Rights groups urge 'independent, impartial’ probe into Greek migrant shipwreck

Rights groups urge 'independent, impartial’ probe into Greek migrant shipwreck

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International express concern over conflicting accounts from Greek coastguard, survivors

By Beyza Binnur Donmez

GENEVA (AA) - Human rights groups on Thursday underlined the need for an "independent and impartial investigation" into a migrant shipwreck off the coast of Greece in June that left more than 80 irregular migrants dead and hundreds of others missing.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, in a joint statement, expressed concern over conflicting accounts from the Greek coastguard and survivors and underscored “the urgent need for an effective, independent, and impartial investigation.”

On June 14, a 30-meter-long fishing boat Adriana capsized and sank about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Greece’s southern coastal town of Pylos, with the majority of people on board from Pakistan, Syria, and Libya.

There were 104 survivors, with 82 bodies recovered out of 400-700 migrants on board. The rest are missing or considered dead or both.

In the aftermath, the statements from a few of the survivors suggested that a Greek coastguard boat had towed the vessel, leading to the fatal wreck. The Greek authorities have vehemently refuted these allegations.

“The disparities between survivors' accounts of the Pylos shipwreck and the authorities’ version of the events are extremely concerning,” said Judith Sunderland, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"The Greek authorities, with support and scrutiny from the international community, should ensure that there is a transparent investigation to provide truth and justice for survivors and families of the victims, and hold those responsible to account," Sunderland urged.

As part of the ongoing probe into the circumstances of the shipwreck and measures for accountability, a delegation from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International visited Greece between July 4 and 13.

The delegation interviewed 19 shipwreck survivors, four relatives of the missing, non-governmental organizations, UN and international agencies and organizations, as well as representatives of the Hellenic Coast Guard and the Greek police.

-‘Greek towboat caused shipwreck’

"The organizations' initial observations confirm the concerns reported by several other reputable sources as to the dynamics of the shipwreck. Survivors interviewed by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch consistently stated that the Hellenic Coast Guard vessel dispatched to the scene attached a rope to the Adriana and started towing, causing it to sway and then capsize," the statement said.

"The survivors also consistently said that passengers asked to be rescued and that they witnessed others on the boat plead for a rescue by satellite phone hours before their boat capsized," it added.

The Greek authorities have initiated two criminal investigations, one aimed at the suspected smugglers and the other focused on the actions of the coastguard. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, it is essential for these investigations to adhere to international human rights standards of impartiality, independence, and effectiveness.

"A full and credible investigation into the shipwreck should seek to clarify any responsibility for both the sinking of the ship and delays or shortcomings in the rescue efforts that may have contributed to the appalling loss of life," the groups said.

To carry out the investigation effectively, it is necessary to take statements from all survivors while ensuring their safety and establishing an environment of trust, they added.

Last month, EU lawmakers urged Greece and the European Commission to launch an international and independent probe into last month's deadly migrant boat shipwreck.

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