24. October 2019 First funding of the “Foundation Fund for Civil Sea Rescue”: Legal Aid for the Young Accused of El Hiblu 1

In the course of the spectacular rescue action of Carola Rackete and the Sea-Watch 3, Jan Böhmermann and Klaas Heufer-Umlauf collected over one million euros in donations. Together with Sea-Watch the Foundation Fund for Civil Sea Rescue was founded. The funds are allocated by a committee consisting of five organisations from civil society and civil sea rescue to ensure that the donations are used in the best possible way for civil sea rescue and against the criminalisation of refugees and escape aid. In addition to Sea-Watch, Sea-Eye, Seebrücke, Solidarity at Sea and Civilfleet are each represented by one member. Applications for funding can also be submitted by other initiatives.

The first part of the Fund will now finance the process of three refugees, two of them minors, provisionally detained in Malta since the end of March. They are accused of having hijacked the tanker El Hiblu 1. In addition to the extremely thin evidence of a crime, they saved over 100 other people, including pregnant women, from being illegally returned to Libyan torture camps, probably not only saving their lives but also acting in self-defence. A fifth hearing on this case is being held in Malta today.

“Hundreds of investigations are under way throughout Europe, not only against captains like Carola Rackete or Pia Klemp, but above all against the people who risk their lives to defend both their rights and those of others. The media hype has forgotten all those refugees who have to defend themselves in court for their solidarity,” says lawyer Sophie Scheytt, who represents Sea-Watch on the panel. The first funds of the foundation fund were therefore deliberately used to defend refugees. “We want to make it clear that the criminalization of flight does not only affect white rescuers, but primarily refugees themselves, who often cannot fall back on comparable support structures.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had already called for the main charges to be dropped, and today, Thursday, there will be another hearing of the three defendants, two of whom are minors. “We demand the trial to be dropped immediately. If the three young people had committed any violation of the law at all, it would in any case be covered by their right to self-defence. Libya is not a safe harbour,” says Tareq Alaows of Seebrücke.

“The fact that minor refugees are imprisoned for months and threatened with abstruse prison sentences because they saved more than 100 people from illegal return to Libyan torture camps without harming anybody is unworthy of a constitutional state,” says Lea Reisner of Solidarity at Sea, “especially since those who organise the daily violation of international law and are thus responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people are free to walk around.”

A second project, which has already been approved, concerns two staff positions for the organisation “Sea-Eye” to ensure the sustainable operation of the Alan Kurdi rescue vessel. The ship is currently in operation in the search and rescue zone. Lena Meurer of Sea-Eye says: “Further applications are currently being examined, all solidarity initiatives and those affected can apply for funds. The fact that donations collected in the course of Carola Racketes’ rescue operation are now being distributed to various projects is an important sign. Only together we can achieve an Europe of solidarity”.

The Foundation Fund for Civil Sea Rescue is administered by the non-profit GLS Treuhand in Bochum.

To the Foundation Fund for Civil Sea Rescue:
www.stiftung-seenotrettung.org
tareq@seebruecke.org
+4915786459430

About El Hiblu 1 process
www.sea-watch.org
+491579 2354723
presse@sea-watch.org

The El Hiblu 1 case was extensively reconstructed by journalist Zach Campbell: https://magazine.atavist.com/the-rescue-mediterranean-migrants-malta-europe-crisis