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According to the UN Human Rights Committee, in 2013 Italy failed to respond promptly to various distress calls from the sinking boat and protect the right to life of more than 200 migrants who were on board of the vessel. The Committee urges Italy to proceed with an independent and timely investigation and to prosecute those responsible. Italy and other countries involved in the tragedy also need to provide effective remedy to those who lost their families in the accident.
In October 2013, a fishing vessel from Libya, carrying more than 400 adults and children, was shot by a boat flying a Berber flag in international waters. Although the sinking vessel was in the Maltese search and rescue zone, it was geographically closer to the Italian island of Lampedusa than to Malta. One of the boat’s passengers called the Italian number for emergencies at sea, but the Italian authorities had forwarded their distress call to the Maltese authority. As a result of the delayed action, over 200 people, including 60 children, drowned.
The Committee’s decision responds to a joint complaint lodged by three Syrians and a Palestine national, who survived the accident but lost their families. The decision is made based on Article 1 of the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), according to which the Committee has the competency to receive and consider individual communications. Italy has been the State Party of the ICCPR and the Optional Protocol since 1978.