Texarkana Gazette

Italy failed drowned migrants, group says


GENEVA — Independen­t human rights experts who work with the United Nations say Italy failed to protect the “right to life” of over 200 migrants who died when the boat they were on sank in the Mediterran­ean Sea over seven years ago.

The Human Rights Committee also called on Italian authoritie­s to “proceed with an independen­t and timely investigat­ion and to prosecute those responsibl­e” for the deaths.

The boat departed from Libya on Oct. 10, 2013 carrying some 400 people, mostly Syrians. In a decision published Wednesday, the committee said Italy “failed to respond promptly” to distress calls after the vessel was shot “by a boat flying a Berber flag in internatio­nal waters” about 70 miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The committee of 18 experts says distress calls to Italian authoritie­s were redirected to Malta, which was some 135 miles away. By the time a Maltese patrol boat arrived the boat had capsized. More than 200 people, including 60 children, drowned.

Committee member Helene Tigroudja called it a “complex case” since the migrants’ boat was in internatio­nal waters within Malta’s search and rescue zone, but she said a timely response might have averted the disaster.

“Had the Italian authoritie­s immediatel­y directed its naval ship and coast guard boats after the distress calls, the rescue would have reached the vessel at the latest two hours before it sank,” Tigroudja said.

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