French justice reopens investigation into the tragedy of the “coffin boat” off the coast of Libya

French justice reopens investigation into the tragedy of the coffin

French justice reopened Thursday, September 22 the investigation into suspicions of inaction by Western navies in the face of the ” coffin boat “. In March 2011, a boat drifted for two weeks off the coast of Libya, with 72 African migrants on board, 63 of whom died. The relaunch of the procedure comes after ten years of stalemate and insistence from two survivors, who believe that several armies present in the region had not reacted despite knowing their distress.

Since 2012, complaints for “ no assistance to the person in danger “succeeded, but were followed by a classification without continuation and dismissal. At the end of March 2011, an inflatable boat left Tripoli for Italywith 50 men on board, 20 women, some of them pregnant, and two babies: all from Africa, including 47 from Ethiopia.

Quickly running out of fuel, the passengers will live two weeks of nightmare where, according to the survivors, ” thirst, hunger, the smell of corpses push some of them to jump into the water “.

The boat is photographed by a military plane, overflown twice by helicopters, crossed by at least two fishing boats. Then the distress calls reach the Italian coastguards, the NATO HQ in Italy and the ships in the area. Several European armies were then engaged in Libya, but no one reacted.

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Joinder of proceedings from four European countries

It is now a new hope for the two plaintiffs who survived these two weeks of adrift which had cost the lives of 63 of the 72 people on board. The Court of Appeal invalidated the second dismissal pronounced in 2018 in this case, thus relaunching the investigation.

The new investigation could go further than the previous ones because the Paris Court of Appeal ordered the joining of the proceedings carried out by the Belgian, Spanish and Italian justices, the magistrates also requiring the logbooks of all the buildings and aircraft present on area.

The measure will make it possible to better shed light on the contradictions in the statements, in particular, of the French army, and this satisfies a request from the survivors, who are seeking to identify the nationality of the military aircraft that they say they have encountered during their ordeal, without none come rescue them.

They want to know why there are people from an army that saw them die, and nothing was done »

For Stephane Maugendre, their lawyer, these documents should cut short State strategyincluding France, who reject responsibility in this case:

The two people I am assisting in this file want to know why the two times a helicopter flew over them, there was no news afterwards, why a building of who knows which army is came around when babies were dead, when their water canisters were empty, there was no help. They want to know why there are people from an army, maybe the French one, who saw them die or dying, and nothing was done. »

At the end of these additional investigations, it will be up to the investigating judge to decide whether to close the case again or recommend prosecution.

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