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Lives lost in the Mediterranean: PACE inquiry to prevent impunity

Strasbourg, 07.09.2011 – “The PACE inquiry into who is responsible for the more than 1,000 ‘boat people’ thought to have perished in the Mediterranean since January 2011 while trying to reach European soil from North Africa is meant to prevent impunity, PACE rapporteur Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC) has said at the end of a two-day visit to Rome (6 and 7 September 2011). “There is an obligation to help all people in distress. If anyone did not live up to this responsibility and deliberately did not assist them, they must not be allowed to get away with it.”

The rapporteur’s visit to Rome focused on an incident reported in March-April this year, during which 61 boat people escaping from Libya died after their appeals for rescue had allegedly been ignored. “The testimonies of witnesses directly involved in this incident are coherent, but we have to continue to collect more data and information on who was when and where in the area,” Mrs Strik reported.

“My mission is to try to find out what went wrong, and if there was perhaps a gap in responsibility-sharing. The recommendation which will be contained in my report is aimed at establishing responsibilities and trying to determine how to deal with such incidents in the future. We have to draw the right lessons to prevent similar situations from occurring again,” Mrs Strik said.

“At the end of my inquiry, I expect national jurisdictions, governments and parliaments to carry on the investigations and I very much hope that the dynamic of truth, which my colleague Dick Marty referred to when successfully investigating unlawful secret detentions in Europe, will pave the way,” she concluded.

During her visit to Rome, Mrs Strik had meetings with survivors of a shipwreck, officers of Italian coastguard units, representatives of NGOs active in the field and representatives of the Office of the UNHCR.

In order to continue looking into the manner in which these boats are intercepted – or not – by national coastguards, the EU’s border agency FRONTEX, or military vessels under either NATO or national command, Mrs Strik will be visiting other countries and organisations.