The International Criminal Court in The Hague is investigating the so-called Libyan Coastguard. This investigation is the result of the numerous attacks on civil rescue organisations as well as refugees and migrants, as highlighted by Sea-Watch. In several cases, the so-called Libyan Coastguard has put rescuers, migrants and refugees in mortal danger in order to bring the latter back to Libya at gunpoint – a clear violation of the internationally-accepted principle of non-refoulement.
For Sea-Watch, the specific reason for this legal investigation stems from an incident on 10th May in which a patrol boat of the Libyan Coastguard dangerously cut across the bow of the Sea-Watch 2 in order to subsequently reach a wooden boat with c. 500 people on board. The captain of the patrol boat forced the refugees and migrants to stop their boat at gunpoint. Subsequently, they were brought back to Tripoli and from there to the infamous ‘Detention Centres’. “The incident took place outside of Libyan territorial waters and thus represents a clear violation of the international ban on refoulement”, says Sea-Watch lawyer Jens Janssen.
“The International Criminal Court in The Hague has therefore, at the request of Sea-Watch, now begun an investigation into the actions of the Libyan Coastguard. Sea-Watch will support the investigation where possible and will present the Court with records of the incidents documented by Sea-Watch, as well as reports from the crew”, according to Janssen. “The ICC already concerns itself with grave crimes against humanity committed within Libya. It is an important step that investigators in The Hague are now putting the crimes committed by the so-called Libyan Coastguard under the microscope as well.”
“Unfortunately, the grossly negligent and often criminal actions of the so-called Libyan Coastguard are not an isolated incident, and they can sometimes end in death: in October we witnessed how dozens of people drowned before the eyes of our crew after the Libyan Coastguard damaged an overloaded rubber boat. The Libyans had also tried in this instance to bring the boat from international waters back to Libya: 104 other people only survived because Sea-Watch was on hand and pulled them out of the water,” says Axel Grafmanns, CEO of Sea-Watch. “Currently, we are observing a sharp increase in such encroachments by the Libyan Coastguard. Less than two weeks after the incident of 10th May, the crews of Jugend Rettet und SOS Mediterranée were caught in the crossfire when the crew of a patrol boat fired shots from an automatic weapon in the direction of several refugee boats during another illegal refoulement,” says Grafmanns. “In this case the role of the rescue coordination centre in Rome must be urgently clarified, which at least for the incident of 10th May had given over coordination of the operation to the Libyans, meaning that the refoulement may even have taken place with European consent.”
In light of the investigation in The Hague, Sea-Watch demands that the training of the Libyan Coastguard be contingent on strict conditions. “It cannot be accepted that fundamental rights are here being continuously violated – and with European support in the form of both know-how and material help,” says Axel Grafmanns. “The investigation in The Hague makes once again clear that Europe must decide between human rights and resistance to migration. Any support for the so-called Libyan Coastguard should be stopped until it can be guaranteed that the units in question orient their behaviour in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone has the right to leave their country. Refoulement to Libya is not only a humanitarian disaster but also simply illegal, and must not be tolerated by the EU, let alone funded by it. We are therefore pleased that the International Criminal Court is taking the matter in hand.”
You’ll find more information on the incidents with the Libyan Coast Guards here: https://sea-watch.org/en/petition-end-eu-financed-violence-against-refugees-and-migrants-by-the-libyan-coastguard/