Italian Court Dismisses Charges Against Save the Children in Case Involving People Shipwrecked While Crossing the Mediterranean Sea

2 minute read | April.19.2024

Italian: Save The Children: non luogo a procedere nell’inchiesta di Trapani

An Italian judge has dismissed charges against the team leader of a search and rescue mission of our client Save the Children, which helped rescue shipwrecked people in the Mediterranean Sea in 2016 and 2017. 

The judge also dismissed charges against members of two other NGOs and representatives of a ship owner.

Orrick’s Jean Paule Castagno and Andrea Alfonso Stigliano represented Save the Children’s team leader, who led search-and-rescue missions amid a surge in shipwrecked people fleeing from North Africa and the Middle East.

  • Prosecutors in the coastal city of Trapani investigated allegations of facilitation of illegal immigration that arose in connection with humanitarian efforts by Save the Children and other organizations to assist shipwrecked people.
  • Jean Paule and Andrea analyzed more than 100,000 emails, listened to 50,000+ hours of wiretapped conversations, watched hundreds of hours of rescue operations and collected documents from authorities. Orrick’s Nikola Mirkovic assisted. 
  • The defense effort prompted prosecutors to re-evaluate the case and take the extraordinary step of asking the judge to dismiss the case.

“The outcome of this preliminary hearing is the result of years of hard work, during which Save the Children carried out a proactive and detailed defence exercise, collecting and bringing to the attention of the judge key evidence that did not emerge during the investigation,”  Jean-Paule said. “This evidence was ultimately decisive in convincing the Prosecutor’s Office to re-evaluate its stance to the point of requesting dismissal of the case.”

The case addressed significant legal issues that can provide, from a technical point of view, tools to end criminalization of the so-called délit de solidarité (offense of solidarity) and add legal protections to organizations such as Save the Children assisting in such rescue efforts. 

Nearly 30,000 people have died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration.