Five Months After The Pylos Shipwreck, The Hellenic Coast Guard Refuses To Conduct Its Own Internal Investigation

*reposted from Legal Centre Lesvos

Since the tragic Pylos shipwreck of 14 June, civil society, activists and human rights organisations, including the Legal Centre Lesvos, have repeatedly called the Greek authorities for a transparent and independent investigation into the circumstances of the tragedy. Several protests and marches were also spontaneously organised around Greece, such as in AthensThessaloniki and Lesvos in support of the victims and survivors, as well as to denounce and request accountability for the massacre.

Following the mounting evidence that came out of the ongoing investigation, indicating the probable responsibility of the Greek Coast Guard and FRONTEX for the sinking of Andriana and  the non-rescue of the survivors while under their supervision, several entities have opened investigations at their own initiative. A month following the tragedy, the European Ombudsperson opened an inquiry into the role of Frontex in search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, to which LCL contributed together with other organisations. Recently, the Greek Ombudsperson, also initiated an investigation specifically into the Greek Coast Guard’s acts and possible omissions in relation to the Pylos shipwreck, which was publicly welcomed by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. The launch of this investigation came in response to the Chief of the Hellenic Coast Guard’s explicit refusal to initiate any administrative or internal disciplinary investigation into the acts or omissions of its members in connection with the shipwreck. 

On 13 September 2023, forty survivors, represented by the Network for Refugee and Migrant Rights, the Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR), the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), the Initiative of Lawyers and Jurists for the shipwreck of Pylos, and Refugee Support Aegean (RSA), filed a criminal complaint against responsible Greek authorities before the Naval Court of Piraeus. The Naval Court Prosecutor was also ordered by the Supreme Court Prosecutor to investigate the conduct of the Coast Guard

Greek authorities announced that they would conduct ex officio investigation of the Pylos shipwreck, however, as of September 2023, none of the survivors had been called to give testimony in Naval Court about the circumstances of the tragedy. On the other hand, investigation and prosecution of the nine survivors who have been accused as smugglers and causing the shipwreck continues. The news from the Greek Ombudsperson’s office that the Greek Coast Guard is not going to carry out any internal disciplinary investigation into their staff’s operations in relation to the tragedy is alarming given the evidence which has already come out indicating their responsibility. However, this is unsurprising in the context in which Greece was recently condemned by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of the fatal shipwreck of Farmakonisi in 2014, in part due to the absence of a thorough and effective investigation into the Coast Guard’s actions and omissions during that tragedy. Unless there continues to be pressure on authorities to comply with their clear obligation to ensure that an effective and independent investigation is carried out, history will unfortunately repeat itself in this case.

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