authorities accuse us of not following the instructions of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard and rescue coordination centre. In fact, the Libyan authorities issued unlawful instructions that the captain was unable to follow: The so-called Libyan Coast Guard asked the Humanity 1 to leave, even though the crew was in the middle of the rescue operation and a boat was already filled with water. The captain of the Humanity 1 replied that he would complete the rescue operation, as he was obliged to do so under international law, and that he would not leave the scene until the rescue operation had been completed.

The highest court in Italy has also recently confirmed once again that returning people to Libya is illegal. Therefore, the captain should never have passed over the rescue to the so-called Libyan Coast Guard based on applicable law. However, he was forced to do so due to the threat of violence.

 

However, it is not the so-called Libyan Coast Guard that is being held responsible by Italy, but us, even though we complied with international law and saved lives. Leo, the captain of the Humanity 1, sharply criticises the arrest

"I am appalled that weapons were involved and a rifle even fired - but now it is us who are being punished by Italy for our life-saving work. The Humanity 1 must be released immediately!"

We are taking legal action!

We will not put up with this unlawful detention and will take legal action against it. With the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, the EU states are funding an actor that has been proven to break the law and act violently. According to survivors, the EU’s support led to at least one person drowning on Saturday and an unknown number of refugees being illegally forced back to Libya. And that’s not all: on European soil, where human rights are allegedly respected, those who comply with applicable laws and save lives are penalised for doing so. This criminalisation is mainly at the expense of people on the move, because our crew cannot return to the area of operation as planned.

We demand that the EU and its member states finally end their support for and cooperation with the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. The brutal interceptions of refugees financed by the EU and their illegal return to Libya must be stopped immediately. SOS Humanity demands an independent investigation into the incidents on 2 March 2024 and the immediate release of its illegally detained rescue ship Humanity 1 in order to continue to rescue people in distress at sea.

Subscribe to our newsletter
By registering, you agree to the terms of the Privacy Policy.
Contact

SOS Humanity e.V.
Postbox 440352
D-12003 Berlin

kontakt@sos-humanity.org
Phone +49 (0) 30 2352 5682

Donations

SOS Humanity e.V.

IBAN: DE 0410 0500 0001 9041 8451
BIC: BELADEBEXXX

Transparency

© 2024 SOS HUMANITY