The controversial trial against the Iuventa crew and other NGO workers has been suspended by a judge due to procedural errors by the prosecution. Matteo Salvini is charged with aggravated defamation against Carola Rackete, the former captain on Sea-Watch 3. Despite criminalisation and defamation civilian rescuers continue to save lives.

Iuventa-crew reports that a hearing on 15 June in Italy:resulted in the suspension of the trial against us and the others due to grave procedural errors by the prosecution. The judge asked the prosecution to correct these errors – until then our trial will be paused”. Four crew members from the Iuventa rescue vessel, that was seized almost five years ago are, are among NGO workers facing up to 20-years of imprisonment for allegedly colluding with human smugglers. Iuventa-crew states on the suspension of the highly controversial and contested trial: “The prosecution failed to provide crucial information about the trial to all defendants. This is not only sloppy work – failing to ensure everyone knows they could face 20y prison – but a clear violation of fair trial standards! The judge returned the file to the prosecution,” further posing the question: “It his good or bad? Unfortunately both. Of course it’s right that these errors are not ignored. But it also means we have to wait months again for our trial to resume – because the prosecution failed to do its job properly in 5 years of investigation”. Meanwhile, former Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the interior, Matteo Salvini, notorious for his crackdown on civilian search and rescue operators is facing a defamation trial. Salvini is charged with aggravated defamation against Carola Rackete, the former captain on Sea-Watch 3, over the public use of phrases such as “that snotty little captain”, the “German criminal” and the “rich and spoilt Communist”.

Despite the ongoing crack-down civilian reascue operators continue to save lives on the Mediterranean. On 14 June the German organisation Sea-Eye reported the rescue of 63 people including 31 children in distress after fleeing Libya in a rubber dinghy. Its recue vessel Sea Eye 4 was again in action on 15-16 June responding to two boats in distress and rescuing 353 people in the span of 12 hours bringing the total number of survivors onboard to 416. On 15 June the Aita Mari operated by the Spanish organisation Maydayterraneo rescued 17 people from a small boat in the Mediterranean. The organisation reported that the operation had been “complicated” as the survivors were rescued after jumping into the water escaping the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. The rest of the more than 100 people were intercepted by the Libyan authorities were reportedly returned to Libya. The NGO hotline Alarm Phone reported earlier on 12 June of another twelve people were intercepted and returned to Libya.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) 528 “migrants have been disembarked back on Libyan shores” in the period from 5 to 11 June. The total for 2022 so far is more than 8,000.

For further information:

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.