At least 23 migrants have died trying to cross from Morocco to Spain’s North African exclave of Melilla. The actions of Moroccan police officers caused horror. Now the judiciary takes action.

The Spanish judiciary has opened an investigation into the deaths of at least 23 migrants in the storming of Spain’s North African exclave of Melilla. This was reported by the Spanish state TV broadcaster RTVE and other Spanish media on Tuesday.

Attorney General Dolores Delgado justified the decision with the scope of what happened last Friday at the border fence on the Moroccan side. Delgado emphasized that human and fundamental rights of migrants could have been violated in the process.

Human rights activists made serious allegations. The Moroccan authorities had used “unjustified violence” and “abused” migrants, the head of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) in the city of Nador, Amin Abidar, told the German Press Agency on Saturday. People were left trapped on the ground for hours without medical help. As a result, several migrants died.

UN called for an investigation into the deaths

The UN Human Rights Office and the UN Committee on Migrant Workers had previously called on Spain and Morocco to investigate the circumstances of the 23 deaths. If there are those responsible for the tragedy, they must be held accountable, a spokeswoman for the UN human rights office said on Tuesday in Geneva.

For Spain’s government, the matter is sensitive. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had blamed the “human trafficking mafia” for the development. Sánchez praised Morocco’s security forces for repelling an attack “on the territorial integrity of the country (Spain)”.

Spain had only recently eased its ties with Morocco by giving in to the decades-long dispute over Western Sahara. Madrid now backs Rabat’s plan to turn the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara into an autonomous province under Moroccan sovereignty. Just over a year ago, Morocco relaxed border controls to the second Spanish North African exclave, Ceuta, and allowed around 8,000 migrants to enter Spanish territory unhindered.

The Pope was also concerned

Pope Francis also expressed his concern at the deaths of migrants in front of Melilla and also of migrants in Texas. “The fate of the migrants killed in Texas and Melilla pains me,” wrote the head of the Catholic Church on Twitter on Tuesday.

On the outskirts of the Texan city of San Antonio, dozens of migrants who were allegedly illegally brought to the United States were found dead in the trailer of a parked truck. US media reported 50 deaths on Tuesday.