“Do I have a right to justice?” Improving access to legal assistance in Malta

The final event of the ATLAS project, held on the 28th April, 2017, provided speakers and participants alike the opportunity to discuss the issues relating to improving access to legal assistance in Malta.

Minister Helena Dalli, in her opening address, explained that legal aid is essential in order for individuals to have access to an effective remedy and that the current means threshold is effectively barring the majority from receiving such legal aid even in situations of abuse such as domestic violence. Mr. Tamietti, Deputy Section Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights, gave an in-depth commentary on the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights relating to access to legal assistance in the criminal (Salduz v Turkey; Borg v Malta; Ibrahim and others v the United Kingdom), civil (Airey v. Ireland; Steel and Morris v. United Kingdom) and immigration (Maaouia v FranceKhlaifia and others v Italy) fields.

Dr. Marc Sant, Head Advocate for Legal Aid within the Legal Aid Agency, outlined the provision of legal aid services in Malta, including eligibility criteria and the procedure for applying. An overview of recent changes, such as the recent set-up of the Agency and statistical data, were also outlined. Dr. Sant’s presentation can be accessed through this link: Legal Aid Agency Malta – Presentation.

Carla, project coordinator and assistant director of aditus foundation, presented the results of the ATLAS project and the main findings and recommendations that are contained in the final report on Access to Legal Assistance in Malta.  The objective of the report was to analyse the availability and outline the importance of having access to legal assistance for individuals who cannot afford the costs of legal representation in Malta. The Report is divided into three Sections:

  • Section 1: highlights existing international and European human rights standards relating to access to legal aid and Malta’s obligations
  • Section 2: analyses the legislative, judicial and administrative implications of the Maltese legal aid system
  • Section 3: examines the provision of pro bono legal assistance and how it can support the formal legal aid system

Furthermore, together with the Report, a number of Factsheets were drawn-up which provide basic information on the right to legal aid, the right to a fair trial, the court structures and other equality bodies in Malta. These can be downloaded individually or as a package from aditus’ publication page under the Factsheet heading. Carla’s presentation can be accessed through this link: Access to Legal Aid Assistance in Malta – Assessment of the Legal Aid System in Malta.

aditus and The Critical Institute hope that the Report will stimulate the discussion for a continuing reform of the justice system in Malta. The aim is to increase access to justice for vulnerable and marginalised groups through a stronger and more efficient legal aid system and through better awareness and enthusiasm for pro bono work amongst lawyers.

If you believe that your institution, NGO or department would find hard copies of the report or the factsheet useful, please do not hesitate to contact us on carlacamilleri@aditus.org.mt 

 

This project has been funded through the Voluntary Organisations Project Scheme managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector on behalf of the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties.


New project: judicial training on the rights of asylum-seekers & refugees

Background

With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in December, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights became a legally binding instrument and consequently legal practitioners in the field of asylum and refugee rights can use its standards to enhance the protection afforded to those seeking international protection.

It is therefore imperative that legal practitioners and particularly members of the judiciary are informed on this instrument and on the scope of its application.

Through the EU Charter and its article 52, the ECHR standards and jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights are directly applicable in interpretation of its articles. The case-law of the Court of the Union is essential in the understanding of the Charter and its rights.

Finally, Member States must also respect their obligations under UN treaties, case-law of UN treaty bodies and international refugee law, as underlined by many legislative instruments under the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).

The EU is witnessing an increase in the number and features of criminal acts against third-country nationals.

Crimes linked to racism and xenophobia have recently taken on different forms and expressions, becoming increasingly part of a more general trend among political and social groups: the increase in racism and xenophobia have many social explanations but also have implications on the work of judges who need to be better informed on the European instruments to deal with them.

The Project (1 April 2016 – 31 March 2018) aims to enhance the drive towards a common legal and judicial culture in EU and to strengthen law enforcement in the area of Fundamental Rights through the training of members of the judiciary and judicial staff on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA (CFD).

Project Results

  • Increased awareness among law practitioners and in the wider context of the legal community of the involved member states on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
  • A better understanding of the significance of implementing and respecting the Rights enshrined in the EU Charter and the procedures outlined in the CFD
  • An improved knowledge on how the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights can better be fitted and implemented with the existing national Legislative Framework in the topic areas of this project
  • An In depth understanding of the situation on the ground of protecting refugee rights and obstacles thereof
  • A further developed cooperation and networking between all stakeholders involved in order to set up a common European judicial environment in the field of applying the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in connection with asylum, racism and xenophobia.
  • A practical, ready-to-use interactive training material that can be applied throughout MSs and can be updated with the development of EU legislation so as to remain permanently useful.
  • Increased cooperation both on an EU level, but also on an MS level between NGOs’ and members of the judiciary

Visit the Project page here.

 

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Co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme of the European Union.