Maltese NGOs at the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review’s Pre-Session

On 12 October aditus foundation, Kunsill Nazzjonali ŻgħażagħThe Malta Independent on Sunday editor David Lindsay attended the UPR pre-session on Malta to give their feedback and recommendations on the state of human rights in Malta as they stand.

The UPR pre-sessions are attended by States’ missions to the United Nations, based in Geneva, with a view to gathering information in preparation for the upcoming review of a State’s human rights performance. Malta’s review is set for 14 November 2018…we’ll be following closely!

(Don’t know what the UPR is, or why we think it’s an important human rights process? Read our earlier blog post.)

So, who said what at this pre-session?

aditus foundation

Neil was present as Director of aditus foundation but also as Head of Secretariat of the umbrella organisation Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM).

He started his presentation by highlighting the significant progress made by Malta in several areas since the last UPR, such as the adoption of the Integration Policy (2017) as well as amendments made to the immigration detention policy.

Statelessness was an issue discussed in depth by aditus foundation, also in the shadow report presented to the UPR process. In this regard, Neil reiterated concerns expressed in the Statelessness Index, namely:

Neil further noted the challenges faced by refugees and migrants in accessing Europe safely and legally, emphasizing that safe and legal pathways need to be introduced. He also stressed the need for Malta and Italy to stop bickering on Twitter and to find a way of resolving their legal and political disagreements regarding rescue at sea of migrants.

aditus foundation pleaded that Ħal Far Tent Village urgently needs to be replaced with housing that is community-based and equipped with basic material supplies. In relation to immigration detention, Neil noted that some instances of deprivation of liberty need to be aligned with international human rights standards.

Finally, on the migration theme, Neil urged Malta to remove the arbitrary prohibition of civil marriages for undocumented migrants.

Neil then spoke on the rule of law, mentioning examples of institutionalised nepotism, kickbacks and other forms of corruption. Neil finally stressed the importance of establishing a public inquiry looking into the brutal assassination of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

PEN Representative David Lindsay

David Lindsay, Editor of The Malta Independent on Sunday, spoke on behalf of Pen International, Reporters without Borders, IPI (International Press Institute), The Committee for the Protection of Journalists, The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, and Article 19.

He stated that during the last UPR session, no recommendations were made on freedom of speech, yet Malta’s situation degenerated enormously. He underlined how Daphne Caruana Galizia’s brutal assassination on 16 October 2017 has left trailing behind it a climate of fear.

David reminded his listeners that a makeshift memorial set up in her memory has been cleared over 20 times by government officials in the thick of the night.

David reiterated Neil’s recommendation by calling for an international public inquiry that would establish whether her death could or should have been prevented.

David said that PEN welcomed the decriminalisation of defamation under the new Media and Defamation Act adopted in 2018, yet also mentioned serious concerns in relation to this new law, particularly that the burden of proof remains with the defendant, including in cases initiated by senior members of the government.

In addition, libel suits may be passed to heirs. To highlight this, David mentioned how Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family inherited a total of 33 civil libel suits, all instituted by senior public officials against Daphne herself.

Lindsay lamented that 2017 was the year Malta was introduced to Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), as a way to censor and silence journalists and media houses by slapping them with exasperatingly high-cost legal fees. David expressed the fear that these methods are aimed at preventing the media from practicing its right to inform the public about matters of general interest.

David urged the UPR to recommend the prohibition of recognition of foreign defamation judgments, in order to protect Maltese journalists from SLAPP and libel tourism.

He concluded by stressing the importance of having a public inquiry looking into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

Kunsill Nazzjonali Żgħażagħ

The General Secretary of Kunsill Nazzjonali Żgħażagħ, Sean Ellul, tabled the KZN’s UPR recommendations, focusing mainly on sexual and mental health issues. Sean noted that, although Malta does offer free STD and STI  testing, it is quite hard to access these due to a long waiting list of up to several months.

This means that a good part of the population remains untested: over 25% of individuals suffering from HIV are unaware they are HIV positive.

KNZ recommends that a standardised, holistic national policy on sex education is established, that incorporates both formal and non-formal education. Further investment in quality sexual health clinics and services is also needed. Self-testing and the distribution/educational use of contraceptives among youths need to be made easier and simpler.

With regard to mental health, Sean highlighted the situation in Mount Carmel Hospital by referring specifically to the young man who was discovered dead after he had fled the hospital. Sean underlined the need to overhaul this institution, also referring to the need for further public education and awareness-raising.

KNZ commented on the Maltese legal and judicial system, where a survey carried out just after Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination showed that 53% of Maltese citizens lacked trust in the system. In line with aditus’ own earlier recommendation, KNZ recommended the establishment of an independent National Human Rights Institution in conformity with the Paris Principles.


This post is part of a series of posts on the Universal Period Review process. Malta’s review, where the country’s human rights situation will be assessed by other States, is set for 14 November 2018.

Follow our News and Updates to be kept updated on this important United Nations procedure. 


Malta and Human Rights: It’s Time for the UPR

Malta’s turn is up soon. On 14 November 2018, Malta will be questioned on the advancements of its human rights thanks to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)  process, with the distribution of the report taking place on 16 November 2018.

So what is this UPR?

The UPR is a particular procedure that comprises a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. It gives each State the chance to declare what actions or steps it has taken to improve the human rights situation in its country and to discuss the challenges that State may be facing when it comes to these rights.

Implemented by the Human Rights Council, the UPR single-handedly is the only current mechanism that promotes and shares the best practices on human rights around the globe.

The objective of the UPR

The aim of the Universal Periodic Review is to assess the State’s human rights records and point out any violations when these occur. The UPR can also provide technical help to the State and expand its capacity to mitigate any challenges on human rights.

Another one of its objectives is to promote the sharing of best practices among States and other stakeholders such as NGOs. The ultimate aim of the UPR is to improve the human rights situation in every country, with momentous consequences for people around the globe.

On  14  November, Malta’s review will commence at 2.30pm and finish at around 6 pm.

Can Non-governmental organizations participate in the UPR?

NGOs are called in a pre-review session to submit information, which is then added to the ‘other stakeholders’ report.  The information they give can then be referred to by any of the States taking part in the interactive session during the review.

NGOs can also attend the Universal Periodic Review Working Group sessions. They can also make Statements at the regular session of the Human Rights Council when the outcome of the State review is being deliberated.

Last Friday, aditus Director Neil Falzon attended a pre-session of the UPR, where he delivered a presentation on behalf of aditus foundation and the Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM).

The pre-session was attended by several state missions based in Geneva, and served as an information-gathering exercise for them as they prepare their questions and recommendations for Malta.

The session was organized by the NGO UPR-Info.

What steps are taken following the review?

The State should implement the recommendations appended in the final outcome. The UPR makes sure that all States are responsible for the implementation or failure to implement these recommendations. The Council will also address the issues when States fail to co-operate.

The Human Rights Council will decide on the measures to take when a State persists in not cooperating with the Univeral Periodic Review.

In our next blog post on the UPR, we’ll give you a detailed account of Neil’s presentation so that you can follow the several stages leading to the procedure’s final report on Malta.