Breaking: Sea-Eye wins in Italian court against Italy

Judge declares 60-day detention in March 2024 unlawful

In a hearing on Wednesday morning, the court in Reggio Calabria ruled in favour of Sea-Eye e.V.’s lawsuit and declared the 60-day detention of the SEA-EYE 4 in March 2024 to be unlawful. The judge found the allegations that the crew of the ship had not followed the instructions of the so-called Libyan coastguard to be unproven.

“The Reggio Calabria judgement is a significant victory for us – and for all other sea rescue organisations! It clearly shows that the detention of civilian rescue ships is an abuse of state powers. We now urgently need the political support of the German government, because Italy is also disregarding the rights of our flag state with its unlawful detentions of German rescue ships. We urge the responsible ministries to take the judgement as an opportunity to campaign for an end to this practice in Italy”, says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e.V.

The reason given by the Italian authorities for the detention of the SEA-EYE 4 was that on March 7th, the ship did not follow the instructions of the so-called Libyan coastguard, who, according to eyewitnesses, were pointing weapons at the rescue boat. The crew also did not hand over the people seeking protection to them. The SEA-EYE 4 rescued a total of 84 people from distress at sea during the operation. It was only in February of this year that the Italian Supreme Court of Appeal classified the handover of people to the so-called Libyan coastguard as a criminal offence, as the civil war country of Libya is not a safe place due to serious human rights violations such as torture, slavery, rape and arbitrary executions. The 60-day detention of the SEA-EYE 4 was the longest administrative detention imposed on a sea rescue vessel to date under the so-called Piantedosi Decree. The law, which came into force in Italy at the beginning of 2023, requires ships to contact the Italian rescue coordination centre immediately after a rescue and to be assigned a port without responding to further distress calls.

Between June 2023 and June 2024 alone, the SEA-EYE 4 was detained in Italy for a total of 120 days. Sea-Eye has already filed several lawsuits against unlawful detentions. The judgements are often delayed by several years: a total of five further court cases are currently pending. The processes are associated with high costs and additional effort for the organisation. The next court hearing for one of the ongoing proceedings will take place on June 20th – the case concerns a detention of the ALAN KURDI, which took place over almost four years ago. The rescue ship was in operation for the organisation before the SEA-EYE 4 and rescued a total of 927 people from distress at sea between 2018 and 2021.