Human rights lawyers are suing the European Union over the deaths of Libyan migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, arguing that EU policies are to blame for the thousands of lost lives.

The group of lawyers has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the EU, outlining, in a 243-page document, actions taken by the bloc to deter migration which they say violated human rights.

EU policies “intended to sacrifice the lives of migrants in distress at sea, with the sole objective of dissuading others in similar situation from seeking safe haven in Europe,” the lawyers say, as quoted by The Guardian.

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The first major drowning incidents took place in early 2015, but continued on, resulting in the deaths of “thousands [of] civilians per year” over the past five years.

The ICC submission points to the EU’s 2014 decision to scale back rescue operations, and leave large zones of the Mediterranean without rescue capabilities, as a major reason for the drownings. It also points to efforts by Italy and other member states to persecute NGO sea rescue groups. (RT)