The Spanish NGO Proactiva ship 'Open Arms'
The Spanish NGO Proactiva ship 'Open Arms'

In a letter regarding the seizure of the migrant rescue ship of Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, 29 professors from around the world have accused Italy of "violating international laws." They have asked the country to stop pursuing those who bring migrants rescued at sea to safe ports.

 In the letter, professors from presigious universities around the world - including Oxford, Utrecht, Toronto, Michigan, Sydney, Paris and Westminster - said that according to international law, "captains are required to assist people in difficulty at sea and bring them to a safe place.

 The captain of the 'Open Arms' respected this principle, saving 218 people and subsequently refusing to hand them over to the Libyan Coast Guard." The professors said "on the basis of well-documented reports, the captain knew that handing them over to the Libyan Coast Guard could have entailed a real risk for the 218 people to be subjected to torture, inhumane or degrading treatment, slavery or forced labour, which constitute serious violations of human rights or even crimes against humanity" and that Libya "is not a safe place as required by international law". 

The professors said that Italy violated international law, "by asking the captains of ships working in search and rescue activities (SAR) to hand over rescued people to the Libyan Coast Guard" and "by seizing a ship dedicated to SAR activities, reducing the search and rescue capacity and presumably bringing the loss of more lives" at sea. 

Appeal for international intervention

 "The growing determination with which Italy exposes people to serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity, and with which it reduces the SAR capacity in the Mediterranean, calls for immediate action by the international community," the professors wrote. 

Italy "should stop its policy of promoting and strengthening returns to Libya effective immediately, and it should stop pursuing those who bring people rescued at sea to a safe place". The document's signers said if Italy is unable to do this on its own, "the UN Security Council should consider Italian actions a threat to international peace and security" and the International Criminal Court "should open an investigation of Italian authorities with regard to their complicity in crimes against humanity that take place in Libya". 

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