Malta’s Prime Minister Robert Abela has announced on Saturday that he is under investigation for the death of at least 5 migrants who attempted to sail from Libya to Italy.
According to the Russia Today channel, the prime minister said that he had volunteered to cooperate with the police investigation on the death of migrants.
The prime minister said in a television address “I was informed that, because of the nature of the accusations, the police have asked a magistrate to launch an inquiry into officials from the armed forces and myself,” Abela said.
“The charge of homicide carries with it a life sentence,” the Maltese premier added.
According to Maltese law, police reports are automatically investigated. Criminal proceedings can then be started depending on how much evidence is found.
Groups monitoring migrants’ crossings of the Mediterranean Sea said five people died and seven others went missing while their boat was in distress off Malta’s coast this week. The boat was reportedly carrying around 55 people.
On Thursday, Malta’s Repubblika civil rights organisation submitted two police reports alleging criminal inaction on the part of Abela and the Maltese armed forces commander Jeffrey Curmi.
Its second report was filed against the 11 crew members of a Maltese patrol boat which allegedly cut the cables of the migrants’ dinghy boat’s engine.
“For sure, lives could have been saved; the rescue should not have been delayed; those ‘rescued’ should not have been returned to Libya and now need to be rescued from serious risks to their life,” UNHCR special envoy Vincent Cochetel tweeted.