Italy condemned by European Court of Human Rights


Local News — 23 February 2012 — 13:15CEST

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that by pushing migrants back to Libya, Italy violated the European Convention on Human Rights and in particular the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits returning migrants to countries where they may face persecution or inhuman or degrading treatment.

The case concerns the first push-back operation carried out in May 2009 when the Italian authorities intercepted a boat carrying about 200 Somalis and Eritreans, including children and pregnant women. These migrants were taken on board Italian ships, forced back to Tripoli and handed over to the Libyan authorities against their will.

The emigrants were not informed on their real destination and were led to believe that they were heading towards the Italian coast. 11 Somalis and 13 Eritrean, traced and assisted by the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR) in Libya after their refoulement, lodged a complaint against Italy to the EctHR.

The Court fully condemned Italy for violation of three fundamental principles: that no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to an effective remedy and the prohibition of collective expulsions.




nullRefugees Signing up for the Service

At the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.


Published: Feb 15, 2012 21:56 Updated: Feb 15, 2012 21:56

Lebanon, Iraq, Libya and now Syria — violence in so many places in the Middle East has torn loved ones apart. Men and boys may be forced into hiding. Women and children run for their lives. Too often it’s impossible to go back to the place that once was home.

According to the UN’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), in 2010 the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide reached 43.7 million. This includes internally displaced people (IDP) and those who have crossed their national borders and become refugees. Every minute, eight people flee their homes to escape conflict or persecution. Famine also drives people to the desperate decision to abandon everything.

In 2005, David and Christopher Troensegaard Mikkelsen met Mansour, a young Afghan refugee. Mansour had reached safety in Copenhagen, but he was desperate to find his family. David and Christopher wanted to help but soon found out how hard it was to search for missing relatives. Since none of the family tracing programs used collaborative technology, a lot of time was spent filling out the same forms in different offices. This silo effect meant that information wasn’t shared and families weren’t being reunited.

“In a very short time we were able to see that the best way for us to bring people together was through technology,” said David Mikkelsen.







UNHCR-Italy submitted Abba Mussie’s name for the most ambitious recognitin by the New York based Organization. When Father was informed, he sent the following reply to the Organizaton:

Dear All,
I would like to thank UNHCR- Italy for nominating me for the Nansen Prize. The  motivation is an encouragement to my ministry in favour of refugees in the Horn of Africa. Grateful for the confidence and moral support that the  UNHCR – Italy operators are showing me, to all of them I express my thanks.   In case that my name is selected among  the winners of this award, it is my intention to start a foundation to provide scholarships to Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, which will enable them to complete their university or technical studies that will open to them a brighter future.

Abba Mussie is an Eritrean R.C. Priest that started and still runs the HABESHIA Agency for Cooperation and Development. It supports schools and other projects in refugees camps in Ethiopia and Sudan to help the beneficiaries ptomote their educatinal and human background while waiting for their paper process. Likewise, he also does pastoral ministry among the Eritrean Communities in Switzerland. But his main activity is advocacy for the plight of Eritrean, Ethiopian, Sudanese and Somaly refugies in North Africa and the Middle East. Among the achievements of Abba Mussie is the tragic moment when he received a call in the middle of the night from a dingy boat in danger of sinking in the Mediterranean. Fatther immediately allerted the Italian Navy of the situation and gave them the coordinates of the position of the boat. The Italian Navy launched immediately a SOS message to the ships in the area. Unfortunately, no ship responded to the appeal, but quite a few passed by without offering any help. Only 9 people survived the tragedy driven by the waves to the Lybian shores, from where they had departed few days earlier. One of the nine, in fact, died of exhaustion, almost immediately on the beach before they could get help by the Lybian Navy. The others were taken directly to the prisons, and some to the hospital. Abba Mussie was able to reach them in prison and there collect their testimony incriminating a Nato helcopter ship and a ship that hovered over them, took pictures, threw a few bottled bottle of water and loaves of bread, and abandoned them to their fate.  When reported in the Italian papers, NATO denied its complicity in the death of the 64 people in the boat for abandoning the wreckage to its fate. They firmly and repeatedly stated that none of their ships was in the vicinity of the boat at the time. Two years later a Swiss TV station did a painstaking research, by tracing the survivors, collecting testimonies from Abba Mussie, the Italian Navy, demanding information from Nato about the routes of its ships and their schedules. And finally confronted the NATO high brass about its response to the SOS appeal. Confronted with the documentation provided by the journalist, the spokeperson finally admitted that indeed a NATO ship was 22 miles away from the dingy boat but they did not act on the appeal.  I hope that the chapter does not close with the simple acknowledgement, but that justice can is allowed to run its full course. The blood of those African victims demands justice and dignity as much as any other life.
      But Abba Mussie advocacy mission responds also to calls from the hidden dunes of the Sinai desert by desperate captives of the reckless bedouins. He echo the cry for help from refugees in Lybia, Tunisia, Djibouti, yemen, Syria.  He bridges and connects them with the highest ranks of the UNHCR officials in Egypt, Italy, New york, he pleads for them with Ambassadors of Egypt at the Vatican, with Italian Ministers, the Vatican Curia, the Council of Churches in  Geneva, the Europear Court, the European Union, GOs, NGOs,. Any place, any time, anyone who can be of any kind of help, and he can reach, he will try.
How effective is his mission? Well, if nothng else he has alerted the whole world, starting from the UNHCR of the human traficking and organ cropping for profit in the Sudan refugee camps, the Sinai Peninsula, etc. He has tracked down the responsibility beyond the material bedouin executioner to Government officials or the mafia web in various countries. Which is not a small achievement. But, once more, like most of the uncomfortable witnesses, like John the Baptist, his is a voice in the desert, that the wind takes away before it even reaches to the ears of those who could do something more efficients to solve the problem. A voice however who want relent until justice to the homeless refugee is done, peace is achieved, and his ministry will be redundant.