Watch the dividing line between maintaining public order and eating away at fundamental freedoms!

The current climate in Malta risks being pushed towards a scenario that disregards a series of fundamental freedoms. Over the past days we have witnessed Government behaviour that has progressively eaten away at those freedoms that are fundamental to the healthy functioning of a democratic society. We are therefore seriously concerned that, if continued unchecked, such behaviour will cross the dividing line between permissible Government interventions to maintain public law and order, and actions amounting to human rights violations.

We appreciate that in fulfilling its duty to protect all persons in Malta, the Government is empowered to take actions it deems necessary. We also fully acknowledge the challenges presented to the Government by large demonstrations of the kind that have been occurring on an almost daily basis outside key institutions: the Prime Minister’s office, Parliament House and the Law Courts.

Yet we feel it is necessary to remind the Government that demonstrations and public expressions of opinions, aligned or opposed to Government’s own views, are an integral part of functioning and strong democracies. That any action taken by the Government to curtail, limit or deprive anyone from exercising their fundamental human rights must occur within the very strict limits imposed by law. That the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly are solidly enshrined in Malta’s Constitution. That they are also present in internal human rights instruments creating binding legal obligations on Malta, such as the European Convention on Human rights, the European Unions’ Fundamental Right Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We therefore express full solidarity with members of media organisations who were locked in the Prime Minister’s Office by unidentified men. We strongly denounce the verbal and physical attacks on journalists by Government employees. We flag, as an act of direct provocation, the relentless shrinking of public demonstration space in Freedom Square where Parliament House is located. We unequivocally condemn as false and inflammatory public statements by Government officials that demonstrators are intent on causing bloodshed. We stress that statements made by Government officials, describing civil society organisations as political party tools, are unfounded and made with an intent to stir up hatred and further unrest.

We finally stress that the on-going peaceful demonstrations, in which we are actively and proudly participating, are a national call of justice and accountability. Until the nation and its institutions embark on a path of truth and justice, the people will insist on exercising their fundamental rights of free expression and free peaceful assembly.

We therefore urge Government to refrain from any act that could unduly interfere with the exercise of these rights. We alert the Government to the possibility that any acts or words of provocation on their part could result in serious consequences and civil unrest.



The Prime Minister must resign at once

Recent developments in investigations related to the brutal assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia have shocked the nation and the international community. The alleged involvement of members of Government in this awful plot and in the criminal activities that led to its realisation calls into question a series of important decisions taken by the Prime Minister. They are decisions shedding doubt on what he knew, could have or ought to have known about the people he chose to lead the country with him.

These doubts damage the integrity of the Office of the Prime Minister and the only way for the Office and, consequently, the nation, to be protected from further damage is for Joseph Muscat to resign with immediate effect.

We strongly reiterate comments made in our statement of 19 May 2017, The nation deserves better, and more, from Government and Parliament, we commented that “Malta’s governance institutions are largely failing to fulfil their roles of preventing and addressing abuses of political and administrative power. It is shameful that the entities entrusted by the nation to ensure justice, fairness, efficiency and democratic process – the public service, the judiciary, administrative tribunals, the police and armed forces, and state agencies – are consistently used as extensions of political party clubs or recruitment agencies.”

We noted a “severe lowering of democratic expectations, where glittering and at times irresponsible electoral promises replace long-term commitments that aim to better the entire nation for the common good.”

The statement of more than two years ago reverberates loudly today, following a long string of institutional failures directly connected to the Prime Minister.

It is time for the entire nation to reclaim Malta’s democratic values. To insist that fundamental human rights, rule of law and good governance are repositioned at the heart of Government. To embark on a healing process that will require a revision of our Constitution, a challenging of the omnipotence of political parties and a strengthening of those institutions mandated to respect, protect and fulfil our fundamental human rights.

The nation can only start healing with the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.



Legal Intern at EASO’s session on initial steps

On 12 November, I was in Brussels to attend the 9th EASO Consultative Forum Plenary Meeting. This meeting is a gathering of NGO representatives from all Europe, stakeholders from Member States, European Union officials (EASO and European Commission) and the United Nations (UNHCR).

This year’s Forum was focused on the initial steps in the asylum procedure and the aim was to exchange knowledge from different types of stakeholders.

We heard different panel discussions from experts stressing key considerations, with the opportunity to present questions on issues we’re all facing in our work. Civil society, Member States and European institutions officials had a chance to express their views and hear each other.

Final recommendations from the different workshops focused on outreach and information, registration, and channelling of applicants with special needs.

This gathering is a great opportunity for everyone to learn more, exchange and get inspired in order to do a more appropriate and fairer work. I sincerely thank EASO for supporting my participation at this meeting!


A busy day in Court…

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.

Gender recognition

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.

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