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Pylos shipwreck: the Greek authorities must ensure that effective investigations are conducted

In a letter to the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, published today, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, stresses that Greece has the legal obligation to conduct effective investigations into the Pylos shipwreck, which resulted in the death of more than 80 persons with many hundreds still missing, to establish the facts and, where appropriate, to lead to the punishment of those responsible.

The Commissioner expresses concern about reports of pressure having been exercised on survivors and about allegations of irregularities in the collection of evidence and testimonies, which may have led to a minimisation of the focus on certain actors in this tragedy, including the Greek Coast Guard. In the case of Safi and Others v. Greece, the European Court of Human Rights spelled out the parameters of an effective investigation into a similar event. Among those parameters, the Commissioner notes that independence is critical to securing the trust of the victims’ relatives, the survivors, the public and Greece’s international partners. While stressing that investigations cannot be limited to the role of alleged smugglers, she requests clarifications on the scope of the investigations initiated after the shipwreck.

Referring to the right of missing persons’ families to know the truth, the Commissioner seeks information on the efforts made to ensure that the remains of deceased migrants are located, respected, identified, and buried.

Expressing concerns at restrictions on survivors’ freedom of movement and the way asylum interviews have been conducted, she requests information on the concrete measures that Greece has taken to abide by its human rights obligations regarding reception conditions and access to the asylum procedure.

"In my view, the shipwreck of 14 June is unfortunately not an isolated incident”, writes the Commissioner. This should prompt a reconsideration of the approach to refugees and migrants arriving by sea at the political, policy and practical level. In this context, the Commissioner urges the Prime Minister to ensure that Greece abides by its international obligations regarding search and rescue, both under maritime law and human rights law.

Finally, the Commissioner reiterates her call for the Greek government to actively create and maintain an enabling legal framework and a political and public environment which is conducive to the existence and functioning of civil society organisations and to the work of human rights defenders and investigative journalists, and to stop their criminalisation and other forms of harassment.

Strasbourg 28/07/2023
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