Human rights organisations call on Greece for "independent" investigation into migrant tragedy
Human rights organisations called for an "independent and impartial" investigation into the sinking of a boat carrying migrants off the coast of Greece in June, killing 82 irregular migrants and leaving nearly 500 missing.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called for an "independent and impartial" investigation into the sinking of a boat carrying migrants in the Mediterranean Sea off Greece in June, which killed 82 irregular migrants and left nearly 500 missing.
The statement highlighted concerns over "contradictions" in the testimonies of the Greek coastguard and survivors and called for an "effective, independent and impartial investigation" into the tragedy.
A "thorough and credible" investigation into the wreckage should clarify responsibility for the causes of the sinking and any delays or shortcomings in rescue efforts, the statement said, adding that the survivors' safety should be ensured and their statements taken in order for the investigation to be carried out effectively.
The statement, which recalled the visit of a delegation from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to Greece regarding the accident, included the statements of the victims interviewed there that "the rope tied by the Greek Coast Guard ship caused the boat to sway and then capsize".
The statement quoted the statements of the interviewees that they "constantly demanded to be rescued and witnessed other people on the boat asking for rescue via satellite phone hours before the capsize".
"Greek authorities must hold those responsible to account"
Judith Sunderland, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch, said there were worrying discrepancies between survivors' accounts of the incident and those of the authorities.
"The Greek authorities must ensure a transparent investigation, with the support and scrutiny of the international community, to ensure truth and justice for survivors and victims' families, and hold those responsible to account," Sunderland said.
The delegation had visited Greece between 4-13 July as part of the ongoing investigation into the shipwreck.
The delegation met with 19 survivors and relatives of 4 missing persons, non-governmental organisations, UN and international institutions and organisations, as well as Greek Coast Guard and police officials.
Disaster off the coast of Greece
On 14 June, a fishing boat carrying irregular migrants capsized in international waters 47 nautical miles from Navarin in Greece's Peloponnese Peninsula, killing 82 people and rescuing 104 others who were brought to the port of Kalamata. According to the non-governmental organisation Alarm Phone, there were about 700 people on board.
Witnesses claimed that the ship sank with the intervention of the Greek Coast Guard teams and that a nearby ship was removed from the scene by the coast guard teams.
The leader of the main opposition Radical Left Alliance (SYRIZA), Alexis Tsipras, visited the port of Kalamata, where the migrants were taken to get information about the incident. Tsipras said that the migrants told him that the Greek Coast Guard was trying to push the boat towards Italian waters.
"We express our belief that the disaster could have been prevented because the overloaded boat was detected in time, but the Coast Guard authorities and Frontex, the border protection agency monitoring the incident, did not take any rescue action," the Athens Bar Association said in a statement.
European Union Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly launched an investigation into the role of Frontex in search and rescue operations on 26 July.