18.05.2022

Iuventa: "We risk 20 years in prison, but they won't end solidarity!"

On 21 May 2022, four crew members of the civilian search and rescue vessel Iuventa will travel to the court in Trapani, Sicily, for the first day of the preliminary hearing. At this pre-trial hearing, the court will decide whether they will be charged with "aiding and abetting irregular immigration" of refugees to Italy. The four defendants of the Iuventa crew contributed to the rescue of more than 14,000 people who had made their way to Europe from Libya. If convicted, they each face up to 20 years in prison.

A total of 21 people, which include Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children and Iuventa, as well as a shipping company, have been charged. What is being dealt with in the court in Trapani is not only individual sea rescue operations and their backgrounds, but also and above all the ever-increasing criminalisation of solidarity and the exercise of human rights, Italy's role in restricting civil society and the potentially devastating effects of the case for people on the run. After Italy suspended the Mare Nostrum sea rescue mission in the Mediterranean in 2014, it was civil society organisations that filled the void left at sea to save the lives of refugees and migrants in distress on the central Mediterranean route - the deadliest migration route in the world.

The Iuventa was seized by Italian authorities in 2017 and has since been detained in the port of Trapani. A wide-ranging investigation has been launched. Despite the fact that tens of thousands have drowned on this deadly route to Europe, prosecutors are again arguing that the rescues were not made out of distress at sea, but that the crew cooperated with smugglers. This tendency not only limits the civil space for the defence of human rights, but also has far-reaching consequences for the work of civil society organisations in general. Search and rescue organisations are repeatedly targeted by a systematic campaign of repression and criminalisation. In addition, improper investigative practices - such as illegal wiretapping of journalists and lawyers - are a cause for concern. To ensure that the process is fair and transparent, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, Amnesty International, Giuristi Democratici, Democratic Lawyers of Switzerland and the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights have requested to participate in the hearings.

A press conference was organised by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, Amnesty International, borderline-europe, European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights, Giuristi Democratici and Democratic Lawyers of Switzerland on 17 May. The video of the press conference is available here.

On the eve of the first day of the trial, Arci Porco Rosso and activists in Palermo are inviting people to an anti-fascist gathering in solidarity with the crew of the Iuventa.
The meeting on 20 May will be an opportunity to talk about the struggle against solidarity that many governments are waging against activists.

On 21 May, on the other hand, we will stand in front of the Trapani court to express our full solidarity with the friends of the crew of the ship "Iuventa" and those of the other rescue ships that are currently on trial.
We are gathering on the street that connects the court and the port. In the background you can see the Iuventa, which has now been stuck there since August 2017 and is no longer seaworthy.

Defend human rights and freedom of movement!
Stop the criminalisation of migration!
Freedom for the Iuventa!

Timeline:

21.05.22 Pre-trial in Trapani: After 5 years of investigation, the Trapani court opens the pre-trial to decide whether the case will go to trial or not. The request of the lawyers and the defendants to open the pre-trial to the public, and thus to independent observers of the trial, was approved by the judge but rejected by the prosecution for the now. The hearing revealed that there were procedural errors in the investigation, which the prosecution will have to correct or clarify in the coming weeks. The next hearing will take place on 05.07.22 in the presence of the accused.

16.06.22: Due to procedural errors by the public prosecutor's office in relation to a lack of information for the defendants and the associated violations of fundamental rights, the proceedings were suspended until next fall.