During the early hours of 20.1.2014, off the coast of Farmakonisi island, within Greek

waters and close to the border line, a small boat capsized, which carried 27 refugees

from Afghanistan and Syria, including 4 women and 9 children. The boat capsized and

sank, while it was towed by a vessel of the Greek Coast Guard. The sinking resulted in

the death of 11 persons (3 womens and 8 children). The corpses of one woman and two

children were found at sea and the rest of them in the cabin of the vessel, when it was

lifted one month after its sinking.

During their immediate contact with the representatives of the UNHCR, which took

place the following day on the island of Leros, the 16 refugees who survived reported

that their boat had approached the Greek coastline when it came across the Coast

Guard and that the towing of the boat by the coast guard was conducted towards

Turkey, in two stages at high speeds and resulting in water entering the boat. They also

reported that the rope which kept the boat connected with the Coast Guard vessel was

cut by the Coast Guard officers, which resulted in the boat being capsized and in the

death of 11 women and children and that the necessary rescue actions were not taken.

They also complained about further acts of mistreatment against them after they

reached the island of Farmakonisi.

The Coast Guard officers, on the contrary, have denied the complaints.

The Prosecutor of the Marine Court has ordered a preliminary investigation on this case,

which has been extensively covered by the Press attracting international interest and

has been dealt with by the Greek and the European Parliament. Our organisations have

closely followed the case, supporting the victims in exercising their rights.


Archiving of the penal file


After a preliminary investigation led by the Prosecutor of Piraeus' Marine Court, the

case was considered to be “manifestly ill-founded in substance” with regard to Articles

306 (exposure to risk), Article 277 (causing a shipwreck), Article 278 (causing a

shipwreck by negligence) and Article 308 (bodily harm) of the Penal Code and  the file

was archived.

This meant that the investigation into the responsibility of the Greek coast guard for

causing the boat to sink as well as for inflicting ill-treatment against the victims - as they

had been accused of by the survivors - was stopped.

The decision to end the investigation was approved by the Prosecutor of the Military

Court of Review, who has under the law the power to order a criminal prosecution. 

The decision of Piraeus' Marine Court to close and archive the case and turn a blind eye

to the accusations raised by the victims as well as their detailed testimonies concerning

the facts of the case, undermines the right to judicial protection and overrides

fundamental rights and guarantees that aim at protecting the victim in penal



A. The Prosecutor considered the allegations made by the survivors to be manifestly ill

founded on the basis of certain “givens”, that he derived exclusively from the

statements provided by the coast guard and the military staff involved in the boat wreck

as well as their superiors. 


In particular, he accepted the following as a “given”:


> in general, no pushbacks take place

> the Greek Coast Guard staff were  ordered by their superiors to transfer the victims

safe to Greek land. The Prosecutor refers to the order issued by the Directorate for the

Protection of the Sea Borders which dealt with the case from the moment of interception

until the final sinking of the boat. It must be pointed out however, that the

mandate of this Directorate concerns only the “protection of the national sea borders

and the deterrence of illegal migration”. It does ΝΟΤ include rescue at sea, which is

managed by the Joint Center for the Coordination of Research and Rescue (EKSED). 


B. The Prosecutor considered the testimonies provided by the survivors to lack

credibility. In his assessment he relied mainly on the statements provided by the coast

guard and the military staff. In particular, the Prosecutor argued that the main

allegation that the Coast Guard had towed the boat towards the Turkish coastline was

“factually imprecise and evidentially not supported” and that there was therefore “no

need or purpose to further investigate into the subsidiary aspects of these accusations”.

He also relied on isolated data extracted from the technical report, which only focused

on the ship worthiness and the specifications of the two boats.    


However, the surviving victims have made the following crucial allegations with

regard to the facts of the case as well as the responsibility of the Greek Coast Guard

staff directly involved in the events and their superiors:  


  • · The Prosecutor only examined and took into consideration the regulatory

framework concerning “the protection of the national sea borders and irregular

migration”, in other words the law concerning border patrolling and deterrence

operations, which falls within the mandate of the Directorate for the Protection of

Sea Borders. The Prosecutor did not take at all into account the principles and rules

of International Marine Law and the Law of the Seas with regards to the duty to protect

human life at sea as well as the relevant rules of search and rescue at sea.

