The El Hiblu 3

Malta: Amnesty delegation to attend El Hiblu 3 hearing as third anniversary of arrest approaches

  • Amnesty spokespeople available in Malta from 28 January – 4 February 
  • Case hearing to take place on Thursday 3 February  
  • Anniversary set to be marked by activists and human rights advocates in Malta and around the world 

Ahead of the latest inquiry hearing of the El Hiblu 3, an Amnesty International delegation is travelling to Malta to call for the charges against them to be dropped. The three young men were arrested in Malta almost three years ago, for protesting when the cargo ship that had rescued them in the Mediterranean tried to unlawfully return them to Libya.  

In March 2019, three African teenagers, from Ivory Coast and Guinea, (aged 15, 16, 19) boarded a crowded rubber boat, fleeing Libya together with 108 other people. After their boat started deflating, they were rescued by a cargo ship, the El Hiblu. The ship’s captain then tried to return them to Libya, a move which would contravene international law, as captains have a legal duty to take those who they rescue at sea to a safe destination. After the ship eventually arrived in Malta on 28 March 2019, the Maltese authorities claimed the three youths had taken over the ship by force. They were charged with grave crimes, and now face life in prison.  

“These young men were only boys when they tried to protect themselves and their fellow asylum seekers from being returned to almost certain torture, detention, rape and exploitation in Libya. For three long years their lives have been on hold – it is now high time to drop the charges against them and let them continue with their lives. 

Elisa De Pieri, Regional Researcher at Amnesty International

After people on board the El Hiblu realised that the captain was attempting to illegally push them back to Libya, they began to panic, horrified at the prospect of returning to the torture they had escaped. The young men, who speak English, acted as interpreters between the crew and the rescued people. The chief officer of the El Hiblu relied on the three youths to translate information to the other survivors, and maintain calm. An Amnesty International delegation is travelling to Malta to reiterate that the charges against them should have been dropped long ago. 

Call for justice for the El Hiblu 3 

Amnesty International is calling on the Attorney General to drop the charges as no justice can be served by pursuing this prosecution. 

“Libya is not safe for refugees and migrants. We know that they are subjected to serious human rights abuses there, including mass arrests in the last few months,” said Elisa De Pieri. 



Background paper, March 2021 

A number of events are taking place around the three-year anniversary of the El Hiblu 3’s arrest including from the El Hiblu 3 Freedom Commission 

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