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Challenging the Complicity of Frontex's Aerial Surveillance Activities in Crimes Against Humanity

Court of Justice of the European Union, May 2024

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front-LEX and Refugees in Libya filed a legal notice pursuant to Art. 265 TFEU requesting Frontex’s Executive Director, Mr. Hans Leijtens, to partially terminate the Agency’s aerial surveillance activities in the ‘pre-frontier area’ in the Central Mediterranean.

To prevent asylum seekers fleeing crimes against humanity in Libya from reaching the EU, Frontex systematically and unlawfully transmits the geolocalisation of refugee boats at high seas to the Libyan Coast Guard/Libyan Militia. Every day, Frontex allows for the systematic interception and 'pulling back' of refugees to Libya, from where they have managed to escape by the skin of their teeth, and where they are subjected once more to crimes against humanity. Now, front-LEX, on behalf of X.Y. a refugee trapped in Libya, brings an unprecedented legal challenge against Frontex’s airborne complicity.

Between 2021 and 2023, Frontex has shared 2,200 emails communicating the exact geolocalisation data of refugee boats with Libyan actors to enable their unlawful interception and forcible return back to Libya. There, the ‘pulled back’ refugees are arbitrarily detained and subjected to crimes against humanity of, inter alia, murder, enforced disappearance, torture, enslavement, sexual violence, rape, and other inhumane acts. It is Frontex’s sharing of geolocalisation data which enables the commission of these crimes – making the Agency complicit in the ongoing and systematic attack directed against refugees and asylum seekers in the Central Mediterranean.

Frontex’s complicity in these ‘pullbacks’ and ensuing crimes against humanity committed against refugees has been well-documented by leading human rights organisations, UN organs, and investigative journalists. Now, based on this clear-cut evidence, front-LEX and Refugees in Libya filed an unprecedented legal notice challenging the Agency’s airborne complicity in crimes against humanity committed against people on the move.

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