El Hiblu 3: ‘It takes courage to stand up for human rights’

Yet another witness testifying in the three-year long case in which charges were filed against three individuals who have come to be known as ‘the El Hiblu 3’ thanked them for calming down panicked migrants who had almost jumped overboard when Libya’s coastline appeared on the horizon.

The possibility of a 30-year jail term over terrorism charges for the El Hiblu 3, Abdallah, Amara, and Kader, has been hanging over their heads since 2019.

On 3 February, another witness had recounted a similar narrative, telling the court that the three teenagers had only intervened to calm things down and assure migrants that they were not going back to Libya.

In today’s hearing, another witness of the events that had happened on-board the El Hiblu vessel confirmed that all three of the defendants had confirmed that they had only translated and mediated while on board and had not in any way attempted to take control of the vessel.

The case’s court-appointed IT expert was also heard in today’s sitting, stating that the vessel’s six cameras on the ship were never activated, with no recordings of the incident being available as a result.

In a press conference held before the court hearing, members of the Free the El Hiblu 3 campaign reiterated their calls for the charges against the three defendants to be dropped and for the case to be closed.

Speaking at the press conference, campaign coordinator Jelka Kretzschmar stated that the defendants were “arrested on their arrival (to Malta) without knowing what was going on”.

“Nobody on the ship was actually harmed. Due to the actions of the El Hiblu 3, 105 other people reached a port of safety. It takes courage to stand up for one’s human rights, especially when one has just escaped death and has been rescued from distress at sea,” Kretzschmar stated.

“Instead of being celebrated, we see a form of lawfare against migrants, a broader war against migration and primarily, black and brown people. To us, the El Hiblu 3 are heroes. It is everyone’s responsibility to not remain silent and to not look away but instead oppose the dismantling of human rights,” she added.

Daniela Debono, an academic and member of the Free El Hiblu 3 campaign, spoke of the context which led to the developments in the three-year-long case, recounting multiple incidents in the past in which different administrations in government had “abdicated their responsibility” to rescue migrants in distress.

“The official policy today seems to be that of returning people to Libya, a country which we Maltese citizens are advised not to travel to Libya, despite the well-documented violence, torture and widespread human rights abuses that we know are inflicted on migrants who are returned,” Debono said.

“The result of these policies that kill are graves without names, the innumerable people who died at sea, victims without justice. The criminalisation of migrants has reached new heights, and what we are witnessing with the El Hiblu 3 case and the outrageous charges brought against them, is exactly this,” she added.

                           
                               
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