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3 Jun, 2019 16:16

‘They triggered this crisis’: Lawyers suing EU over deaths of Libyan migrants in Mediterranean

‘They triggered this crisis’: Lawyers suing EU over deaths of Libyan migrants in Mediterranean

Human rights lawyers are suing the European Union over the deaths of Libyan migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, arguing that EU policies are to blame for the thousands of lost lives.

The group of lawyers has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the EU, outlining, in a 243-page document, actions taken by the bloc to deter migration which they say violated human rights.

EU policies “intended to sacrifice the lives of migrants in distress at sea, with the sole objective of dissuading others in similar situation from seeking safe haven in Europe," the lawyers say, as quoted by The Guardian.

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The first major drowning incidents took place in early 2015, but continued on, resulting in the deaths of “thousands [of] civilians per year” over the past five years.

The ICC submission points to the EU’s 2014 decision to scale back rescue operations, and leave large zones of the Mediterranean without rescue capabilities, as a major reason for the drownings. It also points to efforts by Italy and other member states to persecute NGO sea rescue groups.

Statements by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron indicate that EU leaders “had foreknowledge and full awareness of the lethal consequences” for migrants, it said. Rather than having no role in the tragedy, EU leaders in fact “triggered” it, former ICC lawyer and co-author of the report Juan Branco told the Associated Press.

The lawyers also criticize the decision to turn approximately 40,000 migrants back to militia-controlled camps in Libya where they say “atrocious crimes are committed.”

The ICC receives requests each year to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is already investigating alleged crimes committed against Libyan migrants, but a court prosecutor will need to decide whether to investigate and bring a case based on the latest submission.

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While the document focuses on the EU’s migration policies and response to the mass migration of Libyans, EU nations also played a part in ‘triggering’ the crisis in the first place. The UK, France, and Italy, among others, played major roles in the US-led NATO bombing of Libya in 2011.

Advertised as a “humanitarian intervention” to topple leader Muammar Gaddafi, the military operation resulted in the near total destruction of Libya, once Africa’s richest country, leaving it a failed state and ripe ground for terrorists and human traffickers — a situation which ultimately generated the country’s refugee crisis.

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