03 JULY 2019
Carola Rackete, the 31-year-old captain of the Sea-Watch 3, has been released from custody.
She was arrested on Saturday after her vessel made contact with a police boat and docked in Lampedusa, Italy, with 41 African migrants on board. Italian judge Alessandra Vella ruled on Tuesday that Rackete had not broken the law but was rather carrying out her duty to protect life.
Rackete had faced up to 10 years in prison on possible charges of endangering the lives of four policemen and could still face separate charges of aiding illegal immigration.
Reuters reports that Rackete apologized for hitting the patrol boat, saying it had been an accident and explaining that her sole concern was the well-being of the migrants who had been at sea for more than two weeks.
Sea-Watch said on Facebook: “We are relieved our captain is free! There were no grounds to keep her arrested, as her only ‘wrongdoing’ was to enforce human rights on the Mediterranean and to take responsibility where none of the European governments did.”
Several fundraisers have raised over one million euros ($1.1 million) to help Rackete, and Sea-Watch says the money will be used to fund future rescue missions.
U.K.-based charity Human Rights at Sea has released a statement: “From the news received this evening that Captain Carola Rackete has been released from Italian custody with no charges found against her, as we understand, this is a victory for both common sense and a victory for civil society in its lawful objective and focus to assure that the rights of all persons at sea, including migrants and refugees, are protected and respected.
“Human Rights at Sea has supported SeaWatch from its inception and has seen some of its own team engaged with the German NGO in frontline operations offshore Libya rescuing persons in distress, sometimes with fatal consequences when they have been prevented from doing so. The charity remains committed in its intent and mission of ensuring that human rights at sea apply to all persons working, transiting and living at sea, globally.”