08.08.2020

International League for Human Rights condemns temporary end to civil sea rescue in the Mediterranean

Rescue ship “Ocean Viking” of the non-governmental organisation “SOS Méditerranée” stopped in the Sicilian port of Porto Empedocle

On 22nd July the Italian authorities carried out an 11 hour inspection of the ship belonging to the civil maritime rescue organisation “SOS Méditerranée” in the port of Porto Empedocle in Sicily and then fixed it indefinitely. For “SOS Méditerranée”, this is a “new level of official harassment aimed at blocking the life-saving operations of civil sea rescue vessels”. The non-governmental organisation strongly rejects the alleged safety deficiencies and the finding that the ship carried more than 42 persons than the number stated in the certificate for the equipment of cargo ships. The latter reasoning reveals a cynicism that is difficult to surpass. The “Ocean Viking” is not a passenger ship, but is committed to the law of the sea, namely to rescue all people in distress and bring them to a safe harbour. Any action to the contrary would be punishable in the sense of failure to provide assistance at sea.

The crew of Ocean Viking had taken 180 people rescued from distress to the safe harbour of Porto Empedocle after waiting nine days for permission from the Italian authorities to enter the port. The fugitives were transferred to a quarantine ship, and the crew of Ocean Viking were quarantined on their ship. After the end of the quarantine period, it was planned to set sail again. But the authorities prevented this by their instructions.
In fact, the practice is by no means new: Since 2017, the authorities of Malta and Italy have alternately chained up all civilian sea rescue vessels and sometimes not at all, sometimes only with a delay let them depart again. Due to the fixing of the “Ocean Viking”, no civilian rescue ship is currently in operation in the central Mediterranean.

The International League for Human Rights has awarded SOS Méditerranée the Carl von Ossietzky Medal in 2016 “for its high and dangerous commitment in concern for the right to life and its civil society commitment to human rights and human dignity”. At that time, SOS Méditerranée saved thousands of lives on the run with the “Aquarius”. Today, the donation-financed successor ship “Ocean Viking” must not be prevented from resuming its fight against dying in the Mediterranean.

The League appeals to the European Union, of which Germany currently holds the presidency, to finally take effective measures in accordance with human rights to put an end to the “cause of death flight”, which has been scandalous and inhuman for many years.

The League expresses its full solidarity with SOS Méditerranée and urges that donations be made to ensure that its humanitarian rescue operations are carried out.

Contact: Knut Albrecht

SOS Méditerranée website

International League for Human Rights website

Donation account: SOS MEDICINE

Foto (Header): Alexander Sinn (unsplash)

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