WikiLeaks 2009 US Cable: UN Official says Libya, Italy shirking HR responsibilities

Several US State Department cables discussing Libya, Italy, Malta, and the EU have been released over the past several days by WikiLeaks.  I will post several of the memos over the next day or so.

Among the cables released by WikiLeaks on 31 January 2011, is a Cable written in August 2009 by Gene Cretz, US Ambassador to Libya.  The cable is headed: “UN OFFICIAL SAYS LIBYA, ITALY SHIRKING HUMAN RIGHTS RESPONSIBILITIES.” Excerpts from the cable:

“In a July 28 [2009] meeting with Pol/Econ chief and Poloff, UNHCR Chief of Mission Mohammed al-Wash complained that Italy was breaking its commitments to support UN and EU charters on human rights by returning asylum seekers to Libya with other economic migrants, and strongly denounced the Italian Coast Guard’s tactics while forcing migrants to return. He cited the example of the return of 80 migrants — including several refugees registered with UNHCR in Tripoli, Addis Ababa, and Cairo — interdicted by Italy on or around July 1 who later related their story to UNHCR staff. When the vessel carrying the migrants was stopped, three Eritrean representatives reportedly asked to speak with the Italian ship’s commander to inform him of their refugee status. Several on the boat produced their UNHCR attestations for the commander. Replying that he was under strict orders from his government to return migrants to Libya, the Italian commander reportedly ordered that all migrants – including those registered with UNHCR — be removed from their vessel for transport to Libya. Some of the migrants refused, leading to physical altercations between the migrants and the Italian crew that ended with the Italians beating some Africans with plastic and metal batons, leaving at least six injured. Migrants on the boat reportedly filmed the incident with their mobile phones, leading the Italian crew to confiscate phones, documents, and personal belongings that have not yet been returned….”

“Al-Wash alleged that the Italian government was intentionally stonewalling the UN. According to al-Wash, Italian Ambassador Francesco Trupiano refuses to meet with UNHCR and told al-Wash that he was a “troublemaker.” Al-Wash believed that that Trupiano was single-mindedly focused on returning migrants to Libya and claimed to be unaware that Rome had agreed in principle to accept 63 refugees for resettlement from Libya. UNHCR has also submitted to the GOI a list of 93 refugees that have been returned since Italy and Libya began joint patrols in May. According to al-Wash, Rome agreed to accept “20 or 30″ of the 93 refugees, provided EU states committed to a burden-sharing agreement, though states did not seem eager to undertake one. Al-Wash was hopeful the EC would intercede to bring Italy in line, citing the EC’s inclusion of Libya signing an MOU with UNHCR as part of its requirements for a Framework Agreement (ref A) and a recent letter from the Commission to the Italian Interior Ministry, reminding it of its obligations under the EU’s Human Rights Charter….”

“Al-Wash alleged that the Italian government was intentionally stonewalling the UN. According to al-Wash, Italian Ambassador Francesco Trupiano refuses to meet with UNHCR and told al-Wash that he was a “troublemaker.” Al-Wash believed that that Trupiano was single-mindedly focused on returning migrants to Libya and claimed to be unaware that Rome had agreed in principle to accept 63 refugees for resettlement from Libya. UNHCR has also submitted to the GOI a list of 93 refugees that have been returned since Italy and Libya began joint patrols in May. According to al-Wash, Rome agreed to accept “20 or 30″ of the 93 refugees, provided EU states committed to a burden-sharing agreement, though states did not seem eager to undertake one. Al-Wash was hopeful the EC would intercede to bring Italy in line, citing the EC’s inclusion of Libya signing an MOU with UNHCR as part of its requirements for a Framework Agreement (ref A) and a recent letter from the Commission to the Italian Interior Ministry, reminding it of its obligations under the EU’s Human Rights Charter.”

Click here or here for the full memo.

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Filed under European Union, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News, UNHCR

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