Maltese NGOs at the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review’s Pre-Session

On 12 October aditus foundation, Kunsill Nazzjonali ŻgħażagħThe Malta Independent on Sunday editor David Lindsay attended the UPR pre-session on Malta to give their feedback and recommendations on the state of human rights in Malta as they stand.

The UPR pre-sessions are attended by States’ missions to the United Nations, based in Geneva, with a view to gathering information in preparation for the upcoming review of a State’s human rights performance. Malta’s review is set for 14 November 2018…we’ll be following closely!

(Don’t know what the UPR is, or why we think it’s an important human rights process? Read our earlier blog post.)

So, who said what at this pre-session?

aditus foundation

Neil was present as Director of aditus foundation but also as Head of Secretariat of the umbrella organisation Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM).

He started his presentation by highlighting the significant progress made by Malta in several areas since the last UPR, such as the adoption of the Integration Policy (2017) as well as amendments made to the immigration detention policy.

Statelessness was an issue discussed in depth by aditus foundation, also in the shadow report presented to the UPR process. In this regard, Neil reiterated concerns expressed in the Statelessness Index, namely:

Neil further noted the challenges faced by refugees and migrants in accessing Europe safely and legally, emphasizing that safe and legal pathways need to be introduced. He also stressed the need for Malta and Italy to stop bickering on Twitter and to find a way of resolving their legal and political disagreements regarding rescue at sea of migrants.

aditus foundation pleaded that Ħal Far Tent Village urgently needs to be replaced with housing that is community-based and equipped with basic material supplies. In relation to immigration detention, Neil noted that some instances of deprivation of liberty need to be aligned with international human rights standards.

Finally, on the migration theme, Neil urged Malta to remove the arbitrary prohibition of civil marriages for undocumented migrants.

Neil then spoke on the rule of law, mentioning examples of institutionalised nepotism, kickbacks and other forms of corruption. Neil finally stressed the importance of establishing a public inquiry looking into the brutal assassination of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

PEN Representative David Lindsay

David Lindsay, Editor of The Malta Independent on Sunday, spoke on behalf of Pen International, Reporters without Borders, IPI (International Press Institute), The Committee for the Protection of Journalists, The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, and Article 19.

He stated that during the last UPR session, no recommendations were made on freedom of speech, yet Malta’s situation degenerated enormously. He underlined how Daphne Caruana Galizia’s brutal assassination on 16 October 2017 has left trailing behind it a climate of fear.

David reminded his listeners that a makeshift memorial set up in her memory has been cleared over 20 times by government officials in the thick of the night.

David reiterated Neil’s recommendation by calling for an international public inquiry that would establish whether her death could or should have been prevented.

David said that PEN welcomed the decriminalisation of defamation under the new Media and Defamation Act adopted in 2018, yet also mentioned serious concerns in relation to this new law, particularly that the burden of proof remains with the defendant, including in cases initiated by senior members of the government.

In addition, libel suits may be passed to heirs. To highlight this, David mentioned how Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family inherited a total of 33 civil libel suits, all instituted by senior public officials against Daphne herself.

Lindsay lamented that 2017 was the year Malta was introduced to Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), as a way to censor and silence journalists and media houses by slapping them with exasperatingly high-cost legal fees. David expressed the fear that these methods are aimed at preventing the media from practicing its right to inform the public about matters of general interest.

David urged the UPR to recommend the prohibition of recognition of foreign defamation judgments, in order to protect Maltese journalists from SLAPP and libel tourism.

He concluded by stressing the importance of having a public inquiry looking into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

Kunsill Nazzjonali Żgħażagħ

The General Secretary of Kunsill Nazzjonali Żgħażagħ, Sean Ellul, tabled the KZN’s UPR recommendations, focusing mainly on sexual and mental health issues. Sean noted that, although Malta does offer free STD and STI  testing, it is quite hard to access these due to a long waiting list of up to several months.

This means that a good part of the population remains untested: over 25% of individuals suffering from HIV are unaware they are HIV positive.

KNZ recommends that a standardised, holistic national policy on sex education is established, that incorporates both formal and non-formal education. Further investment in quality sexual health clinics and services is also needed. Self-testing and the distribution/educational use of contraceptives among youths need to be made easier and simpler.

With regard to mental health, Sean highlighted the situation in Mount Carmel Hospital by referring specifically to the young man who was discovered dead after he had fled the hospital. Sean underlined the need to overhaul this institution, also referring to the need for further public education and awareness-raising.

KNZ commented on the Maltese legal and judicial system, where a survey carried out just after Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination showed that 53% of Maltese citizens lacked trust in the system. In line with aditus’ own earlier recommendation, KNZ recommended the establishment of an independent National Human Rights Institution in conformity with the Paris Principles.


This post is part of a series of posts on the Universal Period Review process. Malta’s review, where the country’s human rights situation will be assessed by other States, is set for 14 November 2018.

Follow our News and Updates to be kept updated on this important United Nations procedure. 


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.