The Syracuse Prosecutor’s Office (La Procura della Repubblica di Siracusa) has brought criminal charges against Rodolfo Ronconi, the head of the Italian Immigration Directorate and Border Police (la direzione centrale dell’immigrazione e la polizia delle Frontiere) and Vincenzo Carrarini, the head of the Finance Police (Guardia di Finanza) in connection with the forcible return of 75 migrants who were intercepted at sea in international waters by a Guardia di Finanza ship in August 2009 and returned to Libya pursuant to the Italy-Libya migration agreement.
Charges were not brought against individual Guardia di Finanza military personnel who carried out the interception and push-back of the migrants on the grounds that they were acting under orders from superiors and that those orders were not manifestly illegal (per ordini superiori non manifestamente illegittimi).
The charges allege that the two officials were complicit in private violence (concorso in violenza private). According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the charges are not based on the act of refoulement, but rather are based on the failure to apply Italian law. After being intercepted, the 75 migrants were brought aboard the Guardia di Finanza ship which then transported them to Libya. According to the Prosecutor, Italian laws applied once the migrants were taken onto the Guardia di Finanza ship because the ship is the equivalent of Italian territory. The charges are based on allegations that the migrants were taken to Libya against their will and were denied access to procedures for the protection of refugees and prevented from exercising other rights available to them under domestic law and international law incorporate within domestic law.
At least nine similar interdiction operations were conducted by Italy in 2009 in the Channel of Sicily which resulted in the forcible return of at least 834 migrants to Libya. The first such interdiction operation in May 2009 is at issue in the case of of Hirsi and others v Italy, Requête no 27765/09 now pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
The other interdiction operations consist of the following:
- 7 May – About 230 migrants intercepted in three boats in the Strait of Sicily and returned to Libya.
- 8 May – A boat with about 80 people in difficulty off the coast of Libya was towed to Tripoli.
- 10 May – A naval patrol returned more than 200 people to Libya who were intercepted in the Channel of Sicily.
- 19 June – A boat with 76 migrants near Lampedusa, intercepted by a Coast Guard patrol, and the immigrants, including women and children, were then transferred to a Libyan patrol boat and returned to Tripoli.
- 1 July – 89 migrants (including 9 women and 3 children) located on a raft about 30 miles from Lampedusa were taken on board a Navy ship and transferred to an Agip oil platform off the coast of Libya. From there a Libyan patrol boat took them to Tripoli.
- 5 July – About 40 migrants rescued near Lampedusa by a patrol boat of the Guardia di Finanza. Many of whom were later reported to be in Tripoli.
- 29 July – A boat with 14 people was rescued by a patrol boat of the Guardia di Finanza. Passengers were taken to Tripoli.
- 30 August – A boat with 75 migrants on board (among them 15 women and 3 children) was intercepted south of Capo Passero. Passengers were transferred to a patrol boat of the Guardia di Finanza and returned to Libya.
Click here for previous post on Hirsi and others v Italy.