The Dutch state has wrongly prevented Sea-Watch 3 from leaving the port since the beginning of April – this was the conclusion reached today by a court in The Hague, which was responsible for assessing our emergency application against the blockade of the ship. According to the court, the Minister may not impose the policy change for NGO vessels on Sea-Watch without a transitional period. The court speaks of improper administration, which moreover is in violation of the principle of legal certainty. Sea-Watch 3 will resume its search and rescue operations as soon as possible.
Previously, the Minister for Infrastructure and Water Management had issued a new regulation for ships belonging to non-governmental organizations. While the operators of other ships were granted a transitional period of one year to implement the new rules, this should not apply to the Sea-Watch 3 – the only civilian rescue vessel. The political intentions of the Dutch government are clear: to block civil sea rescue by all means.
Consequently, we took legal action against the ministerial decision and the district court in The Hague ruled today, that the minister had violated our legitimate interests. In the course of the negligent ministerial action, the principle of legal certainty had not been sufficiently observed. In particular, a violation of property rights was established. Specifically, the court ruled that Sea-Watch 3 is not bound by the ordinance for the time being and is therefore allowed to sail. It orders the State, in consultation with Sea-Watch, to come to a regulation that takes sufficient account of the interests of Sea-Watch and that complies with the principle of legal certainty.
Nevertheless, Sea-Watch remains concerned: “On the one hand, we are pleased that the court has ruled in our favor and the Minister has been reprimanded; on the other hand, we are very concerned about how far governments go in the fight against humanitarian organizations that are committed to saving human lives”, says Anne Dekker, Sea-Watch Netherlands’ representative.
With the announcement of the judgment, the crew has already started to make the ship fit for service again. We aim to return to the SAR zone off the Libyan coast as soon as possible. This is also bitterly necessary: At present, only one civilian sea rescue vessel is active in the SAR zone – while one in ten people die trying to flee across the Mediterranean.