The NGO Human Rights At Sea (HRAS) has issued a shocking 18-page report on the plight of the suicidal former crew of a platform supply vessel detained in Angola since March.
The former crew of the Sutton Tide are currently facing a criminal trial in Soyo, Angola for allegedly being complicit in the theft of fuel despite not being arrested. The report contains powerful images of the desperate men, some of whom have admitted suicidal tendencies while being held captive.
The Sutton Tide is owned by Sonatide, a joint venture between Tidewater and Sonangol, the national oil company of Angola.
“The suspected crew’s basic human rights have been breached with lack of liberty, a lack of legal representation, lack of proper access to justice, lack of ability to freely leave Angola, and lack of family life due to retention in Soyo, Angola,” HRAS noted, adding that throughout their ordeal the suspected crew have been denied proper legal representation, denied adequate procedural information and detailed explanations about the charges they are facing.
“They have not been provided with suitable welfare support, and they have been subject to contradictory evidential submissions during what appears to be a superficial investigation with limited evidential corroboration,” HRAS maintained.
While not under arrest, at the time of writing the crew have been prevented from leaving Soyo for three months due to a non-issue by the crew management company, Sonatide, of the requisite sign-off paperwork, and despite not being subject to any explicit court orders restricting their movements.
Throughout their enforced stay in Soyo, the mental health of the predominantly Ukranian crew has been damaged by the indeterminate nature of their confinement. Already, one crewmember is purported to have attempted suicide, with other crew members displaying increasingly concerning suicidal tendencies.
The report contains quotes from the crew.
“I am optimist but I also read my present situation very clear. I don’t like to kill myself but between fast and slow death I choose fast,” one man was quoted as saying, while another said: “We are here already almost three months, we survive many bad things, we are unprotected and for local people we are white sheep ready for slaughter.”
Tidewater’s Sonatide office have allegedly insisted that the company is not obliged to provide for the crew, and has refused to support the crew during their stay in Soyo. In addition, since March 24 the crew have not been paid, and they are facing increasing legal and accommodation costs. Current legal expenses are already approximately $15,000. The majority of these costs have had to be paid by the seafarers’ families.