The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

Final sitting in MV Lifeline case due to be held today

Tuesday, 14 May 2019, 08:55 Last update: about 4 months ago

The final hearing in the court case brought against the captain of NGO rescue vessel Lifeline, which has been impounded in Malta for the last ten months, is due to be held today.

Claus Peter Reisch had been charged in July 2018 with having steered the ship into Maltese territorial waters without the necessary registration and licences. The vessel had picked up 234 migrants and had only been allowed to dock in Malta, after having spent several days stranded at sea, after eight European countries had agreed to relocate its human cargo.

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The Maltese authorities had impounded the vessel over the fact that it was registered as a pleasure craft.

The move came amid mounting tensions between Malta and Italy, with the two countries bickering over which country should open the ports for such NGO vessels.

During a recent court sitting, Mission Lifeline founder Axel Steier said the ship had been registered as such because the NGOs work took place during their free time and without any commercial activity. Steier had told the court how the vessel had been bought already registered to a flag state and explained how the transfer of ownership was made after the NGO bought it.

In a statement, Mission Lifeline pointed out to the fact the migration phenomenon had continued while a number of NGO rescue ships were impounded.

“This week has seen more than 200 rescued migrants safely disembarked across Southern Europe, including 85 in Malta. Another 700 have been intercepted and forcibly returned to war-torn Libya, while 65 lives were tragically claimed by the Central Mediterranean. In the 322 days which have elapsed since the beginning of our detention, our calls for European solidarity and humanitarian intervention remain pertinent as ever; The political situation has deteriorated, empathy is waning, and the screams on our shores continue to fall on deaf ears,” the group said.  

“Despite this, we are determined to see hope where others choose to see fear and blessing where others see burden.”

Mission Lifeline said no international institution or personality recognises Libya to be a safe port. “As long as people continue to risk their lives, and die, in the pursuit of safety and freedom, we will continue to extend our hand. As we prepare for the final court hearing against Captain Claus-Peter Reisch, it’s important to remind everyone that the point of law in question is a trivial one, relating to the administrative registration of the vessel and nothing more.”

In the same vein of a queried parking ticket, this trial would never have been allowed to drag out over 10 months without political interference, the NGO said.

“We can only hope that due process will finally allow Lady Justice to rear her increasingly unpopular head.”

The group is also launching the #YachtFleet Movement, where it is calling on private sailors to join the initiative in the absence of humanitarian space for rescue ships.

“We aim to prove that fundamental social responsibility still exists with a unique civil society demonstration from the Central Mediterranean,” it said.

“By acting together and sending out a powerful message from the sea, we will provoke a response from politicians and show them the European values we recognise.”

 

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