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Europe rights chief warns Italy on Libya migrant interception and return

[JURIST] The Council of Europe [official website] published a letter [text] Wednesday in which Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks [official website] asked the government of Italy to explain why the Italian navy dispatched ships to the coast of Libya.

In July the Italian government announced [ABC report] that it was sending ships to the Libyan coast to help the Libyan government prevent people from fleeing the country. The day before the letter, dated September 28, was sent, the Italian government allegedly played a role [Reuters report] in intercepting and return 228 migrants who left Libya and returned them to the nation's coast.

The letter states that such actions would be contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights [text] and thus would also be a violation of established human rights. In light of the allegations, the letter asked the Italian government to clarify what operations the Italian Navy has been carrying out in Lybian waters.

This is not the first time Italy has been accused of violating human rights by intercepting and returning fleeing refugees to their nation of origin. In 2015 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] found [JURIST report] that Italy denied refugees fleeing from Tunisia asylum and forcibly returned them to ill-equipped and hazradous camps in Tunisia. In 2012 the ECHR found [JURIST report] that Italy was intercepting and returning individuals to Libya. By doing so, the court concluded that Italy violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights by knowingly and willingly return the refugees to nations where they were exposed to inhuman conditions. Muiznieks mentioned the court's prior ruling in regards to Libya in his letter, but thanked Italy for properly correcting its conduct in light of the ruling.

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