Supporting SAR NGOs with Voluntary Guidance for use at Sea
Human Rights at Sea has been assisting one of its Support Entities, the charitable Foundation Hope Not Hate, to produce new voluntary guidance materials for search and rescue NGOs operating in the Mediterranean under potential threat by Far Rights activists whose intention is to hinder migrant rescue missions off the Libyan coast through direct action at sea.
The European far rights organisation Defend Europe has managed to raise sufficient funds to charter a vessel, the C-Star, under the Djiboutian flag with the intent of sailing it offshore the Libyan coast and where through ‘direct action’ it would prevent SAR NGOs from undertaking their humanitarian role in saving life at sea, as well as returning migrants and refugees to the coast of Libya against the international law rule of ‘non-refoulement’. The C-Star has been formally used as a floating armoury and survey vessel.
It is not clear if Defend Europe would extend its interference in rescues at sea under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea Art.98 (duty to render assistance) towards commercial vessels, who themselves are also playing their role in humanitarian rescue at sea in the central Mediterranean.
Defend Europe has stated that it would be working in support of the EU funded and trained Libyan Coastguard, though there has been no official confirmation that this would be the case.
In the past week, it has been variously reported that Defend Europe intended to use Ukrainian security guards from the private maritime security company, Sea Marshals, though it has not been confirmed if they have been contracted, and whether or not they were intending on being armed. If armed, this would be a significant escalation in the potential for unlawful use of force towards humanitarian actors.
Sea Marshals have reportedly lost their ISO 28007 ( Guidelines for Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSC) providing privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) on board ships (and pro forma contract) accreditation previously awarded by the UK Accreditation and Certification body, MSS Global. MSS Global has confirmed as much, but has not commented further on why this was.
Hope Not Hate has published two new guidance notes covering the lawful use of force and self-defence, and the temporary deprivation of liberty based on existing guidances developed by Human Rights at Sea.
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