Free #ElHiblu3: An alliance of human rights activists calls on Malta to drop the charges against three young refugees

Countering illegal deportation to Libya is not a crime

elhiblu tw3

One year ago, a rubber dinghy departed the coast of Libya with over one hundred people on board in search of salvation in Europe. After rescuing them, however, the crew of the merchant ship El Hiblu 1 received orders from European authorities to bring them back to Libya. A protest ensued on board, and the 108 castaways managed to avert the deportation and persuaded the crew to head to Malta. No one was injured during the protest, which did not cause any material damage.

These people were publicly described as 'pirates' and 'terrorists', but when the Maltese military boarded the ship they found themselves confronting people in need of protection.

Upon landing in Malta, three young people aged 15, 16, and 19 were arrested on various charges, including that of terrorism. "We escaped conditions of tyranny and inhumane treatment in Libya to find life in Malta," said one of the three. But instead of finding what they were looking for, they were imprisoned for nearly eight months. Released on bail in November 2019, the El Hiblu Three are not yet free. They have serious charges against them that could land them in prison.

Lucia Gennari of Mediterranea explains: "The European authorities should never order ship commanders to bring rescued people back to Libya since this constitutes a clear violation of international sea law and fundamental human rights”. Jelka Kretzschmar of Sea-Watch underscores: "The attempt to avoid being rejected can only be considered an act of self-defense aimed at protecting life and therefore cannot be punished.”

Today we launch our international solidarity campaign – Free the El Hiblu Three!

A group of passengers from El Hiblu 1, organizations active in search and rescue operations at sea, experts in international law, researchers, activists, human rights associations in Malta and other countries have joined together to request the immediate termination of the process. Instead of being prosecuted, the three from El Hiblu should be commended for warding off an illegal deportation to Libya.

“The three young men should be considered heroes. They prevented 108 survivors from being returned to the inhuman conditions they were facing in Libya”, adds Maurice Stierl of Alarm Phone.

Find more information and our short documentary on the campaign website:


Transaltion by Olivia Taibi

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