Over 14 years after 1,000 people died in an Egyptian ferry disaster, the EU’s top court has decided that two Italian companies can be sued for damages by survivors and relatives of the victims.
The EU's top court Thursday allowed the potential for more damages to be granted to survivors and relatives of victims in the case of the 2006 Red Sea ferry disaster. Over 1,000 people died 14 years ago in the disaster off the coast of Egypt.
The European Court of Justice ruled that courts in Italy have jurisdiction to hear cases for damages. Survivors and relatives of the disaster tried to sue two organizations in Italy, blaming them for the classification and certification of the ship that led to the disaster.
"These organizations could rely on immunity from jurisdiction only in so far as their activities constituted an expression of the public powers of the Panamanian state," the court said in a press release. The ferry sailed under the flag of Panama.
An Italian court asked the EU's highest court in Luxembourg to determine whether EU law allowed the Italian judicial system to deal with the issue. In January, the advocate general said he believed that the two organizations should be allowed to be sued in Italy.
What happened in the disaster?
The Egyptian ferry, the MS Salam Boccaccia '98, was en route from Duba, Saudi Arabia to Safaga in southern Egypt in February 2006, carrying around 1,400 passengers and crew.
Many of those aboard were Muslims returning from the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The ship's owners were jailed in 2009, after evidence emerged that they had ordered the boat to continue on its journey despite there having been a fire on board. When the boat gained water and began to sink, less than 400 crew members and passengers were rescued.
Design faults were ruled to have been a factor in the sinking, which led to the claims being made in the Italian legal system.
ed/rt (AFP, dpa)