12 NGOs file a criminal complaint to demand an investigation: Who is responsible for the destruction of the rescue ship Iuventa?

November 23, 2023

Trapani. The civil fleet joins the iuventa-crew in filing a criminal complaint to hold accountable those responsible for the destruction of the Iuventa rescue ship under Italian custody.

The 4 iuventa-crew members, on trial in Trapani for allegedly “facilitating unauthorised immigration”, already filed a complaint in March 2023 demanding an investigation into the destruction of their rescue ship. Without result. Now 12 other NGOs have filed their own complaints in this matter so that the competent public prosecutor’s office in Trapani cannot further ignore this.

The Iuventa was seized by the Italian authorities in August 2017. An inspection in October 2022 revealed that the ship is in disastrous condition, a result of years of abandonment and neglected maintenance while under the custody of the Trapani port authority. The complete lack of safeguarding led to plunder and destruction. In December 2022, this was recognised by the court of Trapani, which ordered that the ship be restored to its pre-confiscation condition. The breach of the duty of custody was thus de facto recognised, but without anyone being held responsible.

Dariush Beigui, iuventa-crew: “We will make visible and hold accountable those who destroy rescue assets that are urgently needed at Europe’s borders, preventing the saving of thousands of lives. This is the aim of our joint action, in which we stand together as civil society actors!

The seizure of the Iuventa marked the orchestrated culmination of one of the largest and most comprehensive investigation into SAR NGOs. While it was presented as a “preventive” measure to stop further crimes, none of the purported offenses could be substantiated to date. In the ongoing criminal trial, still in pre-trial phase after 7 years, the defense dismantles each accusation as false and unfounded.

Sascha Girke, iuventa-crew: “The seizure of our ship was not about preventing any criminal offens
es. The aim was to restrict basic human rights, such as the right to life and physical integrity, of people on the move. The subsequent abandonment and destruction of the rescue ship confirms the will of the Italian authorities to undermine the rescue capacity of the civil fleet.

The joint complaint filed today by the civilian fleet holds significance beyond the Iuventa case as it comes at a highly relevant time: Since the beginning of 2023 alone, 12 NGO ships have been detained in Italy. In the same period, more than 2.300 people lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

Measures such as seizure and detention are part of a systematic practice in Italy to obstruct civilian search and rescue operations. This has progressed since the seizure of the Iuventa and has been escalated by the Piantedosi decree. Any attack on a rescue ship has an impact on the entire civil fleet and ultimately on the lives and safety of people on the move.

The joint effort of the NGOs underlines the importance of holding state actors accountable for their actions in seizing and destroying lifesaving assets. The support of Sea Watch, borderline-europe, SOS Humanity, Mediterranea, Louise Michel, United4Rescue, Mission Lifeline, Mare-GO, Sea Punks, Alarm Phone, R42-sailtraining UG and ResQ is a strong sign of solidarity within the civil fleet.