The project will focus on supporting newly-arrived asylum-seekers. The rationale for this stems from an understanding that providing this group with sufficient information and guidance as soon as possible not only seeks to empower individuals and support their self-reliance, but it also reduces the administrative workload of government entities in dealing with subsequent queries and misinformed applicants.
aditus, together with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and partners (Fair Trials Europe, Human Rights House Zagreb, Mérték, Rights International Spain and the Vienna University), have been working together to increase knowledge and sensitivity to the presumption of innocence among professionals and the public. The Importance of Appearances: How Suspects and Accused Persons are presented in the Courtroom, in Public and in the Media project page can be accessed on this link.
Over the past year the aditus team, coordinated by our Assistant Director Carla Camilleri, has been carrying out a media review in order to collect and analyse data on the media representation of suspects and accused persons at all stages of the arrest and subsequent legal proceedings in Malta. This process included a sampling phase spanning a number of months of all news reporting relating to arrests of suspects or criminal court proceedings in printed newspapers, online portals and TV broadcasts in both the Maltese and English language press. The ultimate purpose of the research was to identify good and bad practice regarding the presumption of innocence in various sectors of the media. Stories were selected and coded by all project partners in their respective countries in accordance with the guidelines and procedures developed by the Vienna University team.
The results of the Maltese media review were collated into a National Media Report, which can be read in fullhere. The Report gives an overview of the laws, legal guidelines and legal framework relating to the media and criminal justice. It also gives a contextual outline of the media landscape in Malta, focusing on printed media and their websites, online news portals and also television broadcasts.
In the course of the research, the main legal provisions regulating the portrayal of suspects in the media that were identified are the following:
Requirements as to Standards and Practice applicable to News Bulletins and Current Affairs: persons accused of criminal matters should not be projected as if they are already found guilty and the principle of presumption of innocence must be fully respected. Trial by the media before any court judgement is delivered must be avoided at all times and care should be taken to avoid broadcasting repetitive footage that might prejudice the accused’s right to a fair trial.
Juvenile Court Act: newspaper reports, or sound or television broadcasts are prohibited from revealing the name, address or school, or include any particulars that may lead to the identification, of any child or young person under the age of 16 in criminal proceedings. The publication of any picture in any newspaper or on television as being or including a picture of any child or young person in any criminal proceedings, before the Juvenile Court and also the Criminal Court, is also prohibited.
Code of Journalistic Ethics: all reports of crimes and court proceedings should be strictly factual and a clear distinction should be made and explained between the facts and the expression of opinion. The naming of minors in court reporting is prohibited.
The findings of the media review of the reports and broadcasts from the selected television programmes, newspapers and online websites resulted a number of trends that may negatively influence the perception of suspects or accused persons as guilty. In this regard, a worrying trend was noted in relation to the use of images and film of the suspect on entering the Court building. Several incidences were recorded in which suspects were led by the Police through a pedestrian area and into the Court buildings through the front doors, as opposed to the back entrance. In this way reporters and journalists would publish or broadcast photographs or footage of suspects being led into Court handcuffed and escorted by a number of police officers. The negative portrayal of suspects or accused persons could potentially influence a person’s perception of their guilt and any future trial.
The research also highlighted that reporters and journalists from all media types consistently made explicit reference to the ethnicity and nationality of the alleged perpetrators. Frequently, the headlines would use nationality as the descriptor, for example “A Serb”, “Two Syrians” or “Russian with Maltese citizenship“, whilst no further descriptors are used for Maltese suspects, for example “double murder suspect still to be questioned”.
The use of visual representation which shows police officers, handcuffs and otherwise threatening representation of the defendants is also very common to newspapers, online portals and television broadcasters. However, it was also noted that only a few examples in which explicit reference to previous convictions were mentioned, whilst no explicit reference to guilt of the defendant were found in the sampled reports.
In the coming months an in-depth report on the legal framework regulating the use of restraining measures on suspects and accused persons, which also includes practical experiences of stakeholders in the field, will be published.
The Malta page now includes up-to-date data on new categories like withdrawal of nationality, reduction of statelessness, and bilateral return and readmission agreements, as well as a shorter country briefing, which outline recommendations for the Government on how to improve the treatment of stateless people and to prevent and reduce statelessness.
The Index country profile on Malta provides analysis for over 25 different categories. Law, policy and practice under each of these categories are assessed against international norms and good practice and marked with a clear and easy to understand assessment key.
At the end of 2018, a new regularisation route was introduced for people refused asylum who are unable to leave the country – some of whom may be stateless – provided they have lived in the country for five years and can meet other conditions. The new ‘SRA’ status gives individuals and their family members access to a two-year residence permit and a range of socio-economic rights.
