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Council of Europe: Human Rights Commissioner seeks clarifications over Italy’s maritime operations in Libyan territorial waters

In a letter addressed to Mr Marco Minniti, Minister of Interior of Italy, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights requests information with regard to Italy’s maritime operations in Libyan territorial waters aimed at managing migration flows.

Expressing appreciation for Italy’s efforts in saving lives at sea and in receiving migrants arriving at its shores in the last years, the Commissioner underscores that, even when a state faces difficulties in coping with the influx of migrants, it still has the duty to protect and safeguard their human rights.

“The case law of the European Court of Human Rights is clear about this duty and I think it bears relevance for Italy’s operations in Libyan territorial waters”, writes the Commissioner. "In light of recent reports on the current human rights situation of migrants in Libya, handing individuals over to the Libyan authorities or other groups in Libya would expose them to a real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." For this reason, the Commissioner urges the Italian government to clarify the kind of support operations they expect to provide to the Libyan authorities in Libyan territorial waters and what safeguards Italy has put in place to ensure that people intercepted or rescued by Italian vessels in Libyan territorial waters do not subsequently face a situation contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Finally, the Commissioner requests information about the measures to ensure that search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, including those conducted by non-governmental actors, can continue to be carried out effectively and in safety.

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