The Crime of Rescue – The Iuventa case


EDITOR’S NOTE: Over the few days preceding the publishing of this feature, more than 200 migrants are believed to have lost their lives in the Mediterranean. In a concerted effort to deter flows of migration from the Central Mediterranean route since late 2016, European authorities—particularly the Italian government—have simultaneously organized a targeted campaign to delegitimize and criminalize NGO rescue ships and close off Italian ports to them, implemented policies that expand the Search And Rescue (SAR) zone of Libya preventing EU and NGO vessels from operating to help people in distress in these areas, as well as provided equipment and other material, technical, and political resources to the Libyan coastguard. As a result of such procedures, more people are brought back into overcrowded Libyan detention camps where human rights are notoriously violated on a regular basis. Moreover, and due to legal restrictions, all main NGO-operated vessels are currently stranded in European ports, warning of a potential increase in deaths at sea. This video by Forensic Oceanography and Forensic Architecture—investigative practices established and based at Goldsmiths, University of London—revolves around a case about The Iuventa, the German rescue ship that was seized by Italian authorities in August 2017 under the suspicion of having colluded and collaborated with smugglers. By utilizing architecture representation tools as analytic method, the project reconstructs events into a counter-investigation of the official narrative and allegations against members of the vessel’s crew that they have collaborated with smugglers to coordinate the transfer of migrants onto their ship and return empty boats for re-use. The video is part of a larger report on “Blaming the Rescuers” that seeks to refute accusations against non-governmental organizations of “colluding with smugglers” and unwillingly encouraging migrants to make risky crossings.


Forensic Oceanography
Forensic Oceanography (FO) is a project, established by Lorenzo Pezzani and Charles Heller, that critically investigates the militarized border regime in the Mediterranean Sea, analyzing the spatial and aesthetic conditions that have caused over 16,500 registered deaths at the maritime borders of Europe over the last 20 years. Together with a wide network of NGOs, scientists, journalists and activist groups, FO has produced, since 2011, several maps, video animations (e.g. Liquid Traces), visualizations, human rights reports (e.g. the report on the ‘Left-to-Die Boat’ case) and websites (e.g. that attempt to document the violence perpetrated against migrants at sea and challenge the regime of visibility imposed by surveillance means on this contested area.

Forensic Architecture
Forensic Architecture is a multidisciplinary research group that uses architectural techniques and technologies to investigate cases of state violence and violations of human rights around the world. The group is led by architect Eyal Weizman, and comprises a team of investigators including architects, scholars, artists, filmmakers, lawyers, and scientists among others. The group uses advanced architectural and media techniques to investigate armed conflicts and environmental destruction, as well as to cross-reference a variety of evidence sources, such as new media, remote sensing, material analysis, and witness testimony. Forensic architecture is also an academic and an emergent field of practice developed at the Centre for Research Architecture, at Goldsmiths, University of London.

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