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A migrant is rescued from the Mediterranean Sea some 20 nautical miles north of Libya on October 3.

International organizations say the number of migrants arriving in the European Union by sea declined by nearly two-thirds last year but that the death toll in the Mediterranean rose to a record 5,079.

The EU border agency Frontex said in a report published on January 6 that the total number of migrants reaching Europe by sea declined to 364,000 in 2016, down from more than 1 million the previous year.

Frontex attributed much of the drop to a deal between the EU and Turkey that led to tighter border control by Turkish officials and cut the number of arrivals on the Greek islands by 79 percent.

It said, however, that the number of arrivals from North Africa to Italy rose by about 20 percent to a record 182,500. The increase reflected the rising migratory pressures mainly from West Africa, Frontex said.

Meanwhile, the UN-affiliated International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the number of fatalities and missing migrants in the Mediterranean rose 34 percent to at least 5,079 last year. It had previously said 2016 was the deadliest year for migration in the Mediterranean.

IOM said the rise was primarily due to improved research methods but that some migrant routes have also grown more deadly.

Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters
Iranian rights activist Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 (file photo)

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has called for the sacking of the head of Iran's judiciary for being directly responsible for "all injustices, corruption, and insecurity" in the judicial system and in the country.

Ebadi, a co-founder and the president of the Center for Human Rights Defenders (DHRC), called on Iranian rights activists "to say no" to Judiciary head Sadegh Larijani and demand his dismissal.

The center said in a January 5 statement that under Larijani the judiciary was "overseeing a miscarriage of justice" in the "name of religion or under the excuse of national security."

Ebadi, who lives in exile mainly in the United States and Britain, told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that instead of being independent, Iran's judiciary has turned into "one of the branches of the intelligence ministry."

Under Larijani, the arrest and pressuring of activists, intellectuals, and rights defenders has continued and the number of executions has increased.

"Civil and social activists, researchers and thinkers who express criticism are condemned to lengthy prison sentences, torture and harassment, while criminals, serial killers and those involved in embezzlement are enjoying worldly pleasures under the shadows of a corrupted judicial system," the center headed by Ebadi said.

The DHRC has continued to issue reports on Iran's rights situation since it was raided and shut down in 2008.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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