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.

Appeal to establish a public inquiry into the assassination of Ms. Daphne Caruana Galizia

Dear Prime Minister Joseph Muscat,

I write to you on behalf of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom and 22 organisations (listed below) representing thousands of journalists and human rights activists concerning Malta’s response to the assassination of journalist Ms Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Following her murder on 16 October 2017, the Maltese authorities initiated criminal proceedings against the men who allegedly detonated the bomb that killed Ms Caruana Galizia and a parallel magisterial inquiry into whether others should be charged with criminal offences for commissioning the alleged assassins. Both the criminal proceedings and magisterial inquiry focus solely on criminal culpability.

Neither process is investigating the wider and even more serious question as to whether the Maltese state is responsible for the circumstances that led to Ms Caruana Galizia’s death.

Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires Malta – as a Member State of the Council of Europe – to comply with its protective obligation by examining (a) whether Malta knew, or ought to have known, of a real and immediate risk to Ms Caruana Galizia’s life; (b) the adequacy of any steps taken by Malta to guard against that risk; and (c) any steps that Malta needs to take to prevent future deaths of journalists and/or anti-corruption campaigners.

On 9 August 2018, a team of international lawyers from Doughty Street Chambers and Bhatt Murphy Solicitors in London issued a legal opinion finding that Malta has failed to institute any inquiry into whether the Maltese state bears any responsibility for the loss of Ms Caruana Galizia’s life. Following the legal opinion, the family has submitted the following request to your government:

To establish a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act that is completely independent of the Maltese police, Government and politicians, and that is conducted by a panel of respected international judges, retired judges and/or suitably qualified individuals with no political or government links.

We fully support the request and urge you to reconsider your position and to respond immediately and positively to the request of the family of Ms Caruana Galizia.

Protecting the lives and voices of journalists in Malta and across Europe depends upon this public inquiry. There is nothing to fear from this inquiry but the truth.

Seeking justice for Ms Caruana Galizia and protection for those who continue her legacy remains our top priority.

We would appreciate your written response to our appeal.

Flutura Kusari, Legal Advisor, The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.

List of Organisations

Access Info

Active Watch

aditus foundation

Article 21

Blueprint for Free Speech

Committee to Protect Journalists

European Federation of Journalists

Global Editors Network

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

IFEX (the global network of over 100 freedom of expression organizations)

Index on Censorship

Integra Foundation

International Press Institute

OBC Transeuropa/ Centro per la Cooperazione Internazionale

Ossigeno per l’Informazione

PEN International

PEN America

Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM)

Press Emblem Campaign

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

South East Europe Media Organisation

Transparency International

The Critical Institute

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)

The Minister needs to confirm that Malta is still a safe and functioning democracy. NGO Statement on recent Ministerial actions on the ‘Daphne Memorial’

The actions of the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government in relation to the ‘Daphne Memorial’ in Valletta are utterly shameful and reprehensible. They represent an unequivocal repression of free and peaceful political and personal expression. These are fundamental human rights boldly enshrined in Malta’s Constitution and part of the human rights regime Malta so proudly subscribes to.

The Government’s, or the Minister’s, opinions of slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia should play absolutely no part in its relationship with a group of people who, on a regular basis, choose to gather in Valletta to express political opinions or to mourn Daphne Caruana Galizia.

International and national human rights law protect the rights of all people in Malta to assemble, and to express their opinions. These are core pillars of a functioning democracy, since they ensure the safety of people whose personal, political, religious or other views – and their public expression – jar with those of the majority, and of the government. Limitations on these rights are only permitted where strictly necessary and for reasons linked to the protection of national security, public safety or the rights of others.

The Ministry’s justification for its actions – to safeguard national monuments – is therefore unacceptable and a clear populist attempt at ignoring basic legal standards, especially since no damage to the Great Siege Monument was ever alleged or demonstrated. Furthermore, the Ministry may comfortably rely on other less intrusive laws for the protection of our national heritage, without acting in such a repressive and childish manner.

We therefore urge the Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government to immediately refrain from these undemocratic tactics and to simply allow the public and peaceful demonstration of opinions and views that he might not be comfortable with.

This is not asking for too much, just for the peace of mind that we still live in a safe and functioning democracy,

Dr. Neil Falzon (aditus foundation Director).

Temporary Vacancy Announcement (Maternity Cover): LEGAL OFFICER

aditus foundation is an independent, voluntary and non-profit organisation established with a mission to monitor, act and report on access to fundamental human rights. Our work includes advocacy, research, capacity building and provision of legal aid.

Due to a temporary staff shortage, we are seeking to recruit a Legal Officer to join our team of human rights advocates.

What does the Legal Officer do?

Our Legal Officer is primarily responsible for our activities in the field of asylum. This includes individual case-work as well as other projects involving research and advocacy.

