The Louise Michel warns of another atrocity carried out by the so-called coastguards, just days after ICC told to investigate Italy and Malta’s role in possible crimes against humanity in Libya
RESCUERS witnessed the Libyan Coastguard shooting at a refugee who jumped into the from one of its patrol ships in the Mediterranean today.
The Louise Michel, an activist-run refugee rescue ship set up with the help of the elusive street artist Banksy, said it was alerted to a boat in distress two hours away from its position by the refugee emergency hotline organisation Alarm Phone.
“When we arrived at the scene, we had to witness the so-called Libyan Coastguard already circling around a black rubber boat,” an activist aboard the Louise Michel told The Civil Fleet today
“They must have received the message as well — several Frontex drones were operating in the area.
“A few minutes later, they came alongside the rubber boat and started embarking people onto their ship.
“We decided to stay clear in order to prevent people from jumping. Still, at least one person jumped in desperation into the water and tried swimming towards our ship.
“The so-called Libyan Coastguard made sure no one would follow this example by shooting at them.
“After they left, we returned to the position. We couldn’t find anyone in the water. But we did find an abandoned and deflated rubber boat.”
The crew are still shocked about what they witness today, the activist said.
“The fact that a civil rescue ship once again got run out by the so-called Libyan Coastguard has left us speechless. It shows once again that NGOs alone can never close the rescue gap willingly created by the EU.
“Despite everything we hear about commitments to human rights, the truth is clear: at European borders, some lives simply do not matter.”
Alarm Phone said: “These individuals were so close to being rescued by Louise Michel. Instead, they were intercepted by the so-called Libyan coastguard, which is funded and legitimised by the EU.
“The people will be forced back to torture camps.”
Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, 87 people, including two very small children, were rescued by the Doctors Without Borders’ (MSF) ship, Geo Barents.
The Geo Barent’s crew brought the 87 safely aboard the ship early this morning after they were spotted on a overcrowded rubber boat.
Today’s developments come just days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) was called on to investigate the Italian and Maltese authorities’ role in assisting the pushback of refugees to Libya.
Three human rights groups sent a communication to the ICC on Tuesday, warning that armed Libyan groups have committed possible crimes against humanity on people trapped inside the country’s migrant detention centres after they have been intercepted at sea.
The three groups are Adala For All, a French not-for-profit organisation comprised of Libyan human rights lawyers and legal experts, StraLi, an Italian legal and human rights NGO, and UpRights, a Netherlands-based non-profit helping victims of serious human rights abuses access the courts.
Since the Nato-backed toppling of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, a statement by the three groups says, armed groups inside the country have “developed a predatory economy in which migrants are intercepted at sea during their journey to Europe, returned to Libya and placed in detention centres in which they are systematically subjected to serious abuses.
“Actors involved in the commission of these alleged crimes include members of armed groups in control of detention centres, acting under the nominal authority of Libyan authorities, as well as the Libyan Coastguard and the Department Combatting Illegal Migration under the Ministry of Interior.”
Those intercepted in the Mediterranean and returned to Libya’s detention centres, the groups warn, have been subjected to “murder, torture and/or cruel treatment, forced labour, hostage-taking, and various forms of sexual violence including rape and sexual slavery.”
The involvement of Italian and Maltese nationals in facilitating the push and pull backs of people to Libya only hightens the need for an ICC investigation, the groups said.
“Crimes committed against migrants in Libya represent an emerging ‘pocket of immunity’ at the border of Europe which has become increasingly and openly accepted by the international community despite the massive amount of evidence of pervasive international crimes on Europe’s doorstep,” Adala for All’s Ramadan Amani said.
“Available evidence clearly points to responsibilities within Europe.”
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 32,425 people were intercepted in the Mediterranean and returned to Libya in 2021. That’s all most three times as many as the 11,891 sent back in 2020.
Three other human rights groups — European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights and Lawyers for Justice in Libya — in November also called on the ICC to investigate possible crimes against humanity committed on migrants and refugees in Libya.
Refugees In Libya, an activist group made up of around 1,600 people protesting against their treatment by the authorities and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), shared a photograph today showing conditions inside the Ain Zara detention centre.
“The inhumane prison that [Libyan Foreign Affairs minister Najla Elmangoush] and [the Interior Ministry] will never mention or show to their masters [at the European Comission],” Refugees In Libya said on Twitter in a post above the image.
“We call for the immediate release of all refugees and the closure of Ain Zara prison then others. Please, [UNHCR Libya] why are we abandoned to militias like this?”
Top image shows the Libyan Coastguard patrol vessel intercepting a refugee boat [Pic: Louise Michel]