Yesterday we had an intense day in Court with Carla and I handling three important cases: Lifeline, El Hiblu 1 and a gender recognition case. Two of these had successful outcomes and we’re waiting (as I type) for a decision in the third.
Some weeks ago Carla had presented an application requesting the Court of Voluntary Jurisdiction to recognised the affirmed gender of a transgender man. The Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act (GIGESC) states that, when a person has already availed oneself of the procedure to change one’s gender and/or name, the second change needs to happen through a Court application.
It remains a straightforward and non-intrusive procedure, yet we appreciate why our clients are tense about it. For them, it is effectively a life-changing procedure that allows them to officially present themselves to the world in the manner that they choose.
In yesterday’s case, involving a young man, the Judge acceded to his request after a private conversation with him. This means that, in a couple of weeks’ time, the Court will provide him with its decision and, on the basis of this, the Public Registry will amend his birth certificate. He will then be able to request a new Identity Card and also other new documents such as a passport, school certificates, O’Level Certificates, etc.
The sight of his and his parents’ joy on their faces as the Judge confirmed the decision is one of those privileged moments offered to us by our job!
Yesterday was the last hearing in the case against Claus-Peter Reisch, captain of the NGO-owned ship MV Lifeline. Following the rescue at sea of over 200 people, Reisch had been charged with entering Malta’s territorial waters without the proper ship registration. Following the first judgement, where Reisch had been found guilty and fined €10,000, his appeal was filed and yesterday concluded the appeal pleadings.
Well, actually the sitting was a bit more exciting. Some weeks ago, in an earlier hearing, the Office of the Attorney General had challenged our appeal submissions arguing that the Statement of Facts was too long and that it was not limited to mere fact. We welcomed the Court’s rejection of this objection, and proceeded to presenting our final oral submissions with legal partner.
Judgement in this important case will be delivered on 7 January 2020. We are defending Claus-Peter together with our legal partners Mifsud and Mifsud Advocates.
El Hiblu 1
Together with Mifsud and Mifsud Advocates, our Director is also defending one of the teenagers faced with a long list of charges in relation to events happening on board the ship El Hiblu 1. Yesterday’s hearing was not part of the main proceedings since linked to the applications for bail we had submitted for the three young men, hoping that they would be temporarily released pending the criminal procedure. The two minors, aged 15 and 16, are currently being held at Malta’s juvenile section of prison, whilst the 19-year old is at Corradino Correctional Facility.
Yesterday we provided confirmation that, if released, the 19-year old would be accommodated in an open centre together with wife. We also reiterated the important point that the two other teenagers must be treated as minors since they underwent the official age assessment procedure that in fact found them to be children. The Office of the Attorney General vehemently objected to this, seeking to undermine the age assessment procedure, yet we underlined that – whatever the objections to the age assessment procedure – the two boys are presently under Care Orders. This means that the State is acknowledging that they are children in need of care and that this care is to be provided by the Minister for the Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity.
A decision on our bail applications is expected later today, or possibly tomorrow. Needless to say, all our fingers are tightly crossed!
Want to see what international agencies are saying about the El Hiblu 1 case?
See what the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International are saying.
The importance of NGO-provided legal assistance
When faced with human rights violations, or a challenge to one’s enjoyment of fundamental human rights, the law provides safety, security and redress. Malta has ratified several international and European instruments to protect our human rights, and has in place quite strong national systems and mechanisms. Yet, in most cases, order to access and make best use of these instruments and procedures, legal assistance is required. As with every other area of law, human rights law is complex, intricate and varied and requires a level of technical expertise.
It is for this reason that aditus foundation’s mission includes, in our Statutes, to also act on levels of access to fundamental human rights in Malta. Our mission calls us to intervene where violations have occurred or where they are likely to occur. We bring our legal expertise to support our clients who are either unable to engage a private lawyer, ineligible for Malta’s legal aid system, or who require a level of expertise that might be hard to otherwise secure.
Our Pro Bono Unit, composed of Neil, Carla Claire and supporting Legal Interns, provides legal information and representation to over 300 clients per year. This free service covers several areas, including:
- publication of Fact Sheets on core issues;
- asylum-seekers wishing to file and prepare their application;
- asylum appeals;
- challenges against administrative detention;
- transgender persons wishing to affirm their gender and name;
- refugees seeking family reunification;
- victims of hate speech who’d like to file police reports;
- other NGOs seeking guidance on statutes or possible legal challenges;
- appeals for persons denied social security…
It is a long list that keeps our team super busy and stress but also extremely motivated to securing justice for our clients.
If you also believe in our mission and would like to support us in putting it into action, visit our Support Us page.