Human Rights at Sea CEO, David Hammond, has welcomed the positive news that the (International Transport Workers’ Federation) ITF Union will to pay for legal support for the court appeal of the ship’s crew members of the MV Seaman Guard Ohio.
Hammond said “A number of maritime charities, UK organisations and other State’s Foreign Departments and Embassies have been fighting for recognition of and support for the plight of the Seaman Guard Ohio crew since their arrest on 12 October 2013. Their criminalisation has been plain to see over the last two years.”
“In the UK we have literally begged on behalf of the families for financial support to fund the crew’s legal costs over the past years, though previous calls have been ignored with some views expressed that as some of the crew are Private Maritime Security Personnel they are not afforded the same protections as seafarers. Had funding been made available based on existing evidence as presented in previous court hearings we believe that the crew could have had more comprehensive legal support from the outset not just in India, but also supported internationally to properly fight this case.”
“It has been the families, welfare organisations such as The Mission to Seafarers and for the UK crew, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Prime Minister, who have kept the issue alive. We understand that ITF has previously contributed to legal costs and the new financial pledge is clearly welcomed, but we hope that it will be extended for the full extent of the legal case in support of the families and not just for a singular appeal.”
ITF seafarers’ section chair Dave Heindel said: “We have now completed a full legal analysis of the court’s judgment and we firmly believe there are grounds for appeal. We will match our determination with funds. We hope that the – flag of convenience – flag state, Sierra Leone, will also be moved to help these seafarers.”
“This is a clear case of criminalisation of the vessel’s crew. They have been sentenced for supposedly being in charge of weapons that they would never have handled. How can you imprison a ship’s cook for five years for weapons possession when the only thing he’s handled is pots and pans? It’s an injustice.
“We trust that this point will be accepted on appeal.”
Human Rights at Sea has itself conducted an independent legal review of the 11th January 2016 Judicial Magistrate Court No.I, Thoothukudi P.R.C No.01/14 judgement of the 43 accused, and has concluded that there are many more points concerning both fact and law than otherwise raised.
Issues of fact and law highlighted by the crew as to the vessel’s location in/outside Indian Territorial Waters, the asserted open declaration of arms and ammunition, the type of weapons and their inclusion or otherwise under the applicable Indian National law, the deployment of the UK crew with accredited Seaman’s books, the legal application and respect for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982) including the right of Innocent Passage, are just a few of the matters to be addressed. These can be identified through publicly available court documents.
Human Rights at Sea stands by its ongoing assessment that the crew of the MV Seaman Guard Ohio have been deprived of their liberty during the Indian investigation and judicial process and that there has been an abuse of their human rights.