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Commissioner publishes observations on alleged human rights violations of migrants returned from Italy to Libya

Third party intervention
Strasbourg 22/11/2019
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Commissioner publishes observations on alleged human rights violations of migrants returned from Italy to Libya

Today, the Commissioner published her written observations submitted to the European Court of Human Rights in connection with the case of S.S. and others v. Italy.  This case concerns the interception and rescue operation of a boat in distress in the Mediterranean Sea, carrying around 150 persons who had left Libya, and the alleged human rights violations resulting from this operation.

In her submission, the Commissioner recalls that the effective protection and promotion of the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, at sea and on land, requires the full implementation of member states’ obligations under international maritime law, human rights law and refugee law, read consistently with each other.

The Commissioner underscores that changes adopted in member states’ migration practices  in the Central Mediterranean, in particular certain types of assistance provided to the Libyan Coast Guard, have resulted in increased returns of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees to Libya, despite the fact that member states knew, or should have known, about the risk of serious human rights violations they would face in the country.

In addition, the Commissioner highlights that, at the receipt of distress calls originating from any search and rescue region, member states’ relevant authorities should not transfer responsibility for rescue operations to other state authorities, when they know or should know that such action would expose people in distress at sea to serious violations of their human rights. Lastly, she stresses that instructions issued in the course of such operations must be human rights compliant and that they should neither obstruct safety at sea and effective rescue, nor lead to the disembarkation of persons rescued at sea in a place that is not safe.  

Third party interventions represent an additional tool at the Commissioner’s disposal to help promote and protect human rights. They are foreseen by the European Convention on Human Rights and are based on the Commissioner’s country and thematic activities.