*First Published on Initiative of Lawyers and Jurists for the shipwreck of Pylos

Update on the progress of the judicial investigation into the deadly Pylos shipwreck (1/11/2023)

As already known, on 13 September 2023, 40 survivors of the deadly shipwreck, which took place off the coast of Pylos on 14 June 2023, filed a criminal complaint with the Maritime Court of Piraeus.

The complaint concerns the actions and omissions of the National Coordination Center for Search and Rescue (functioning at the Operations Center of the Hellenic Coast Guard in Piraeus), as well as the crew of the coast guard vessel involved in the incident, and any hierarchical superior or supervisor who may have given orders and instructions, both during the initial search-and-detection phase (failure to initiate a rescue operation, throughout the day) and during the ensuing detection-and-rescue phase (failure to rescue, and subsequent towing operation); as well as during the rescue phase after the boat capsized and sank, as there are allegations about delayed action by the coast guard vessel also at this point in time.

The potential offenses range from failure to provide due assistance (previously failure to rescue from life-threatening danger), endangerment, causing a shipwreck, dangerous interference with ship navigation, other offenses under special criminal laws, to intentional homicide.

The complaint was linked with an ex officio preliminary examination ordered by the Prosecutor of the Piraeus Maritime Court in June. (We can only speculate that it was possibly triggered by the statements of the President of the Kalamata Bar Association, or by the order of the Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation for the investigations to be supervised by a Deputy Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation, a few days after the shipwreck).

In this context, witnesses-complainants have already begun providing statements, albeit at a slow pace. Furthermore, it is anticipated that relatives of the passengers (both those who are missing and those whose bodies have been identified) will file a notice of appearance to support the charges.

Along with the complaint, a request for investigative actions has also been submitted (briefly summarized below):

  1. Collect testimonies from both survivors and individuals involved in the incident (coast guard officers, crew of other vessels, etc.).
  2. Collect and document all relevant data from signals, cameras, communications of all involved parties, even by lifting the confidentiality of communications.
  3. Collect and record mobile phone data from survivors (which reportedly has been forwarded to the Kalamata Prosecutor’s Office) as well as from individuals involved in the incident.
  4. Take photographs of the sunken vessel, if the recovery of the deceased bodies is not feasible, as has already been requested before the Kalamata Prosecutor’s Office.
  5. Conduct a specialized forensic examination.

From the above actions, in addition to the testimonies, we learned from a news release from early October that a request was made to confiscate the mobile phones of 13 Hellenic Coast Guard officers who were aboard the vessel involved in the incident (we should also note that the captain of the specific vessel had submitted photos and videos taken with the camera of his mobile phone to the Kalamata Prosecutor’s Office. It is evident that the pictures included in the Hellenic Coast Guard’s press releases had also been taken with a mobile phone).

The lawyers representing the complainants anticipate that the process will proceed slowly. We would like to emphasize that this is a preliminary examination, and at this stage, it is not possible to obtain a copy of the case file.

In any case, we want to underscore, once again, the need for a genuine, objective, free from any “public interest” restrictions, and exhaustive investigation into the circumstances of the shipwreck, to uncover the truth, and allocate responsibility to all those involved in the incident from any position and in any capacity. To our initial statement, we would like to add the need for justice to be delivered promptly, and not allow the judicial process to become a pretext for delay, ultimately denying the justice sought by the victims and their families.

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