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The young captain who defied Italian police to save migrants has been acquitted

Image courtesy Sea-Watch

PortandTerminal.com, January 18, 2020

Courts find that Capt. Rakete was “doing her duty saving human lives” as required by UNCLOS

ROME, ITALY – On Friday, Italy’s Supreme Court upheld the release of the German captain who defied official instructions and docked her ship at Lampedusa to offload rescued migrants.

“This is an important verdict for all sea rescue activists!” said Capt. Rackete in a statement. “No one should be prosecuted for aiding people in need. The EU directive on ‘crimes of solidarity’ needs reform.”

Capt. Rackete, 31, allegedly collided with an Italian police vessel while docking, leading to her arrest. Prosecutors asserted that she intentionally rammed it, a charge which she denied.

 Carola Rackete, the captain of the Dutch-registered ship carrying 40 migrants who had been rescued from near-certain death in the Mediterranean, was arrested at the Italian port of Lampedusa after a two-week standoff with police at sea. (PortandTerminal.com, June 29, 2019)

The Dutch-flagged Sea Watch 3 had been stuck in the Mediterranean, during a blistering heatwave, since rescuing 53 migrants drifting in an inflatable raft off the coast of Libya on June 12th. The most vulnerable people were evacuated, but Italy’s hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini insisted the rest were unwelcome.

Black migrants onboard a ship. A man covered in a blanket facing camera. A person wearing a blue shirt with medic written on it with her back to camera.
Conditions on the rescue ship were becoming increasingly difficult for the migrants who had been rescued over two weeks earlier at sea

Playing to his loyal anti-immigration base, Salvini called the Sea Watch a “pirate ship” and refused to let the vessel dock.

For her actions, Rackete’s vessel was seized, and she was charged with resisting orders and “violence against warships.” However, within days, a regional court ordered her release, finding that Capt. Rakete was “doing her duty saving human lives” as required by UNCLOS. The Court of Cassation, Italy’s highest appelate court, upheld that decision Friday. 

We are proud of our captain, she did exactly the right thing. She upheld the law of the sea and brought people to safety.

SeaWatch Chairman Johannes Bayer

Salvini – who has since been ousted from his post by former political partners – may soon face trial himself. If an Italian Senate panel lifts his immunity for actions taken while he was minister, he will be prosecuted on kidnapping charges for preventing 131 migrants aboard the Italian Coast Guard vessel Gregoretti from coming ashore. The panel’s vote is scheduled for Monday. 

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