Migrants intercepted by the Libyan coastguard arrive at a naval base in Tripoli, Libya | Photo: EPA
Migrants intercepted by the Libyan coastguard arrive at a naval base in Tripoli, Libya | Photo: EPA

Italian journalist Sara Creta has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to learn how Italian and EU public funds are used by the Libyan forces that intercept migrants. Italy's highest administrative court had rejected her request.

Italian freelance journalist Sara Creta has filed an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights with the help of the legal team of the Italian NGO Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI). Her request: To get access to detailed information on how Italian and European Union money transferred to Libyan authorities is used.

Creta said on Twitter that she had filed the appeal because "the right to know cannot be denied".

In October 2020, the journalist had reportedly first requested information from the Italian interior ministry on the use of funds allocated to Libyan authorities, according to a statement published by ASGI announcing the appeal on Monday (September 19).

Creta's request was then denied by the Italian interior ministry, and subsequently Lazio's regional administrative court (TAR) and Italy's highest administrative court, the Council of State.

Italian and EU money given to Libya to stop migrants

The funds on which Creta wants information are part of the program "Support to Integrated Border and Migration Management - First Phase" (SIBMMIL), implemented by the Italian interior ministry.

The program is funded with €46 million euros (including €42 million coming from the European Union's Emergency Trust Fund for Africa). It is aimed at improving the ability of Libyan authorities to manage land and maritime borders -- meaning to stop migrants and refugees from crossing the Mediterranean to Italy.

"By offering material, technical and political assistance to Libyan authorities, the program facilitates the interception of migrant and refugee people in the Central Mediterranean and their return to cruel and inhuman conditions of torture and slavery in detention centers of the North African country", wrote ASGI in a statement published Monday.

Creta -- represented by ASGI's layer Luce Bonzano -- decided to appeal to the ECHR on the grounds that her right to free expression (enshrined in article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights) had been violated.

Read more: 20,000 migrants taken back to Libya reported missing in 2021: Oxfam

'Grave human rights violations'

Creta argues that her role as a journalist is to inform people on what is happening in Libya -- and that she needs precise information on how Italian and European public money is spent there to do so.

"It is fundamental for journalists to have non-discriminatory access to information", Creta was quoted as saying by ASGI. "For a while, the absolute lack of clarity in the management of Italian and European funds in Libya has been accompanied by grave human rights violations.Given the importance of this expenditure and its implications for foreign policy, the right to knowledge can't be denied."

Italy and the European Union funds provided to Libyan authorities has long been criticized by many human rights advocates and UN officials. Migrants face severe abuse at Libyan detention centers -- including torture, rape and even murder, according to an UN report from October 2021.

Despite mounting evidence collected by independent organizations, Libyan authorities deny the reports of abuse and torture against migrants.


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