Shipwreck off the coast of Tripoli, families demand explanations on the circumstances of the sinking

Shipwreck off the coast of Tripoli, families demand explanations on the circumstances of the sinking

On April 23, 2022, a boat transporting around 80 persons sunk off the coast of Tripoli, Lebanon. According to survivors, the sinking was caused by the intervention of the Lebanese naval forces, which put the passengers' lives at risk. The next day, the Lebanese army announced that the number of survivors reached 45. Seven bodies have been recovered, including a 40-day-old baby, while the remaining passengers are still missing. On April 26, 2022, the Lebanese army announced that the Lebanese Intelligence Directorate will continue investigating the sinking according to the request of the Military Public Prosecutor.

Since the Lebanese economic crisis worsened in the fall of 2019, irregular crossings of migrants from the Lebanese coast have increased. Such crossings are likely to persist over time as Lebanese nationals wishing to leave the country experience growing difficulties to obtain or renew passports from the Lebanese General Security.

On April 23, 2022, a boat transporting around 80 persons sunk off the coast of Tripoli, Lebanon. It was reported that the passengers were of different nationalities, including Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian. Passengers included families with children and toddlers. The boat was heading towards Cyprus.

After the incident, survivors testified that a cruiser from the Lebanese navy attempted to stop the boat before it could reach international waters. Some of them accused the Lebanese navy of deliberately ramming the vessel while trying to force it back to shore.

On April 24, 2022, the Lebanese army announced that the number of survivors reached 45. Seven bodies have been recovered while the remaining passengers are still missing. The Commander of the Naval Forces, Colonel Haitham Dannawi, announced on Twitter that the load of the boat did not allow it to move away from the shore. He also said that the captain of the boat ignored the orders given by the Navy. According to the army, the captain of the boat carried out evasive maneuvers which were the cause of the collision with the cruiser.

On April 26, 2022, President Michel Aoun said that the incident must be investigated due to the “conflicting accounts of events.” On the same day, the Lebanese army announced that the Lebanese Intelligence Directorate would continue investigating the sinking according to the request of the Military Public Prosecutor.

Considering that the Lebanese Intelligence Directorate cannot be considered “independent and impartial” within the meaning of the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death, MENA Rights Group sent a letter of allegation, on behalf of the Dandashi and Mereb families, to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants asking them to call on the Lebanese authorities to conduct an independent, impartial, prompt, thorough, effective, credible and transparent investigation.

On June 14, 2022, on behalf of four survivors, who had many family members on the boat, 11 lawyers submitted a complaint against 13 naval members of the Lebanese Army. The complainants accuse them of "murder with probable intent" under articles 548 and189 of the Lebanese Penal Code, as well as unintentional killing under article 550 of the Penal Code.

On June 16, 2022, the same plaintiffs submitted a request to the Lebanese Minister of Justice to transfer the current investigations from the military court to the Judicial Council.

At present, the military court investigation into the sinking of the boat is still at a standstill because the boat has not been salvaged. There are promises to secure a submarine with a donation from Lebanese expatriates that will arrive on 13 July 2022 to search for the victims and the boat.

Timeline

June 16, 2022: The same four plaintiffs submit a request to the Lebanese Minister of Justice to transfer the current investigations from the military court to the Judicial Council.
June 14, 2022: On behalf of four survivors, who had many family members on the boat, 11 lawyers submit a complaint against 13 naval members of the Lebanese Army.
May 9, 2022: On behalf of the Dandashi and Mereb families, who had many of their members on the boat, MENA Rights Group submits a letter of allegation to the UN special procedures, urging them to call on the Lebanese authorities to conduct a prompt, independent, and thorough investigation.
April 26, 2022: The Lebanese army announces that the Lebanese Intelligence Directorate would continue investigating the sinking according to the request of the Military Public Prosecutor.
April 24, 2022: The Lebanese army announces that the number of survivors reached 45, seven bodies have been recovered, while the remaining passengers are still missing; Survivors claim that the sinking was caused by the intervention of the Lebanese naval forces.
Night of April 23, 2022: A boat transporting around 80 persons sinks off the coast of Tripoli, Lebanon.

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