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Syrian survivor Mohammad, 18, who was rescued with other people after their boat, the Adriana, sank off the Greek coast, hugs his brother Fadi, who came to meet him from Netherlands, as they reunite at the port of Kalamata, Greece, June 16, 2023. © 2023 REUTERS/Stelios Misinas

(Milan, June 12, 2024) – Little progress has been made in investigating the shipwreck of an overcrowded trawler, the Adriana, off the coast of Pylos, Greece on June 14, 2023, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today.

The boat was carrying an estimated 750 people, mainly from Syria, Pakistan, and Egypt. Only 104 survived; 82 bodies were recovered but only 58 identified. More than 500 people remain missing. A Greek Naval Court’s investigation into the potential liability of the Hellenic Coast Guard for the shipwreck, opened in June 2023, remains at the preliminary stage.

“It is unconscionable that one year since this horrific tragedy, the investigation into the potential liability of the Hellenic Coast Guard has barely progressed,” said Judith Sunderland, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “We need to see a credible process for accountability and an end to the cycle of violence and impunity at Greece’s borders.”

“Hundreds of families have been left in limbo, awaiting the truth on the fate of their loved ones,” said Adriana Tidona, migration researcher at Amnesty International. “The Greek authorities must advance in their investigations into the potential liability of the coast guard in this incident to finally bring justice and closure to all those affected.” 

On June 13, 2023, the Greek authorities were alerted to an overcrowded trawler, the Adriana, in their search and rescue region, and it sank 15 hours later. Research by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and others reported failures by the Greek authorities in the hours leading up to the shipwreck and serious allegations that a Hellenic Coast Guard patrol boat caused the trawler to capsize while attempting to tow it.

Nongovernmental organizations joined the case before the Greek Naval Court with a complaint on behalf of 53 survivors alleging that Greek authorities were responsible for the shipwreck. Survivors and families have been left in limbo as more than 500 people are estimated to remain missing.

On May 21, the criminal court in Kalamata dismissed a case against nine survivors who were accused of smuggling and causing the shipwreck, among other serious charges, and had been detained for 11 months at the time of the trial. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had expressed concerns over the fairness of the trial, saying that the case was based on incomplete and questionable evidence given that the investigation into the role of the Coast Guard has not yet been completed.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also reported concerns about the integrity of the evidence gathered as part of investigations into the shipwreck. 

The Naval Court prosecutor’s request for forensic analysis of coast guard officers’ phones – only seized by authorities in late September 2023, over two months after the events – is still pending. 

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