Malta’s detention regime blasted by the European Court of Human Rights!

Malta must take concrete steps to bring its detention regime in line with human rights standards. The European Court of Human Rights has said this in no unclear teams in a judgement we are celebrating as a victory for human rights in Malta!

Today, the Court delivered judgement in A.D. v. Malta. Together with JRS Malta, we had brought this case in March 2022 whilst AD was in detention and in collaboration with Advancing Child Right Strategic Litigation, ACRiSL.

The Court found a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment), Article 5 (right to liberty) and Article 13 in conjunction with Article 3 (right to an effective remedy).

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Legal training on European Court cases in asylum

In April, our Legal Officer, participated in a training on case law developed by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) with relevance for asylum law. This was organised by the Academy of European Law (ERA) in Strasbourg. 

The training provided in depth knowledge on the ECHR approach in asylum cases. Experienced speakers presented the Court’s approach in non-refoulement cases, detention cases, interim measures and the right to family life. The participants could visit the Court and meet the very experienced lawyers working there. 

The seminar was attended by lawyers in private practice, judges, European and national civil servants and other legal practitioners dealing with asylum law.

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Joint NGO reactions to a riot by detained migrants & to the Ministry’s response

On Tuesday 25th February a group of migrants detained at one of Malta’s two detention centres, Ħal Far Lyster Barracks, organised a riot in protest against their detention. The riot, held during a visit to the centre by a group of Parliamentarians, led to the intervention of Malta’s Police Force. Detailed information, including a series of relates articles, can be found here.

Immediately following the riot we coordinated the reaction of a group of NGOs working with migrants/refugees, where called for the immediate establishment of an independent and objective inquiry. We underlined our condemnation of all forms of violence, whether resorted to by migrants or Police officials, and reiterated our serious concerns at Malta’s insistence on adopting a detention policy that has been repeatedly condemned by the European Court of Human Rights.

In a recent case where the applicant was represented by our Director, Suso Musa v. Malta, the Court highlighted:

  1. In the instant case the Court considers that it is necessary, in view of its finding of a violation of Article 5 § 4, to indicate the general measuresrequired to prevent other similar violations in the future. It observes that it has found a violation of Article 5 § 4 on account of the fact that none of the remedies available in Malta could be considered speedy for the purposes of that provision. Thus, 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.

  1. Having regard to that finding, the Court recommends that the respondent State envisage taking the necessary general measures to ensure animprovement in those conditions and to limit detention periods so that they remain connected to the ground of detention applicable in an immigration context.

The Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security did institute a board of inquiry to look into the riot, yet failed to ensure its independence when it appointed Ministry officials as the sole board members. Once again, we coordinate a joint NGO condemnation of the board, insisting for an independent inquiry that would lead to public conclusions.

In the wake of the riot and of the media discussions that ensued, our Director also participated in a TV programme together with the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security and an Opposition Spokesperson. The programme questioned the rationale behind Malta’s detention regime, wondering what could be done to avoid further riots and human rights violations. In-keeping with our position, Neil challenged the status quo of accepting detention as a necessary and obvious reception process.

Joint statement on Joanne Cassar Case

The MGRM and aditus foundation welcome the Maltese Government’s decision to drop its objection to Joanne Cassar’s claim to the right to marry.

The case of Joanne Cassar versus Malta is currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where she is claiming that when Malta prevented her from marrying her fiancée, her fundamental human rights were violated.

The right of transgender persons to marry was firmly established in a preceding case dating back to 2002 – Christine Goodwin vs. the United Kingdom – where the ECtHR held that it “finds no justification for barring the transsexual from enjoying the right to marry under any circumstances.”

We also welcome the Government’s pledge to promptly enact the required changes to the Civil Code to ensure recognition of transgender as persons of the acquired sex for all intents and purposes, including marriage.

In addition we reiterate the need for a comprehensive Gender Identity Bill, as proposed by MGRM in 2010, that would facilitate the gender recognition of transgender persons and safeguard their fundamental human rights, including the right to respect for privacy and family life as established in Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Download it here.

For further information:

Dr. Neil Falzon (aditus foundation Director) – 99892191

Gabi Calleja (MGRM Coordinator) – 99250943