However, this positive change does little to address one of the root causes of people ending up in irregularity: the lack of a procedure to identify and determine statelessness and grant stateless people the rights due to them under the 1954 Convention. Malta remains one of only four EU member states yet to accede to the Convention.
Further steps are also needed to protect stateless people from arbitrary detention, and to prevent and reduce statelessness in Malta. The safeguard granting stateless children born in Malta a conditional right to acquire nationality does not prevent statelessness in all cases and has still not been implemented in practice; and provisions relating to conferral of nationality by descent that were ruled discriminatory by the European Court of Human Rights in 2011 remain in place.
What have we been doing?
In the past year aditus foundation has been very busy putting the issue of statelessness on Malta’s national agenda. We flagged our human rights concerns to the Universal Periodic Review and, thanks to our submission and interventions, several States urged Malta to ratify the 1954 Statelessness Convention. Malta did not agree to accept these recommendations, yet we’re extremely glad that statelessness is now a UPR issue for Malta!
We also written formally to the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, reminding him of commitments publicly made by Malta that it would be exploring the possibility of ratifying the 1954 Convention. In this regard, we have always urged the Ministry to designate the Office of the Refugee Commissioner as the administrative entity to process statelessness applications, given its expertise in searching and applying Country of Origin Information.
About the Statelessness Index
The Statelessness Index is an online tool that assesses how countries in Europe protect stateless people and what they are doing to prevent and reduce statelessness. It is the first to provide comprehensive and accessible comparative analysis for 18 countries in Europe, including Malta. It allows users to quickly understand which areas of law, policy and practice can be improved by states.
The Index was
developed by the European Network on Statelessness (ENS), in partnership with
aditus. It is an invaluable tool for sharing good practice and raising
awareness of issues that affect stateless people.
forward to working with key stakeholders to facilitate the change needed to
improve the lives of stateless men, women and children living in Malta.
If you have any questions regarding the Index, please do not hesitate to contact us.
‘Larger Than Life!’ celebrates the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by producing and exhibiting innovative, cutting-edge and dramatic human rights posters designed by some Maltese’s leading visual artists.
This is yet another project where we’re engaging with Malta’s artistic community in order to promote our human rights messages. We find this approach to be an enriching, exciting and fun way of reaching out to new audiences and ‘lightening up’ our often tough advocacy work! Past projects where we successfully engaged with the arts include 9 Parts of Desire (theatre, gender), You Are What You Eat (visual arts, migration) and Burning Bikinis (film, gender).
Through its Curatorial Team, which will include local artist and curator Alexandra Pace, the project will commission carefully-selected local artists to design large-scale Malta-relevant human rights posters, which are able to report/mediate fundamental messages as dignity, equality, respect, diversity.
The Compendium of Asylum Jurisprudence, Law & Policy – A Collection of Maltese Asylum case-law gathers the large collection of case-law decided by the Maltese courts and the European Court of Human Rights with respect to Malta in the field of asylum.
The Compendium is divided into six chapters. Chapter I on Procedural Issues takes into account the vast number of judgements that examined the nature of judicial review and constitutional review in the field of asylum and immigration, and the implications of challenging decisions by the Refugee Appeals Board and the Immigration Appeals Board.
Chapter II focuses on jurisprudence relating to asylum determination claims and highlights the restraints that our Courts have in reviewing decisions relating to asylum on the merits.
The examination on the grounds for detention, the remedies available at law for challenging detention and judgments on detention in the light of claims of breaches of fundamental right are tackled in Chapter III.
Chapter IV explores the importance of access to the territory and surrounding issues, such as border control and the principle of non-refoulement, and related judgements. The age assessment procedure is examined in Chapter V.
Finally, Chapter VI explores the content of and access to associated rights of beneficiaries of international protection in the light of the available Court jurisprudence and Ombudsman decisions.
Compendium of Asylum Jurisprudence, Law and Policy – Table of Contents Author: Carla Camilleri; Research Assistants: Isabelle Sammut, Enya Tanti; Reviewed by: Neil Falzon
The Compendium is free of charge, however the costs of postage would need to be covered by anyone interested in receiving a copy by post. Charges for postage for both overseas and local postage for this publication is €3.50. Payment can be made via a number of options: click here for information on payment.
It is important to indicate your name and include the word “Compendium” in the narrative of your transaction. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Ultimately, we hope that the Compendium strengthens the quality of those judicial decisions that determine the extent to which refugees are able to effectively enjoy their fundamental human rights.
We hope that readers of this Compendium will take from it the wealth of knowledge gathered in its pages, and also appreciate the struggles refugees face as they seek to secure their human dignity in Malta.