Cases


Comedian’s right to freedom of expression

PILN lawyers Dr Michael Camilleri and Dr Cedric Mifsud assisted comedian Daniel Xuereb in winning a criminal case, after River of Love pastor Gordon Manché filed a police report for something the comedian said during one of his comedy shows.

Xuereb was being charged with insulting Manché and misusing electronic equipment to share what Manché has claimed to be threats in relation to a video of a comedy sketch Xuereb posted on social media in March 2023. The PILN is of the belief that these charges have a chilling effect and are a threat to the right to freedom of expression. 

CASE CONCLUDED 

Read more about the case here

Just two weeks after Xuereb was criminally charged, the government tabled a bill in Parliament proposing changes to the law “to provide for the enhanced protection of artistic expression and in particular to provide for the avoidance of the misuse of the criminal justice system for the suppression of such form of expression”. Freedom of Expression, the bill says, will be protected and artistic, satirical or comic expression “which does not include any credible or realistic threat to the personal liberty or security of the complainant or to his property” will not be hindered.

Yet, instead of dropping the charges against him, the prosecution decided to add a third charge.

Thankfully, the case was concluded in Xuereb’s favour on 16 May 2024, with Magistrate Kevan Azzopardi noting that the defendant does not have the means to execute the threats he was accused of.

Public Inquiry into Jean Paul Sofia’s death

On 3 December 2022, Jean Paul Sofia’s body was found under tonnes of rubble following the partial collapse of a multi-storey building whilst work was being carried out. It took at least 13 hours to find his lifeless body. He was 20 years old and an only son.

His family is being represented by a team of PILN lawyers. Dr Eve Borg Costanzi and Dr Therese Comodini Cachia are supporting Jean Paul Sofia’s family in the public inquiry into his death while Dr Christina Bellizzi, Dr Matthew Cutajar and Dr David Zahra are supporting the family, alongside a privately engaged lawyer Dr David Bonello, in a civil case for damages against those who may have contributed to his death.

CASE ONGOING

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During many interviews with the press, Isabelle Bonnici, Jean Paul’s mother, has explained that the need for a public inquiry goes beyond justice for her son, but justice for all those who have suffered the same fate as Jean Paul. Months of advocacy for a public inquiry by Jean Paul’s family were a success with over 30,000 people signing Isabelle’s petition for a public inquiry. A public inquiry will be looking into the shortcomings of administration and public authorities and provide recommendations for a safer working environment in construction.

The first sitting of the public inquiry was held on Thursday 10th August 2023. A summary of the most salient points that have thus far emerged from the hearings may be found here.

Breach to the right to a fair trial

PILN Lawyer Dr Edward Mario Camilleri is supporting a third-country national mother of four in a constitutional case challenging the International Protection Agency’s (IPA) rejection of her application for international protection. She claims that IPA’s decision breachers her right to a fair trial and to access to Courts, and to be protected from discrimination. She also claimed that her aher children’s risk of deportation to the country where they first applied for asylum place them at risk of degrading treatment, a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR).

CASE ONGOING

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The mother and her four children fled civil war in their country and sought asylum in an EU country where they were granted refugee status. They were no longer eligible to live in government-run centres after receiving protection status and face extreme poverty and homelessness and had limited access to basic services, such as healthcare. They came to Malta and reapplied for asylum here however within weeks her application was deemed inadmissible by IPA since she had already been granted international protection elsewhere in Europe. She was not given the opportunity to give her version of the facts as to why she was reapplying for international protection and she was denied the right to appeal the IPA’s decision. Additionally, they are at risk of being deported back to their first country of asylum despite the well-document fact that refugees there face conditions that are degrading and inhumane.

Our application asks the court

  1. Declare that if she and her family are forcibly returned they will be subjected to degrading treatment which would breach her human rights protected through Article 3 of the ECTHR.
  2. Declare that Article 24(1)(1) of the International Protection Act is null and void as it violates her fundamental rights enshrined in Articles 32(a) and 39(2) of the Constitution of Malta.
  3. Declare that Article 24 of the International Protection Act violates Article 47 of the European Treaty of Fundamental Rights and Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
  4. Declare that Article 24 of the International Protection Act is contrary to provisions of Articles 12 and 46 of Directive 2013/32/EC on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection.
  5. Cancel and revoke the decision of the Tribunal against her
  6. Give any other order, provision and/or directive that it deems appropriate in the circumstances.

