Fabrice Leggeri, former director of Frontex, prosecuted for complicity in crimes against humanity and torture

Press release, April 23

The LDH (Ligue des droits de l’Homme) and Utopia 56 are pressing charges against Fabrice Leggeri, former director of Frontex and now candidate for the French Rassemblement National party (RN) in the European elections, for complicity in crimes against humanity and torture.

“In recent years, the central Mediterranean has become the world’s deadliest migration route, with nearly 16,272 migrants dead or missing between January 2015 and April 2022. All too often, these deaths are not the result of chance or accidents. They are, in part, crimes committed in the context of exactions perpetrated methodically and systematically in flagrant violation of maritime law, the Geneva Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights – whether by the incessant refoulement of the Hellenic authorities or the interception of boats by the Libyan coastguard. Homicide, intentional violence, deliberate endangerment, hindering the arrival of help, failure to provide assistance… These practices constitute crimes against humanity.

Now, it turns out that the European border and coast guard agency, known as Frontex, has played a key role in enabling these crimes to be committed, and has done so since Fabrice Leggeri was appointed executive director. Between January 1, 2015 and April 28, 2022, when Fabrice Leggeri had complete control over Frontex’s decision-making power and was the only person within the agency to confer with member states, he radically and permanently changed his role within the European Union (EU), at the risk of becoming an active accomplice in crimes against humanity and crimes of torture committed by the Libyan and Greek authorities.

Under the impetus of this new director, the agency’s missions have not only been expanded in leaps and bounds, but also distorted in the worst possible way: from a support and back-up role, the agency has gradually replaced member states in the management of their borders. To assert the agency’s policing role, its director opted for a policy aimed at preventing migrants from entering the EU, whatever the cost – in human lives in particular -.

And while the EU has given Frontex the role of ensuring integrated European management of external borders, this mission should not be at the expense of respect for people’s fundamental rights, let alone their lives, as has in fact been the case. According to several journalistic sources, Frontex’s involvement can be traced back to nearly 222 dramatic incidents involving 8,355 people between March 2020 and September 2021, whether by failing to oppose the authorities concerned when it was its duty to do so, by concealing evidence of these crimes, or even sometimes by providing logistical and financial support to carry them out. For example, not only did the agency refuse to issue alerts when it was aware of boats in distress, but it also materially facilitated the interception of migrant boats by informing the Greek coastguard or financing, at the very least, an asset involved in an interception. It also deliberately concealed the seriousness of the incidents and the abuses committed by the Greek coastguard. Finally, it used its aerial surveillance to help Libyan forces intercept boats, rather than to rescue the people on board, despite the long-established fact that migrants in Libya are victims of murder, human trafficking, physical and sexual violence, arbitrary detention and torture.

Numerous messages and e-mails indicate that Fabrice Leggeri was aware of these criminal acts, and yet allowed them to continue. He had a duty to put a stop to these practices, but chose to shirk his obligations. In view of his recent statements announcing his candidacy as number three on the Rassemblement National (RN) list for the European elections, it appears that Fabrice Leggeri has misused his duties within Frontex to serve his personal opinions, in complete opposition to the missions entrusted to him, and to the detriment of the lives of thousands of people. In view of the charges brought against him, the LDH and Utopia 56 are concerned about the message and the danger that such a candidacy could represent for Europe.

Following the publication of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) investigation report on April 15, 2022, Fabrice Leggeri was forced to resign.

As a result, the LDH and Utopia 56 have decided to bring a civil action against Fabrice Leggeri for complicity in crimes against humanity and torture before the Paris judicial court. Through this action, our organizations are not only asking the courts to prosecute Mr. Leggeri, but also hope that it will lead to a radical change in practices within the Frontex agency.”