African migrants, who were rescued by the Libyan coastguard in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast, wait at a naval base in Tripoli, Libya |Photo: EPA/STR
African migrants, who were rescued by the Libyan coastguard in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast, wait at a naval base in Tripoli, Libya |Photo: EPA/STR

Italy shares responsibility for the violations of the rights of migrants in Libya, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) claim. This month the two organizations submitted a joint third-party intervention to the European Court of Human Rights in a case involving Libya’s abuses against migrants.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) hold that Italy shares responsibility for the violation of migrant rights by Libya and have thus filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. The two associations issued a statement on November 13 saying: ''On 11 November 2019, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch submitted a joint third-party intervention to the European Court of Human Rights in a case involving Libya’s abuses against migrants during operations at sea and upon return to the country in November 2017.'' 

S.S. case and others against Italy

"In the case of S.S. and others v Italy applicants are seeking justice before the court, claiming that Italy breached its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights by cooperating with Libya to enable its coast guard to intercept people at sea and take them back to Libya.The applicants have told the court that people returned to Libya are routinely exposed to torture and other abuses in Libya, including through their routine containment in detention centers, where they are held arbitrarily,'' the statement said. 

''In 2012 the European Court of Human Rights, ruling in the case of Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy, found that Italy’s practice of intercepting migrants at sea and forcing them to return to Libya had violated the European Convention on Human Rights, including the prohibition on returning people to countries where they face a risk of human rights abuses. Since then, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have consistently documented the ongoing human rights abuses against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Libya, and condemned the EU’s, including specifically Italy’s, cooperation with and support of Libya in ways that has led to the prolonged arbitrary detention and abuse of people in Libya,'' it added. 

Opportunity to demonstrate Italy's responsibility 

Amnesty International and HRW said that joint intervention makes the case that Italy is playing a decisive role in supporting and influencing Libyan migration controls and allowing it to pursue the same policies of intercepting migrants at sea and return them to Libya, that the court already condemned in 2012. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch argue that Italy shares responsibility for human rights violations that result from maritime operations by Libyan authorities; when those operations are carried out with the employment of unnecessary or disproportionate force or those that end in people being returned to abusive conditions. 

The intervention also provides updated findings on the inhumane conditions for refugees and migrants in Libya and the abuses committed or tolerated by Libyan authorities. "This case provides a crucial opportunity to secure accountability under the European Convention for Italy’s substantial role in shaping Libya’s border and migration control policy. "Italian and broader EU support of Libya is instrumental in enabling horrific abuses by Libyan authorities against refugees and migrants during interceptions at sea and upon return to Libya. It should not, as such, be without consequence,'' the statement added.
 

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