Death in State custody

Mamadou Kamara

PILN lawyers, Dr Eve Borg Costanzi and Dr David Edward Zammit, are supporting Mamadou’s minor daughter in a constitutional case claiming a violation by the Maltese state of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 33 of the Constitution of Malta. In 2012, Mamadou Kamara, aged 32, died while in the custody of the Detention Services and Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) personnel after being badly beaten by Sergeant Mark Anthony Dimech and Gunner Clive Cuschieri. Both were charged with the murder of Kamara but over a decade later, the criminal proceedings are still ongoing. An independent inquiry, published in 2014, concluded that the AFM personnel had used excessive force that led to the untimely death of Mamadou Kamara. Meanwhile, Dimech and Cuschieri are out on bail and both remained on the AFM payroll.

CASE ONGOING

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The case concerns a breach of the right to life. The death of Mamadou Kamara, which happened under the responsibility of the State, and as a result of action by State agents, could have been avoided. Mamadou Kamara’s family has not been kept informed on the investigation into his death, and eleven years after his killing, there have been no repercussions for the killers.

Our application asks the court to:

  1. Declare a violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 33 of the Constitution of Malta.
  2. Liquidate an amount of compensation sufficient to make good for such a violation. 
  3. Give any other order, provision and/or directive that it deems appropriate in the circumstances.

Health and safety at work

Jaiteh Lamin

PILN lawyer Dr Gialunca Cappitta is legally representing Jaiteh Lamin, who was severely injured whilst at work, in a criminal and civil case against his employer, Glen Farrugia. Lamin was neglected after falling two stories from the construction site in Malta where he worked. Farrugia allegedly drove him away from the site and abandoned him in the road.

CASE ONGOING

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The case concerns health and safety at work. Lamin is just one of the countless construction workers in Malta who have no protection at work. All workers must feel safe and given protection in their place of work, no matter their background.

Protecting Din l-Art Helwa’s right to a fair hearing

Quad Towers

PILN lawyers Dr Claire Bonello and Dr Christine Bellizzi, on behalf of Din l-Art Helwa, filed a constitutional case against a breach of Din l-Art Helwa’s right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial Tribunal by the Chairman of the Environmental and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT). 

CASE ONGOING

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The case concerns the EPRT’s rejection of Din l-Art Helwa’s appeal against the Planning Authority’s approval of the Quad Towers development in Mriehel. The Planning Authority approval was controversial because, as Din l-Art Helwa argued, the Quad Towers site had not been included in the public consultation on high-rise zoning, denying the public the opportunity to file objections or comment on its suitability as a high-rise zone. Additionally, the Chairman of the ERPT, Martin Saliba, was also employed with Planning Authority (PA) – a party to the appeals process – while presiding over appeals against decisions. When Din l-Art Helwa filed an appeal against the PA’s approvals of the development of the Quad Tows, the tribunal chairman’s dual role and conflict of interest was not publicly known. 

The appellant NGO invested time, energy, and resources to finance and file their appeal in a process where their right to a fair hearing was breached without their knowledge and the outcome may have been vitiated due to the EPRT chairman’s dual role and undeclared conflict of interest.

Our application asks the court to:

  1. Declare that the applicant suffered a violation of Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights which guarantees the right to a proper hearing by an independent tribunal, which right is also guaranteed under Title 6 (Article 47) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. 
  2. Give any remedy directive and compensation that it deems appropriate and opportune.

Protecting the right to know

PILN lawyers Dr Claire Bonello, Dr Alain Muscat and Dr Joseph Mizzi challenged Malta’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Act in the Constitutional Court, arguing that the remedies it provides are unconstitutional because they do not respect the right to freedom of expression and information protected by Article 41. The case is the first ever to challenge the FOI Act and the misuse of FOI procedures to block or limit access to information within a reasonable time.

The case was open based on FOI requests for a secret agreement, signed by Konrad Mizzi on behalf of the Maltese Government and by SOCAR Trading SA, and for a report on the feasibility of a second interconnector to Malta. Both requests were refused by the energy ministry, but the PILN was successful in obtaining them through this case.

CASE CLOSED

Read more about the case here

The case aims to limit state authorities’ arbitrary refusals to provide information in the public interest and to reverse the culture of secrecy behind their claims of privacy and commercial sensitivity, enabling public interest journalism to hold power to account.

Our application asks the court to:

  1. Declare that the energy minister’s refusal to provide access to the requested information violates the Constitutional right to free expression and information;
  2. Rule that the FOI Act’s remedies for rejected requests infringe an applicant’s fundamental rights;
  3. Declare null and void specific parts of the FOI Act that are in conflict with the Constitutional right to free expression and information;
  4. Take appropriate steps to offer redress to the applicant.