NEWS

Gov’t defends shelving of Farmakonisi probe

Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis on Monday issued an angry response to criticism by Europe’s top human rights official over a decision by a Greek prosecutor to shelve a probe into the deaths of 11 immigrants during a controversial coast guard operation in the Aegean in January.

Responding to comments on August 1 by Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Varvitsiotis said that he had read the official’s criticism “with amazement” and could only attribute them to a “lack of information.”

In his post on Facebook, Muiznieks had suggested that misdeeds were being covered up. “Impunity risks covering these serious human rights violations. This would be a grave mistake,” he wrote. “Greek authorities have to take more resolute efforts to ensure accountability for this tragedy,” he added.

“I understand that he is suggesting we proceed with an ‘a la carte’ enforcement of the rule of law,” Varvitsiotis retorted in his statement. The minister added that Greece’s coast guard officials “strive to protect the right to life and safety at sea,” adding that any reports of alleged abusive behavior are investigated by prosecutors.

Eleven immigrants from Afghanistan – eight women and three children – drowned on January 20 while a Greek coast guard vessel was towing their boat toward the eastern Aegean island of Farmakonisi.

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