Detention of 18 Sicilian fishermen by Haftar’s militia in Libya

Detention of 18 Sicilian fishermen by Haftar’s militia in Libya

On 14 October Italian Members of the European Parliament Francesca Donato (ID), Marco Zanni (ID), Marco Campomenosi (ID), Alessandro Panza (ID), Paolo Borchia (ID), Annalisa Tardino (ID), Antonio Maria Rinaldi (ID), Stefania Zambelli (ID), Vincenzo Sofo (ID), Angelo Ciocca (ID), Gianantonio Da Re (ID) raised a priority question to the European Commission on the detention of 18 Sicilian fishermen by Haftar’s militia in Libya.

On 1 September 2020, 18 fishermen from Mazara del Vallo, who were on a fishing trip approximately 38 nautical miles north of the coast of Cyrenaica, were seized by Libyan army personnel and were brought to Benghazi on board a number of boats. Their two fishing vessels were also seized by General Haftar’s militia.

For almost one month there was no news about the fate of crews. It was then confirmed that they were being detained. In response to Italian requests, the Libyan authorities have asked for the release of four Libyans sentenced by the Court of Catania to 30 years in prison for human trafficking and the death of 49 migrants at sea.

These detentions are not the first regrettable incidents stated the MEPs asking the Commission the following questions:

1. Is the Commission aware of this situation?

2. What steps can the Commission take to rapidly resolve this distressing situation for the fishermen concerned, their families and the many fishermen who are operating in these Mediterranean areas, where acts of piracy for the purpose of extortion continue to take place in clear violation of international law?

The High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell responded on behalf of the European Commission on 27 November stating that:

The conflict in Libya is a major challenge for the region and the EU’s security and stability. The EU’s priority is to put an end to the military conflict, ensure a transition in Libya, so the country can be a united, stable and reliable partner. To do so, the EU is actively engaged in the United Nations (UN)-led Berlin Process for Libya, the international framework to re-launch the political process in Libya endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2510.

The Commission fully supports a peaceful resolution of the issues mentioned by the Honourable Members, in line with the UN principle of prohibition of threat or use of force in international relations and the relevant provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Previously, the EU had called on the former Libyan authorities to ratify the UNCLOS Convention including in the context of the former dialogue on maritime and fisheries issues between the EU and Libya. Due to the political situation in Libya at that time, this dialogue was suspended. The EU will encourage Libya to become a party to UNCLOS once conditions are appropriate for such dialogue to be re-launched.

While the European External Action Service and EU Delegations in third countries actively facilitate the coordination and cooperation between Member State Embassies and Consulates, direct consular assistance to EU Citizens is a national responsibility of the Member States. Therefore, the Commission suggests to contact the respective Italian authorities directly in this matter.

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