Individual case-work with clients covers the following activities:

  • Delivery of information to asylum-seekers on all matters relating to the asylum procedure;
  • Preparation of appeals against rejections at First Instance. This involves researching and drafting submissions and participating in the hearings of the Second Instance authority (the Refugee Appeals Board);
  • Preparation of appeals against Dublin decisions, as above;
  • Preparation of subsequent applications;
  • Assistance with applications for national protection, namely Temporary Humanitarian Protection);
  • Appeals against rejections of social security applications (e.g. unemployment benefits, housing benefits, etc.);
  • General human rights support to asylum-seekers, beneficiaries of international/national protection and failed asylum-seekers.

Research and project work:

What do we require?

We are looking for a candidate who can demonstrate the following:

  • University degree in law or legal studies, having covered refugee law and international human rights law;
  • At least 3 years’ experience working in the area of asylum. If this experience also includes legal work with individual cases, please be sure to highlight it in your application;
  • A good working understanding of the Common European Asylum System;
  • Excellent research and drafting skills (English is our working language);
  • Ability to work in a small team and in a fast-paced environment.

What are we offering?

We are able to offer the following to the selected candidate:

  • A part-time position (approximately 30 hours per week, to be discussed) for the minimum period October 2018 – February 2019. This could be extended depending our staffing requirements;
  • The possibility of future employment;
  • Induction training to ensure a swift and efficient immersion into the local context;
  • Possibility of travel for seminars and conferences, as these arise.

Diversity Statement

aditus foundation is committed to diversity in its staffing. All other factors being equal, we will give preference to the candidate from a minority group.

How should you apply?

Send your update CV and a covering letter to our Neil Falzon, our Director, at not later than 28 September 2018.

If you have any queries, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

“Anti-migrant discourse is contrary to the nation’s values!” Joint NGO Statement reacting to comments made by the Leader of the Opposition

We are shocked and disgusted by comments publicly made by the Leader of the Opposition against non-Maltese nationals. Using inflammatory language and calling for affirmation of the Maltese identity, Dr. Delia accused non-Maltese nationals of instilling feelings of fear and insecurity, and “causing havoc with our Maltese identity.”

This language is abhorrent as it is intended to generate hatred, discrimination, exclusion and violence, and has no place in Malta.

We unequivocally condemn Dr. Delia’s statements and urge him and his colleagues to refrain from resorting to such divisive discourse for the sake of political expediency.

It is clear that several national and global developments have hastened the pace of social change, making today’s reality and society extremely different to those of a few years ago. Developments such as Malta’s EU accession, neo-liberal economic policies, globalisation, the rise of social media have been championed by successive Maltese governments, and the nation has also benefitted from a broad opening up of markets, lifestyles and commodities.

That said, these developments have also brought about uncertainty and growing insecurities. Furthermore, not all have benefitted from the economic boom and there is growing inequality and abject poverty in Malta, together with several fractures within our communities.

Social change has bought about a sense of loss and uncertainty for many and, for some, fear of change.

Dr. Delia’s comments seem to suggest that he is keen on capitalising on such insecurities and populist sentiments. He not only negates the political factors that have contributed to such human misery, but attacks various communities whose only lowest common denominator is that of being non-Maltese.

Such discourse not only smacks of hypocrisy, but raises serious questions vis-à-vis the Party’s commitments to international human rights obligations and to Malta’s very own Constitution.

Malta’s 1964 Constitution (Article 1) opens with the statement that the nation “is a democratic republic founded on work and on respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual.” This statement must be interpreted as meaning that all persons living in Malta are entitled to be respected and valued, and their humanity and dignity protected under all circumstances.

It means that Malta will foster inclusive communities that accept all persons, irrespective of skin colour, gender sexual orientation, age, gender identity, disability, or nationality.

It is reflected in a long list of laws and policies, such as laws criminalising hate crime and hate speech, equality legislation prohibiting discrimination in several spheres of life, education policies, marriage equality, the establishment of equality bodies, etc.

This is the Malta we all want to live in. This is the Malta we are called upon to create and maintain, together. The Leader of the Nationalist Party has an immense responsibility in this nation-building exercise.

We hope that he, and his colleagues, will not rubbish this responsibility for a handful of votes, but that he will promote the Constitution’s values throughout his work.

Statement issued by:

aditus foundation, Allied Rainbow Communities, The Critical Institute, Drachma LGBTI, Drachma Parents, Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Integra Foundation, Isles of the Left, Jesuit Refugee Service Malta, KOPIN, LIBICO, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM), Men Against Violence, Migrant Women Association, Moviment Graffitti, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta, Richmond Foundation, Solidarity with Migrants Group, SOS Malta, SPARK15, St. Jeanne Antide Foundation (SJAF), We Are, Women’s Rights Foundation.