As part of efforts to strengthen access to justice for those persons encountering difficulties in securing their human rights, in 2014 we chose to consolidate our legal aid activities into a Pro Bono Unit.
Composed of a small group of lawyers and law students, this Unit aims to:
- provide legal information and advice;
- intervene in cases, by either acting on situations ourselves or referring the cases to other agencies/lawyers in accordance with our internal criteria;
- stimulate and support a pro bono culture in Malta;
- increase internal and external capacity to deal with pressing human rights concerns, including by organizing training activities, encouraging professional networking and promoting information-sharing.
What areas do we cover?
Our main areas of activity are migration, asylum and LGBTIQ+, although we look at each client on a case by case basis to see if we have expertise and added value to support the person.
We currently provide information and assistance in various themes, including: asylum applications/appeals/subsequent applications, Dublin returns, documentation, family reunification, employment, civil status, gender change, and discrimination.
We also provide legal support towards the creation of new civil society organisations.
Who do we assist?
We try to focus our attention on persons mostly in need of our services.
To do this, our prioritisation criteria look at whether the person has sufficient funds to pay for a private lawyer or whether the person is eligible for the Government’s Legal Aid service.
Some major achievements of our Pro Bono Unit include…
Over 250 new clients registered annually in our client database, through referrals, drop-ins or as a result of our out-reach activities.
Defence of Claus-Peter Reisch, captain of the NGO rescue vessel Lifeline. Following the rescue of over 200 migrants and days out at sea awaiting permission to enter Maltese ports, the Lifeline was allow to disemark the migrants but the captain was immediately charged, signalling a dramatic worsening of the situation of migrants in distress in the Mediterranean
The first gender change for a teenager! After we worked on the draft text of Malta’s Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act, and spent years advocating for its adoption, we shifted our focus to assisting any person wishing to access their new rights.
The resolution of the Joanne Cassar case, where Ms. Cassar challenged Malta before the European Court of Human Rights demanding full legal recognition of her gender. aditus foundation presented a third party submission jointly with the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement.
The case Suso Musa vs Malta before the European Court of Human Rights, challenging the legality of Mr. Musa’s immigration detention. The Court judged in favor of Mr. Musa, finding a violation of ECHR Article 5.
Importantly, the Court chose to make some very strong statements regarding Malta’s administrative detention policy:
“…the Court considers that the respondent State must above all, through appropriate legal and/or other measures, secure in its domestic legal order a mechanism which allows individuals taking proceedings to determine the lawfulness of their detention to obtain a determination of their claim within Convention-compatible time-limits, but which nevertheless maintains the relevant procedural safeguards…it must have a judicial character and provide guarantees appropriate to the type of deprivation of liberty in question…”
In March 2019 we intervened to defend the three teenagers charged with terrorist activities after a group of rescued migrants aboard the merchant vessel El Hiblu 1 protested at their prospective return to Libya.
We oppose returning migrants to Libya due to the well-documented reports of atrocious human rights abuses, rendering any return a violation of the right to be protected from torture and cruel, inhuman and/or degrading treatment.