News | Sunday, 23 August 2009
Bookmark and Share

Agrigento magistrate threatens Malta, army with indictments

Italian magistrates are reportedly evaluating the possibility of issuing international rogatory letters to Malta, in a bid to determine Malta’s role in the controversial rescue of five Eritrean migrants this week, who claimed their pleas for rescue were ignored by the Maltese navy.
The Eritreans said they lost 75 fellow nationals during their voyage from Libya across the Mediterranean sea.
According to Magistrate Renato di Natale in Agrigento, “it is possible that a case against Malta will be opened over charges of omission of rescue.”
However he stated that the case appears to be “quite complex”. While sources confirmed that the Sicilian magistrates are intent on indicting the crew of AFM patrol boat P61, which intercepted the five migrants and supplied them with food, water and fuel on the high seas, the Maltese government is countering this eventuality by announcing its willingness to “cooperate fully” with the Italian investigators.
Magistrate Di Natale explained that “international law obliges all to effect a rescue at sea to whoever is in difficulty, irrespective of nationality. It’s a complex issue, and besides it all happened in Maltese waters and theoretically the case falls within the competence of the Maltese judiciary.”
But during yesterday’s press conference, Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg and Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici anticipated this interpretation by insisting that Malta is a signatory to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), but not to the addenda that Italy is a signatory to.
While explaining that the migrants were intercepted in Libyan waters, Ministers Borg and Mifsud Bonnici stressed that Malta insists that its obligation is to coordinate a search and rescue.
However they said Malta is not obliged to take in any person. Instead any saved castaways should be taken to the nearest, safest port of call.
While this theory was being spelt out in Valletta yesterday, further declarations by the inquiring Italian magistrates revealed that any indictment would include “willful homicide”. But so far the charge is pending upon ignoti (unknowns), an Italian legal term for unknown perpetrators.
Meanwhile, the five Eritrean migrants are expected to be deported to Malta next week. Under new Italian laws introduced this month, they have been charged with illegal immigration which is now a crime.
The probability is that the migrants would be deported to Malta since the Maltese government has admitted to having intercepted them with an AFM patrol boat.
The Eritrean migrants’ issue has also raised a war of words in the political world in Italy, with government and opposition parties trading salvos on how to tackle illegal immigration.
The Vatican insisted yesterday through Monsignor Antonio Maria Vegliò, the president of its Pastoral Commission for immigrants, that “States should not be egoistic”.
But the right-wing separatist Northern League chairman Umberto Bossi stressed that “the Vatican must mind its own business or open its doors to migrants.”
Referring to Malta, Umberto Bossi said: “Malta is small, it’s just like a gob of spittle, I doubt if there are any Maltese left on it!”

Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.



Download MaltaToday Sunday issue front page in pdf file format

All the interviews from Reporter on MaltaToday's YouTube channel.


Conduct unbecoming


Ira comes of age


Saviour Balzan
The reshuffle conversation

Raphael Vassallo:
Bile and prejudice

Evarist Bartolo
Had enough of power cuts? Blame this government

Claudine Cassar
Don’t let the hysteria on swine flu cramp your style

David Friggieri
Letter from Cuba: Propaganda

Martin Scicluna
An enlightened mind finally shines through

Harry Vassallo
Renzo Piano’s revenge



Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email