The Open Arms denounces the Italian Navy submarine “Venuti”, but…

(To Avv. Marco Valerio Verni)

In recent days, news has appeared in some press organs according to which the Spanish non-governmental organization "Open Arms" has allegedly reported, both to the Public Prosecutor's Office at the ordinary court of Rome, and to that at the military court, the submarine of the Italian Navy Pietro Venuti, "which in August 2019 had intercepted and reported its activities in the Mediterranean". 1

The story

The latter circumstance had emerged at the beginning of this month in the Palermo trial in which the former Interior Minister of the time and current Minister of Infrastructures, Matteo Salvini, is accused of kidnapping and refusal of acts of office for having blocked 147 migrants on the ship of the aforementioned NGO in August three years ago when he was, in fact, at the helm of the Interior Ministry.

Well, in this context, during the hearing of 2 December last, it had been included in the hearing file "the audio, photographic and video material relating to the operations carried out by the Open Arms vessel, in August 2019, precisely, during the rescue of a boat loaded with migrants, the result of supplementary investigation activities by the Palermo Public Prosecutor's Office.(...) The footage, taken from a submarine on August 1, 2019, and the files of conversations involving the crew of the Open Arms had been made available to the parties by the investigators and were part of the prosecutor's file. (…) The judges also ordered the transcription of the acquired audio files. A consultancy ordered by the Public Prosecutor's Office on the state of the vessel rescued on 1 August 2019 by the Open Arms ship was also acquired in the hearing file. The consultancy was carried out on the video and photo material shot before the rescue and would attest to the precarious conditions of the boat loaded with refugees "2.

Naturally, the activity carried out by the Italian navy unit had been reported in a special report, concerning theEvent occurred on 01 August 2019 - Recovery of shipwrecked (about 50) in the Libyan SAR area on board n. 1 wooden boat about seventy-eight miles off the Libyan coast and recovered, in fact, from the ship called "OPEN ARMS", of the NGO Proactiva. Service Activity Report, and forwarded, however, to various public prosecutors, including the one at the Military Tribunal of Rome.

The complaint of the Spanish NGO

Well, according to the lawyers of the Spanish NGO in question, who had already announced the possible complaint the day after the hearing mentioned above, the submarine in question "he limited himself to documenting the rescue operations with videos and photos, without providing help and without notifying the competent authorities of the presence of a boat in difficulty".

Furthermore "From the technical report ordered by the prosecution it became clear that the wooden boat rescued by the Open Arms and recovered by the submarine was in precarious and overcrowded conditions and therefore constituted a danger to the lives of the people on board. As established international Conventions, the Law of the Sea, the national text of the Sar and the Iamsar Manual, any vessel, even military, which encounters another vessel that can be considered in a distress situation, has the obligation to assist".

In the absence of complete documentation regarding the facts in question, it is clear that an opinion cannot be expressed on the matter: what, however, can be highlighted, with reference only to the hypothesized omission of assistance by the unit of the Italian navy, and, it is repeated - in the absence of other elements - is that, precisely in the aforementioned report, it is reported that "Regarding the structural aspects of the boat used by the migrants, please refer to the attached photographic correspondence. However, also in the light of the experience gained in the field, the presence, as highlighted, of 2 outboard engines, confirms its capacity significant propulsion, also suitable for dealing with an emergency situation and/or damage to the propulsion itself. Aspects, the latter, of which there is no evidence in the present case."

From the above, it would be deduced that, at least in the perception of the crew of the Italian submarine, the boat in question was not in any danger, also given the sea conditions (calm, as can be inferred from the video and photographic material which, referred to in the report above, was, at least partially, also disclosed in some press organs) and by the very fact that, in any case, the people embarked on it were still receiving help from the Open Arms ship.

Naturally, we are awaiting the judicial outcomes, but, as above, it is believed it was necessary to add and recall to memory, for an analysis of the affair which, also given the delicacy of the same, risks discrediting the work of the Venuti and, therefore, of the Italian Navy: on the first, it would be easy to say that, if the boat of the migrants in question had really been in danger or, in any case, had been perceived in such a situation, there would have been no doubt that the same (submarine) would have promptly done its utmost to lend the own help; on the second, it certainly cannot be accused of not having spent itself, over the years, in the spasmodic rescue of migrants at sea.

Net of other considerations of a political nature, which however go beyond the purpose of this article.