On the 27 January 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Committee decided two parallel proceedings, brought against Italy and Malta respectively, concerning their response to a vessel in distress in the Mediterranean Sea and the obligations of Italy and Malta under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The delayed action and failed search and rescue operation of 11 October 2013 were found to have contributed to the deaths of over 200 people estimated to be on board the vessel.
In CCPR/C/130/DR/3042/2017 the Committee considered that the individuals on the vessel in distress were subject to Italy’s jurisdiction for the purposes of the Covenant because ‘a special relationship of dependency had been established between the individuals on the vessel in distress and Italy’ (paras 7.1-7.8). Italy failed to demonstrate it met its due diligence obligations under Article 6(1) of the Covenant (paras. 8.1-8.5) and its duty to conduct a prompt investigation of the allegations relating to a violation of the rights to life under Article 6(1), read in conjunction with Article 2(3) of the Covenant (paras. 8.6-8.7). Three dissenting opinions were attached, namely by Yuval Shany, Christof Heyns and Photini Pazartzis; Andreas Zimmermann; and David Moore. Four concurring opinions were attached, namely by Gentian Zyberi; José Santos-Pais; Vasilka Sancin; and Hélène Tigroudja.
In CCPR/C/128/D/3043/2017 the Committee considered that Malta exercised effective control over the rescue operation as the vessel in distress was located in the Maltese Search and Rescue area (referring to UNCLOS, SAR Convention, and SOLAS) and Malta had formally accepted to assume the coordination of the rescue efforts (paras. 6.5-6.7). However, the authors of the communication failed to exhaust available domestic remedies, meaning the communication was inadmissible (paras. 6.8-6.9). Three dissention opinions were attached, namely by Andreas Zimmermann; Gentian Zyberi, Arif Bulkan and Duncan Muhumuza; and Hélène Tigroudja.