SOS Humanity’s rescue ship detained based on lies by the authorities

Schiff der libyschen Küstenwache, als die Crew der Humanity 1 einen Pull-Back bezeugt.
Camilla Kranzusch / SOS Humanity

Berlin, 04.12.2023. On Saturday evening, December 2, 2023, the rescue ship Humanity 1 was detained in Crotone, southern Italy, after disembarking 200 people rescued from distress at sea. The Italian authorities’ justifications for this blockade are based on a series of lies, which SOS Humanity can refute through its documentation of the events at sea. 

The detention was imposed by Italian authorities following a rescue carried out by Humanity 1 last Thursday. The crew was able to rescue 46 people from drowning who were already in the water. The rubber boat had previously been stopped in international waters by a patrol boat of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard in order to forcibly bring the fleeing people on board and illegally return them to Libya. During this ‘pull-back’, numerous people were left in the water without life jackets or any other rescue equipment. 

 In the statement explaining the reasons for the detention, which is based on a report by the Libyans, Italy makes two accusations against the crew of Humanity 1. First, the captain is said to have ignored instructions from the Libyan rescue coordination center and radio messages from the so-called Libyan Coast Guard in which he was allegedly asked to leave the area – a baseless, false claim. “I am shocked by the lies contained in the arrest report,” explains Joachim, captain of Humanity 1. “In fact, I did not receive any instructions from the Libyan patrol boat. On the contrary, I tried to contact both the Libyan rescue coordination center by e-mail and telephone and the Libyan patrol boat by radio without receiving a reply.” This is also evident from the fully documented e-mail and radio exchange. 

Second, Humanity 1 is held responsible for people trying to flee from the so-called Libyan Coast Guard and jumping into the water. This accusation is also clearly false. “We were informed by radio 20 minutes before we arrived that there were more than 40 people in the water,” reports captain Joachim. This message came from the civilian reconnaissance aircraft Seabird 1, which was observing the pull-back from the air. At this point, Humanity 1 was still around five kilometers away from the scene of the incident, which is also confirmed by the position data. “When you’re in a small boat, you can’t identify a ship at that distance,” notes the captain. “The so-called Libyan Coast Guard did nothing to save the people in the water from drowning.”    

The bridge of Humanity 1 finally asked the Italian rescue coordination center for coordination. The officer on duty instructed the captain to take all appropriate measures to save the lives of the people in the water. The captain complied with this request for rescue, which is also required by international maritime law. 

SOS Humanity is taking legal action against the arrest 

SOS Humanity is appalled by the shameless lies of the authorities and the resulting consequences of a 20-day detention of the Humanity 1 and a fine of 3,333 euros. The non-governmental search and rescue organisation will appeal against both the arrest and the fine. The Berlin-based organisation’s rescue ship must be released immediately so that it can return to sea as quickly as possible and continue its life-saving work. The detention of the Humanity 1 is a direct consequence of the implementation of Italian Law 15/2023, which creates a series of bureaucratic obstacles to search and rescue at sea and has already led to the detention of non-governmental rescue vessels in 13 cases in 2023. In July 2023, SOS Humanity and four other non-governmental organisations filed a complaint to the European Commission against the law and the Italian government’s practice of obstructing search and rescue NGOs.

The documentation of e-mail and radio traffic as well as image and video material (with original sound recordings) from Humanity 1 can be made available to interested media on request.

Here you can find the rescue report with a detailed chronology of events.

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