Keywords: migrants; detention on board of ships; right to liberty; arbitrary detention; illegal deten- tion; de facto detention.
The recent practice adopted by Italy to prevent disembarkation from ships carrying migrants rescued in Mediterranean waters raises several legal issues. Prolonged and forced detention of such individuals on board of ships for several days, often in extreme psycho-physical health conditions, may in fact give rise to Italy’s international responsibility for the violation of the right to liberty recognized in all the main international human rights treaties. In particular, the circumstances analyzed may qualify as arbitrary – and often illegal – de facto detentions. The referral of these cases to international tribunals, such as the European Court of Human Rights, could lead to the issuing of a ‘pilot judgment’ which, ascertaining the responsibility of Italy for violation of the right in question, may require the State to modify its legislation on pre-admittance of migrants.