Hundreds of migrants are believed to have been trapped and killed when a modified fishing trawler sank south of Greece in mid-June.
The Greek coast guard had been shadowing the vessel along a section of its journey from Libya to Italy. Only 104 people were pulled from the sea alive — all men and boys — while 82 bodies, only one of them a woman, were recovered.
The rest, including women and children, sank in one of the deepest parts of the Mediterranean. With depths of around 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) in that area, a recovery of the vessel and its victims is all but impossible.
Many of the survivors dispute the official account that repeated offers of assistance by the coast guard were rejected and claim that a botched effort was made to tow the vessel to safety shortly before it capsized and sank.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of 40 survivors against “all parties responsible” at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, on Wednesday.
The plaintiffs say the coast guard failed to act promptly “to rescue the passengers on board the obviously unseaworthy and overloaded fishing vessel,” according to a statement by three volunteer organizations of lawyers and migrant rights groups assisting the case.
They are seeking “the attribution of criminal responsibility for the acts and omissions by the Greek authorities,” the lawyers said.