Just published: our Annual Report for our activities in 2019

We’ve just published the Annual Report covering our activities for 2019. This report is a mandatory document for our reporting to the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations as also a confirmation of our committment to transparency and accountability.

The report provides information on the activities, initiatives and engagements we worked on throughout the year. It also gives readers an insight into the major achievements and challenges we faced in the year. Importantly, it provides information on the human rights landscape of 2019 and our position within it.

The report is freely available on our Publications page, here.

This is my introduction to the Annual Report. We’re more than happy to provide more information on the Report’s content and our activities…just get in touch with us.


2019 will go down in history as one of Malta’s most tumultuous years. On-going investigations into the brutal assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continued to unveil shocking stories of corruption at Malta’s highest political levels, including the Office of the Prime Minister and other Ministries, as well as in Malta’s most prominent and influential business circles. The impact on the nation was unprecedented, with upset crowds – led by civil society organisations – taking to the streets for several days with loud calls for justice, accountability and resignations. At the end of the year, the disgraced Prime Minister resigned as also the disgraced Minister for Tourism and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.

The scandals are nowhere near resolved and justice for Daphne and for the criminal activities she was in the process of revealing is far from being secured. In a recent opinion piece, I underlined that, as long as Joseph Muscat and Konrad Mizzi remain members of Parliament, Malta will remain besieged by corruption and criminal activity, unable to restore democracy.

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National Media Report on the representation in the media of suspects and accused persons

Project Partners: Hungarian Helsinki Committee (Lead Partner), aditus foundation, Fair Trials Europe, Human Rights House Zagreb, Mérték, Rights International Spain, Vienna University. Supported by: This project is funded by the European Union’s Justice Programme (2014 – 2020)

According to EU Directive (EU) 2016/343 on the strengthening of certain aspects of the presumption of innocence and of the right to be present at the trial in criminal proceeding proceedings, Member States must ensure that suspects and accused persons are not presented as being guilty, in court or in public through the use of measures of physical restraint such as handcuffs, glass boxes, cages and leg irons.

aditus, together with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and partners (Fair Trials Europe, Human Rights House Zagreb, Mérték, Rights International Spain and the Vienna University), have been working together to increase knowledge and sensitivity to the presumption of innocence among professionals and the public. The Importance of Appearances: How Suspects and Accused Persons are presented in the Courtroom, in Public and in the Media project page can be accessed on this link.

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Training materials on access to justice for migrant children

The FAIR project (Fostering Access to justice for Immigrant children’s Rights) was a two-year long project, which aimed at strengthening access to justice for migrant children in the EU. Migrant children in the EU face violations of their human rights every day. Lack of access to their families, to information, guardians and legal assistance, lack of access to housing or education, unlawful detention – are few examples of what the children suffer.

The results of the project are a number of practical training modules and learning tools to support lawyers in defending migrant children’s rights:

The materials include the following training modules:

0. Guiding principles and definitions,

I. Access to fair procedures including the right to be heard and to participate in proceedings,

II. Access to justice in detention,

III. Access to justice for economic, social and cultural rights,

IV. Access to justice in the protection of their right to private and family life,

V. Redress through international human rights bodies and mechanisms,

VI. Practical handbook for lawyers when representing a child.

These materials have been used in national trainings for lawyers organised by the ICJ-EI in Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta, Bulgaria, Ireland and Germany and include also practical training tools, such as case studies and warm-up questionnaires to guide possible future trainings.

Timeframe:

1 March 2016 – 1 March 2018

Project Partners:

International Commission of Jurists – European Institutions (Lead Partner), Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) (EL), aditus foundation (MT), Fundacion Raices (ES), Bundesfachverband Unbegleitete Minderjährige Flüchtlinge e.V. (B-UMF) (DE), Legal Clinic for Immigrant and Refugees (LCIR) (BG), Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) (IR), Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (SSSA).

 

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

Co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme of the European Union and the Open Society Institute Budapest Foundation, and implemented in cooperation with the AIRE Center, Child Rights Connect, and the Associazione per gli Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione (ASGI) (Italy).


LIBE & PANA Mission Report, Rule of Law, Malta

The European Parliament’s Mission Report Following the ad-hoc Delegation to Malta (30 November – 1 December, 2017) was finally published yesterday. The Report outlines the findings of the visit of an ad-hoc Delegation to Malta composed of 8 European Parliamentarians drawn from the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and the Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion (PANA). The Report contains a summary of the meetings that the Delegation held with various government representatives, public authorities and civil society, and it also presents a number of recommendations to be implemented at European level and at national level here in Malta.

