Four years since El Hiblu rescue, activists demand charges be dropped

El Hiblu 3 campaign demands justice for Abdalla, Kader, and Amara, accused of commandeering vessel that rescued asylum seekers fleeing Libya

El Hiblu 3 campaign demands justice for Abdalla, Kader and Amara, accused of commandeering vessel that rescued asylum seekers fleeing Libya.

Activists marked the fourth year of charges filed against three young men, asylum seekers who were rescued by the El Hiblu container ship, who are fighting accusations of terror by the Maltese government.

The three young men – Abdalla, Kader and Amara – known as the El Hiblu 3, were accused of commandeering the ship that had rescued them, when they were in effect attempting to prevent the captain from sending them back to Libya, where they feared persecution and torture.

International law forbids the ‘refoulement’ of asylum seekers back to the countries they are fleeing from, without being granted a legal right to apply for international protection.

“We must demand that the charges against these young men be dropped immediately. We must demand justice for them and for all those who are being persecuted for standing up for human rights. We cannot let this injustice continue,” said Regine Psaila, from the African Media Association, joined by Moviment Graffitti and academic Cetta Mainwaring for the Free the El Hiblu 3 Campaign.

“We must stand up against any practices that violate these rights. Pushback at sea is a clear violation of international law, and those who try to uphold it should be held accountable, not those who resist it. 

“We cannot allow this injustice to go unnoticed. We must demand that the Maltese government take action to ensure that the rights of all people are respected, and that those who try to uphold them are not punished for it.”

The activists insist that, as evidenced in court, in the days before they arrived in Malta, they were on a sinking rubber boat in the Mediterranean. After being rescued by an oil tanker, the El Hiblu, they acted as translators and mediators between a scared crew and scared passengers.

When the tanker attempted to return them to Libya – people were terrified and threatened to jump overboard rather than be returned to the violence they had just fled in Libya. In this moment, the crew asked the El Hiblu 3 to help restore calm.

“That the charges against them are unjust could not be clearer. These three young men should be free to live dignified lives,” said Dr Cetta Mainwaring. “Together, here, we celebrate the bravery that Amara, Abdalla and Kader showed at sea and in Malta. Together, here we demand that the Attorney General drops the unjust charges against the EL HIblu 3.”

Despite the terrorism charges, the three men remain in Malta, where they have built themselve a life, apart from studying to secure a profession. “They try to work, to make ends meet,” said Psaila.

“Today, Abdalla is the father of a lovely girl who was born three years ago in a refugee centre here in Malta. She still lives in a centre with her parents. That centre is the only family environment that she had known, since she came into this world. It is happening here in Europe.”