(International Convention on Marine Search and Rescue, ratified by Greece with Law

Ν. 1844/1989 and amended by Presidential Decree 201/2000, Decision Α.920 (22) of

the Committee of the International Maritime Organisation).


  • · The Prosecutor looked past a series of public statements and reports by

international organisations and bodies, including the Council of Europe

Commissioner for Human Rights, UNHCR, Amnesty International and ProAsyl who

condemn the illegal pushback practices by the Greek Coast Guard; as well as formal

statements made by the Minister of Marine, who has publicly approved of acts of



  • · The Prosecutor also turned a blind eye to a number of grave contradictions and

ambiguities in the statements provided by the coast guard and military personnel as

well as the signal exchanges among the responsible authorities, as listed below: 

- The time of interception (it was recorded with a discrepancy of up to 1.30

hour: it was recorded as 00:35am, as 1:25am, as 1:45am and even as


- The time of notification of the authorities involved in the event (the Joint

Center for the Coordination of Research and Rescue (EKSED)was formally

informed at  02:13am, namely at a time when the boat had already sunk, 16

people had already been collected and 3' minutes before the coast boat left

the scene)

- The time and sequence of events between 02:00am and 02:13am. (according

to the Coast Guard, following events occurred within these  13 minutes:

interception, identification, tying up, towing for at least 15 minutes,

overturning of boat and collection of 15 survivors)

- ambiguity about the source issuing the orders for the management of the


- The location from where the signal message was transmitted, since in all

statements the location of interception and the location of the boatwreck

are identical. 


  • · The Prosecutor overlooked the fact that the Port Authorities of Leros had sent out

two signals; the second one was supposed to be an accurate ”revision” of the first

one, but in practice it blatantly changed the time of events and factual description. 


  • · The Prosecutor dismissed as unreliable the concrete testimonies of the surviving

victims, which have been provided at their initial communication with UNHCR

representatives, just the day after the tragic event, and before the completion of the

proceedings and their statements to Port Authorities of Leros. According to these

testimonies, the victims described thoroughly the criminally dangerous handlings by

the Coast Guard, which caused the boat to sink and their families to drown unfairly.


  • · The Prosecutor accepted however as reliable the statements of the victims

registered by the Port Authorities of Leros after the tragic event, even though no

suitable interpreter was present, the procedural safeguards were inadequate and

the same Prosecutor has already pressed charges against the Port officers that

conducted the preliminary investigation for violation of duty and false certification.


  • · The Prosecutor dismissed for lacking credibility a statement provided by a sergeant

of Farmakonisi, who described acts of violence against the survivors on Farmakonisi.


  • · The Prosecutor also made no reference to the cutting, by the coast guard, of the

rope that was holding the boat - although stated to him by the coast guard - which

caused the boat to sink, or the abandonment of the place by the coast guard just

after this incident, though he spends many pages getting into other technical details

and specificities surrounding the tragic night.


  • · The Prosecutor failed to take the necessary steps to collect evidence which are

crucial for the investigation. He looked past the demands of the surviving victims to

collect evidence about the communication and exchange of messages among the

involved staff members and the electronic record of the location and course of the

tow boats and to assess these data in combination. This evidence is thus in risk of

being lost forever in the absence of a timely investigation.  


  • · The Prosecutor accepted undeniably that there was no electronic record of the

events of that tragic night neither by the Coast Guard nor the Military.

 The available data both from the file of the case, the Prosecutor's reasoning as well as

the Parliamentary Records of a Special Session that took place on  29.1.2014 leave no

doubt that on 20.1.2014 near Farmakonisi an operation of “border control” took place,

in other words of deterrence and pushback but not of rescue. The competent Center for

Rescue (EKSED) was only notified at 02:13am, after the boat had sunk and after the 16

survivors had boarded the boat of the Coast Guard. As a result, critical time was lost

to save human lives. It cannot be emphasised enough that the Coast Guard staff were

obliged to initiate the rescue operation and notify the Center for Rescue from the very

first moment of interception of the boat, which, according to the coast guard, was

drifted and had many people on board and under dangerous weather conditions, as

the coast guard themselves described.  

The serious contradictions in the statements of the involved Coast Guard and Military

staff and the mismatch between the times and the alleged course of events raises

serious suspicions that their version of place, time and events is not true.


All rules on search and rescue have been violated.







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