Human rights court rules against Italy

Feb. 24, 2012 at 4:20 PM
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ROME, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Italy is not allowed to send groups of refugees straight back to Africa, ruled the European Court for Human Rights.

The European Court for Human Rights said Thursday that Italy violated the European Convention on Human Rights in 2009 when it sent refugees from Somalia and Eritrea back to their violence-torn home countries, where they faced torture and mistreatment, Deutsche Welle reported.

In 2009, 200 men, women and children aboard three boats set sail from Libya across the Mediterranean Sea for Europe.

On May 6, 2009, Italian Guardia di Finanza ships located the refugees and instead of bringing them to Italy, the border guards took the Africans on board and brought them directly back to Libya.

Lawyers representing 11 Somalis and 13 Eritreans before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg argued that Italian border patrol ships placed their clients at risk of torture and ill-treatment

Italy's defense attorney Coppari Silvia contended the refugees' case was an attack on Italy and its policies.

"The government cannot accept the manner in which this complaint has been written," Silvia said. "This is clearly an ideological manifesto against Italy and its policies. From our perspective, this is not the place to debate this matter."

The court ultimately sided with the refugees, noting that even though Italy was faced with a high number of incoming refugees that was not a reason to deport them.

"The judgment makes clear that Italy cannot ignore its human rights obligations," said Hendrik Cremer, a lawyer at the German Institute of Human Rights in Berlin.

"The judgment makes it clear that it violates human rights to intercept refugees there and then to place them in danger of serious human rights abuses, in defiance of the European Convention on Human Rights," Cremer said.

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