On 20 January 2014 a fishing boat with 27 Afghan, Syrian and Palestinian nationals on board sank off an island in the Aegean Sea while under tow by the Greek coastguard. The sinking caused the deaths of 11 people, including members of the applicants’ families. The proceedings concerning the potential criminal liability of the coastguard members involved in the incident were discontinued, as were those against the military personnel alleged to have subjected the applicants to ill-treatment after their arrival. The 16 survivors of the sinking complained to the Court, inter alia, that their lives had been endangered during the sinking by reason of the acts or omissions of the coastguard, that some of them had lost family members in the sinking, that the investigation into who should bear responsibility for the fatal accident had been inadequate, and that they had been ill‑treated after the coastguard had transferred them to the nearby island.
The Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 2 under its procedural head. The Court found that there had been shortcomings in the proceedings and concluded that the national authorities had not carried out a thorough and effective investigation capable of shedding light on the circumstances in which the boat had sunk. The Court also found a violation of Article 2 on account of the failure to comply with the positive obligation under this Article. The Court found that the Greek authorities had not done all that could reasonably be expected of them to provide the applicants and their relatives with the level of protection required by Article 2 of the Convention.
The Court also found a violation of Article 3, concerning 12 of the applicants who had been on board the boat and who, after it had sunk, had been subjected to degrading treatment on account of the body searches they had undergone on arriving in Farmakonisi.