Seven days of violations, omissions and abuses: Mediterranea’s complaint to the Public Prosecutor’s Office


On 4 September 2019 we filed a complaint with the Court of Agrigento, Sicily and with the Public Prosecutor of Rome.
The first 30 pages offer a detailed reconstruction of all the events that took place since the dawn of August 28, when our ship rescued 98 people, including 22 small children, at risk of death on an overcrowded raft, until the early hours of September 3, when our commander and our shipowner were absurdly notified with the administrative seizure of the Mare Jonio and a fine of 300,000 euros for violating the ban to entry into Italian territorial waters, despite having formally been authorized by the competent authorities.

The list of violations and abuses committed in this case is long, and it is certainly not due to our crew. It is an ethical duty to fully reaffirm the truth and justice with respect to what happened, and to continue to protect the rights of the people we have rescued and of our crew. Once again, we are the ones who demand that the investigations be opened, certain that we have always acted in full compliance with international laws and with our Constitution, differently than some of the top leaders of the government have done until yesterday.

We hope that the chain of institutional and personal responsibilities behind our case will be identified by the judicial authority, because, as we reported in the complaint:

we believe that (i) the management of the SAR event of 28 August 2019; (ii) the adoption of the injunction provision to access to territorial waters; and (iii) the administrative seizure of the MARE JONIO vessel and the application of a fine for the alleged violation of the ministerial warning, is marked by a series of very serious institutional omissions, and by measures taken in the absence of legal conditions and in violation of international obligations and constitutional standards, of behavior of dubious lawfulness and strongly detriment to the psycho-physical integrity, the dignity and the rights of the rescued migrants, of the crew and of all the people on board, with particular reference to:

– the attempt to repatriate 98 war refugees in Libya in serious condition of vulnerability, who were victims of repeated acts of torture and violence in the Libyan detention camps, and that included many children and pregnant women, with the awareness of exposing them, of being tortured again or even bring killed;
– the omitted coordination of the SAR event by the national authorities in charge, even though they were the first to be informed of the rescue and therefore having such legal obligation;
– failure to assign the PoS in violation of international and national obligations with regard to saving lives at sea;
– the issue of the injunction provision in the territorial waters by the competent Ministers in the absence of any preliminary investigation to ascertain the existence of the reasons of danger for the order and national security referred to in the decree n. 59/2019 converted into law n. 77 and in direct violation of international and national obligations regarding the saving of lives at sea;
– the unjustified detention of all persons on board the Mare Jonio – a ship flying Italian flag – forced to remain on the tugboat against their will for 6 days in inhuman conditions well known to the competent authorities as documented by health authorities on board and ministerial offices and by the psychiatrist, Dr. Carla Ferrari Aggradi and repeatedly communicated to the competent authorities;

– the delay in the adoption of medical evacuation measures despite the numerous reminders and reports from the on-board health notes and ministerial reports and from the psychiatric report that identified the risk, in case of continuation of the permanence on board, of acts of self-harm or violent reactions, which caused a progressive aggravation of the psycho-physical conditions of the migrants to the point of causing self-injurious behavior, anxiety, panic, sleep disturbances, food refusal and hunger strikes;
– the omission of a reference point within the territorial waters, in temporary derogation from the inhibition, to guarantee the safety of all persons on board the Mare Jonio against the weather alert issued by the competent Authorities;
– the omitted, timely adoption by the competent Authorities of the necessary measures to protect the health and safety of all persons on board to contain the risk of a health emergency and the spread of community diseases, despite having been repeatedly informed of the precarious hygienic conditions of the Mare Jonio due to the dysfunction of the water desalination plant, and the consequent absence of running water, and the risk of spreading diseases due to the impossibility of guaranteeing proper personal hygiene;
– having, as a consequence of the conduct referred to above, subjected the survivors rescued by the Mare Jonio to inhuman and degrading treatment, strongly damaging their dignity as persons and their fundamental rights, contributing to aggravate the psycho-physical stress conditions to the point to cause self-injurious, depressive reactions, refusal of food, anxiety and panic;
– the adoption of the administrative seizure order of the Mare Jonio and of the pecuniary sanction for violation of the art. 12 paragraph 6 bis of Legislative Decree n. 286/1998, despite the authorization for entry into territorial waters issued by the competent Port Authorities.

We have asked the Public Prosecutor’s Office to proceed with ascertaining all the details of the offenses attributable to these conduct, in order to prosecute and punish the author by law. It is an act of justice that goes beyond the events that directly saw us as primary actors. Restoring the rule of law in the Mediterranean also means fighting power abuse even on land.