Watch: Bloody hands and a mock trial as Lifeline case delayed again
Protesters accuse European leaders of being accessory to manslaughter
Lifeline captain Claus-Peter Reisch hit out at the continued delays in his court case on Tuesday, as volunteers from the migrant vessel protested in Valletta 75 days after the ship was detained by Maltese authorities.
Mr Reisch is charged with steering an unregistered boat in Maltese territorial waters, due to issues with the Lifeline’s certification, but the case was again postponed - this time to October - as the prosecution has not received replies it needs from the maritime authorities in the Netherlands, where the ship is registered.
“The magistrate himself has stated that [the delays] are just to waste my time and money,” Mr Reisch told Times of Malta. “It's very bad that we cannot leave the port: the Libyan navy has broken down, so there is nobody at sea to rescue migrant lives. This is a situation we've never seen before in Europe and I'm ashamed about it.”
Mr Reisch’s lawyer Cedric Mifsud said that if the replies were still in not in hand by the next sitting in October, the defence would file an application for the court to close the prosecution’s evidence - forcing the case to go forward.
“The magistrate said he could have the case wrapped up in two weeks, but so far there has been a complete lack of progress from the Attorney General and the Dutch authorities,” Dr Mifsud said.
Earlier, volunteers from the migrant rescue NGO Mission Lifeline walked along Republic Street in a silent protest against the impounding of the vessel, along with fellow rescue ships Seafuchs and Sea-Watch 3, and the search and rescue aircraft Moonbird.
The Sea Watch 3 and Moonbird, both operated by the same organisation, are not subject to the registration issues affecting the other two vessels, and its crew claim their detention has no legal basis.
Protestors wore masks representing Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini, German chancellor Angela Merkel and others, and had their hands handcuffed and covered in blood in reference to the 280 migrants who have drowned in the central Mediterranean while the rescue vessels have been impounded.
In a symbolic mock trial outside the law courts, protesters found Dr Muscat ‘guilty’ of being an accessory to manslaughter, embezzlement of state funds, and breaching international and human rights law. Similar ‘charges’ were levelled at the other political leaders.
“Political authorities are showing clearly that the rescue of people at sea has become negotiable,” a representative of the protesters said. “Rescue is not optional and failure to do so is a crime, which European governments are now guilty of.”
Delia backs rescue efforts in line with international law
Mr Reisch spoke briefly with Opposition leader Adrian Delia, emerging from an unrelated hearing at the courts at the same time, who said he supported all efforts to save lives at sea - “as long as it is in compliance with international law” - and described such efforts as a “fundamental legal and moral obligation on all states, individuals and organisations”.
Dr Delia - who was accused by NGOs on Monday of “abhorrent” anti-migrant rhetoric - insisted his concern was not about migration but the government’s failure to adequately plan for the 70,000 people it had said would be arriving in four years, and the impact on Maltese citizens.