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Refoulement in Libya: The European Court of Human Rights condemns Italy

Strasbourg - Italy has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for its refoulement of refugees back to Libya.

Particularly in the case of Hirsi in 2009, where 24 refugees were traced back in Libya by CIR (the Italian Committee for Refugees) after a vessel with 200 sub-Saharan migrants aboard was pushed back, Italy failed to comply with Article 3 of the Convention on Human Rights, which condemns torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.

After the sentence Christopher Hein, the director of the Italian Council for Refugees declared: "This is the most important ruling of the court of Strasbourg on the refoulement measures implemented by Italy as a result of the bilateral “friendship treaty” between Italy and Libya, which was signed by the previous Berlusconi government.

It is a historic sentence and the verdict will prevent any future refoulements of migrants intercepted or rescued in international waters.

The judgment of the court sets out a fundamental principle which the present government will have to take into account when renegotiating the cooperation agreements with the Libyan transition government".

The Court also ruled that Italy had violated the law against mass expulsions, and recognised the right of the victims of such measures to appeal to the Italian courts.

Italy has been sentenced to pay compensation of 15,000 Euros, plus expenses, to 22 of the 24 victims, while two applications were not deemed eligible. EveryOne Group has fought hard for this verdict, and against the renewal of agreements with Libya and other North African countries aimed at preventing illegal immigration.

Unfortunately a new agreement has already been signed by the new government. For its work the group has received a lot of intimidation, hostility and censorship (only one major national newspaper published the news).

The Court has made a right and historical decision by defining the expulsions at sea carried out by our government (measures defended by the majority of Italian politicians and the media) as “criminal acts”.

February 26, 2012

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By Roberto Malini

Co-founder, EveryOne Group, Italy


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