By Lisa Vives
NEW YORK, Apr 21 2015 (IPS)
As Europeans debated their policies towards the leaky flotillas steaming out of Libya, carrying most to a certain death at sea, members of ISIL were streaming a video of captured Ethiopian Christians on a beach.
One group of Christians is on their knees and shot to death. Another group is beheaded. The video bore the official logo of the ISIL media arm Al-Furgan and resembled previous videos released by the group, Al Jazeera reported.
A masked fighter is seen delivering a long statement between pieces of footage of the slaughter. The victims were identified as “followers of the cross from the enemy Ethiopian Church”.
Earlier this year, fighters pledging allegiance to ISIL released a video purporting to show the killing of 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Ghanaian abducted in Libya.
According to a release by the group Coptic Solidarity, the Christians were killed for refusing to pay a tax, imposed on non-Muslims in an Islamic state who refuse to convert.
Since the U.S.-assisted removal of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has become a hotbed of Islamist violence with no central government.
With security denied in Libya, some 900 migrants made their way to the sea last week, hoping to reach Malta. When the boat capsized after a few days, many were trapped behind doors locked by their smugglers. Between 28 and 50 survivors have been found.
The Italian Coast Guard is collecting statements from other survivors, prosecutors said. Passengers were from Algeria, Egypt, Somalia, Niger, Senegal, Mali, Zambia, Bangladesh and Ghana.
The U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said that the incident could be worse than an incident last week in which 400 refugees and migrants died in the Mediterranean.
Human Rights Watch urged the European Union to act quickly. “The EU is standing by with arms crossed while hundreds die off its shores,” said Judith Sunderland, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These deaths might well have been prevented if the EU had launched a genuine search-and-rescue effort.”
In a statement released Sunday, the U.N. said that it planned action down the road but didn’t detail any immediate plans to help with the search for the victims of this accident.
Doctors Without Borders also had strong words for the tragedy. “A mass grave is being created in the Mediterranean Sea and European policies are responsible,” said the group’s president, Loris De Filippi. He compared the high number of deaths to “figures from a war zone.”
“Faced with thousands of desperate people fleeing wars and crises, Europe has closed borders, forcing people in search of protection to risk their lives and die at sea,” he said. “This tragedy is only just beginning, but it can and should be stopped.”
Doctors Without Borders will begin its own rescue effort, he added, because “as a medical, humanitarian organization, we simply cannot wait any longer.”
Edited by Kitty Stapp