During the meeting held with civil society representatives aditus reiterated that problems relating to the rule of law in Malta are systematic and stem from the concentration of powers granted to the Prime Minister by the Constitution. Neil, our Director, noted that these concerns existed prior to the election of the current government and to the assassination of Ms. Caruana Galizia. The current system permits the politicisation of national authorities, by allowing the appointment of party affiliates to judicial positions, to monitoring and deciding bodies and to key positions within the administration. Other issues raised during this particular meeting can be found on pages 12 and 13 of the Monitoring Report.

aditus had previously raised these concerns and had called on the Maltese government and Parliament to commit to a governance approach that is built on transparency, inclusivity and accountability. The crisis Malta is facing today can be seen as the direct result of successive governments retaining and strengthening the power-structures, obscuring the lines separating the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. aditus had also called on civil society to avoid complacency and to expect more and better from any Government of the day and from Parliament, to require from them the most impeccable conduct and, where this fails, to insist on their immediate resignation or removal. However, primarily we recommended the implementation of a true Constitutional reform that will rebuild the nation from its grass roots, with strong and independent democratic institutions that are capable of effectively ensuring the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights. [Full press releases: The nation deserves better, and more, from Government and Parliament – Joint NGO Press ReleaseJoint NGO letter to the Prime Minister on the recent appointment of Dr. Herrera as Justice Commissioner]. 

In a similar vein, the Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM) in its 2016 Annual Human Rights Report Protecting Human Rights, Curbing the Rule of Power, flagged “issues of bad governance, lack of transparency and accountability as the most serious concern for the general state of human rights in Malta.” The 31 members of PHROM, which include aditus foundation, cited the Panama Papers scandal, the corruption allegations involving members of the Government and the then upcoming elections as the most worrying obstacles for the fulfilment of human rights in Malta. Finally, PHROM called on the Government to commit governance approach that puts people and the protection of their rights at the centre of their policies, rather than safeguarding the privileges of a few.

In concluding, the Delegation’s Monitoring Report noted that “MEPs expressed serious concerns about the unclear separation of powers, which has been the source for the perceived lack of independence of the judiciary and the police, the weak implementation of anti-money laundering legislation, the serious problems deriving from the ‘investments for citizenship programme’, and the mentions of Maltese politically exposed persons in the Panama Papers and their continuing presence in government.” In tackling the problems identified with the functioning of the rule of law, the Delegation recommended that: 

  • Work is needed to ensure stronger checks and balances in the Maltese legislative framework to better separate powers and to limit possible interference of the Prime Minister in the judiciary and the media;
  • Reform the Attorney General functions, to decouple the role of advisory to the government from the role of prosecution;
  • Reform the Judiciary, namely on the basis of recommendations made in 2013, in order to reinforce the separation of powers and the independence of the Judiciary;
  • The Police Commissioner should no longer be appointed by the Prime Minister but by an appropriate independent body. Similarly, the veto power of the Prime Minister should no longer exist regarding the nomination of the Maltese Chief Justice;
  • An investigation is needed over the alleged influence of elections through increased hirings in the public sector, issuance of construction permits and regularisations of irregular constructions, as well as pay increases and promotions in the military. 

(for the full list of recommendations refer to pages 29-31 of the Monitoring Report)

We call on the Government and Parliament for immediate action by taking these recommendations on board and by kick-starting the process of a proper reform that would ensure good governance, free from corruption and abuse of power and the  functioning of the rule of law, which would guarantee justice, personal security and the protection of fundamental rights for all.


Understanding the Right of Access to Legal Assistance in Malta: Access to a Lawyer, Legal Aid and Pro Bono

The Battenberg Suite, Osborne Hotel, Valletta – 13th January, 2017

aditus foundation, together with The Critical Institute, is organising a seminar which will bring together local and foreign experts, whose contributions will cast light on Maltese human rights obligations to provide free legal assistance for the protection of fundamental rights, the Maltese legal aid system, its shortcomings and possible developments and on the benefits of a strong pro bono culture.

Seminar Programme:

10h00   Opening remarks: Presentation of the programme and the experts

10h30   Access to legal aid as an essential precondition for the exercise of the right to a fair trial: the European roadmap  – Tzeni Varfi, Legal and Policy Officer, Fair Trials, Brussels

11h15   Q&A

11h30   Coffee break

12h00   The implementation of the right of access to a lawyer: European Court of Human Rights and national case-law Jodie Blackstock, Legal Director, Justice, London

12h45   Q&A

13h00   Lunch

14h30   The Maltese legal aid system: current legislation and possible reforms Ann Spiteri, Lawyer – LEAP (Legal Expert Advisory Panel) Expert, Malta

15h00   The pro bono legal assistance: a commitment to an effective and accessible legal aid system – Marieanne McKeown, Director of Global Pro Bono, PILnet, The Global Network for Public Interest Law

15h30   Reacting panel and discussion: the gaps in the Maltese Legal Aid system and pro bono assistance Ann Spiteri and Marieanne McKeown

16h00   Coffee break

16h30   Round up of the day’s discussion and closing remarks

17h00   End of the seminar

 

The seminar is free of charge and lunch will be provided to all participants. Places are limited, in order to book, please email: [email protected] and [email protected] 

 

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.