We’ve just uploaded our key cases to our Publications page. Under the heading ‘Our cases’, you’ll now find the documents relating to the prominent cases we’ve brought before various tribunals and Courts. We’ve only uploaded finalised cases, meaning for now you won’t find anything relating to, for example, the Captain Morgan case.
In the section you’ll find key cases where we represented children challenging their detention before the Immigration Appeals Board, as well as habeas corpus decisions taken by the Court of Magistrates. Under Maltese law, a habeas corpus application may be filed by any persons who wishes to question the legality of their arrest and/or detention. This is an extremely urgent procedure, as it understands the mere potential of a person being detained in violation of the law. We’ve brought several such applications, mostly successful, against Malta’s terrible detention regime.
Some Courts don’t limit themselves to declaring our clients’ detention as illegal, but take that added step to formally notify the Ministry of their decision. In one decision, the Court described Malta’s detention approach as “abusive and farcical”.
You will also find the case brought by a group of LGBTIQ+ women serving sentences in prison. This was a harrowing case for everyone involved, as our clients recounted intense experiences of abuse, humiliation, bullying and harassment…all suffered as a direct result of Government’s decisions not to respect their LGBTIQ+ identities. Representing the seven women was an honour for us, also because it was largely thanks to them that Malta reformed the way it treats trans and queer inmates.
The section also has two decisions by the European Court of Human Rights, both in Malta’s detention regime. One is successful and often quoted in literature and discussions on State obligations in relation to immigration detention, the other was lost.
Why are we publishing?
Several reasons. Firstly, because of transparency. Whilst Malta’s Court’s publish the vast majority of their decisions, for some reason habeas corpus decisions are not published. The other tribunals before which we regularly appear, namely the Immigration Appeals Board and the International Protection Appeals Tribunal, simply do not publish their decisions. The reasons are not too clear, yet they probably have to do with lack of resources and infrastructure to enable the redaction, scanning, sorting and uploading of volumes of documents.
We also feel it is important for us, as a human rights NGO relying on public funds for most of our work, to be transparent about our own work. What is our Pro Bono Unit doing? How do we handle clients? What issues are we dealing with?
Secondly, because these are decisions that often clarify important points, establish interpretations or – in the rarer but super precious cases – change law or policy. This is what we generally call ‘strategic litigation’, meaning legal work that is not limited to the one client but that has the potential of having an institutional or structural impact, thereby affecting hundreds or thousands of people. As a reminder, we are a very small NGO with a handful of lawyers, albeit very able and energetic lawyers! Yet this means we are simply unable to take on the long list of potential cases knocking at our doors.
Whilst we provide legal services to hundreds of people per yer, few are those cases that make it to national or European Courts. Such cases are usually extremely time-consuming, expensive and rare to come across simply because most clients are hesitant of engaging in battles against a State!
Which is why these cases also allow their protagonists and their courage to shine. The child detained and ignored for weeks. The women spending years in the prison male division. The captain who saved refugees at sea.
This is why we do what we do. This is why their stories need to be published and read.