Protection of Minors Registration Act

Knowing how important it is to safeguard children, Fondazzjoni Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl welcomes the legislative proposals set out in the Protection of Minors (Registration) Act which was presented as a Bill in Parliament.

Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl however,believes that that the terms of the new legislation should only apply as of the date such legislation comes in force and should not affect cases which at the time of entry into force are still sub judice so as not to prejudice the rights of accused as enshrined under general principles of law existing today.

Knowing that most crimes against children are committed by relatives or others close to the family Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl hopes that this legislation would not instil in people a sense of false security by thinking that all such perpatrators are now known by the authorities.

Mid-Dlam Ghad-Dawl to become a foundation

Next Tuesday, December 9, 2008, Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl (MDD) will be given the legal status of a foundation. MDD stands for the dignity and respect of prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families.

MDD was established thirteen years ago, in 1995, by a group of prisoners held atMalta’s Corradino prison. Later that year it was continued on the outside by two of its leading co-founders, and united to a larger umbrella foundation. Next Tuesday MDD will be given an autonomous and independent legal personality.

MDD will be managed and governed by an Executive Committee, and will also have a Board of Trustees. The trustees will be Dr Anthony Vella, Dr Marilyn Clarke and Dr Michael Briguglio. Its General Director will continue to be Dr Mark Montebello O.P.

The bestowing of MDD with a new legal status is part of a wider strategy intended to enhance its structure and efficiency.

A boy of 12 sent to Prison

Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl (MDD) protests most strongly against a case that was repeated in the space of just one month: a boy of 12 years of foreign descent was sent toMalta’s common prisons. Again, this decision is to be considered inhumane and cruel.

The protests that were raised a month ago after a 13-year old girl was sent to prison by the Juvenile Court did nothing to avoid this new imprisonment. These protests were raised by people from all walks of life, including some at the highest institutions of our country.

Notwithstanding, against any sense of correctness, the Maltese courts repeated their action just the same, and condemned a boy of just 12 years to the common prisons. This repetition demonstrates the gross disrespect that the Maltese courts have for the rights of children, but also for judiciary decency and prudence.

MDD once again insists that prison is no place for children. Society expects that the Maltese courts and the competent authorities should find other solutions for the difficult behaviour of some children. Prison must not be considered to be one of these solutions.

This imprisonment is also exposing our country to the ridicule of foreign countries and European institutions.

Life sentence: disappointment and sadness

Reference is herby made by Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl to the sentence awarded today by Judge Joseph Galea Debono at the end of the trial by jury of the Republic against Ibrahim Shnishah. The sentence given was life imprisonment, which is imprisonment unto death.

Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl is extremely disappointed and saddened by this severe decision, especially after considering the circumstances in which Mr. Shnishah was found guilty last Friday, that is with 6 votes against 3 after six and a half hours of deliberation.

While Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl would like to think that our Courts have the will to start approaching acceptable European standards when handing down judgement, it is doubtful whether this is what is happening. It is Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl’s fear that, amongst European countries, with such sentencesMaltamay appear to be truly anachronistic.

While recognising the gravity of the case in question, Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl again affirms that imprisonment unto death is inhuman and unjust.

“Persuni mhux adatti ghall-habs”

Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl (Daritama) tipprotesta kontra ċerta insensitività u imprudenza li bihom xi Onorevoli Maġistrati tal-Ġustizzja qegħdin jaġixxu fil-konfront ta’ ċertu nies ta’ natura partikularment vulnerabbli.

Fil-ġudizzji tagħhom, ċerti Maġistrati japplikaw il-liġi mingħajr ġurisprudenza, speċjalment meta jibagħtu l-ħabs persuni li l-preżenza tagħhom il-ħabs tkun ta’ periklu serju għalihom infushom u anki ta’ diffikultà kbira għall-amministrazzjoni ordnata tal-ħabs. Fil-fehma ta’ Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl, każijiet bħal dawn jikkostitwixxu inġustizzja.

Tliet każijiet partikulari jwassluna biex naslu għal din il-konklużjoni preokkupanti:

Il-każ ta’ persuna anzjana ħafna li, barra li hi konsiderevolment marida, għandha diversi inkapaċitajiet fiżiċi inkompatibbli mas-servizzi offruti mill-ħabs.
Il-każ ta’ persuna taħt is-sittax-il sena li (akkużata b’reat ħafif) intbagħtet il-ħabs minħabba nuqqas ta’ servizzi alternattivi fil-pajjiż.
Il-każ ta’ persuna żagħżugħa (ukoll akkużata b’reat ħafif ħafna) li n-natura sesswali tagħha tpoġġiha f’sitwazzjoni perikoluża ferm għas-saħħa fiżika u mentali tagħha.
Dawn il-persuni, barra oħrajn ukoll, mhuwiex posthom il-ħabs. Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl issostni li l-Qorti setgħet faċilment tagħti sentenzi alternattivi f’dawn il-każijiet u f’oħrajn simili. Hekk il-Ġustizzja kienet tiġi moqdija aħjar.

Għaldaqstant, filwaqt li tipprotesta kontra deċiżjonijiet ġudizzjarji bħal dawn, Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl tappella lill-Maġistrati sabiex juru aktar sensittività u prudenza f’każijiet li jinvolvu persuni partikularment vulnerabbli.

European Union Against Life Imprisonment

A Green Paper published by the European Commission (COM-2004-334) on the 30th April 2004 confirmed what Mid-Dlam Ghad-Dawl has been arguing for years. The European Commission is proposing a total reconsideration of the punishment of life imprisonment leading towards its abolition on a Union wide basis. This, in the light of a proposal to align the forms of punishment in theUnion, in what may be considered as one of the first tangible steps towards a European Criminal Code.

Abolishing life imprisonment would be justified from the point of view of the objective of reeducating and rehabilitating the offender. As is well known, a person’s conduct can change during imprisonment and the absence of all hope of ever being released will not stimulate efforts at reintegration.

The Commission’s analysis demonstrates that life purports various meanings in the different Member States. A life-term can be substantially reduced in certain jurisdictions, whereas in others a long- term definite sentence can practically amount to life imprisonment. Certain states prescribe a minimum, which must be served before gaining eligibility for early release ranging from 10 years inBelgiumto 26 inItaly. However, in a large number of members this is set at 15 years.Maltafollows the English system, whereas this minimum may only be established at the discretion of the judge in the form of a recommendation to the Prime Minister. Otherwise, life imprisonment literally means imprisonment until death.

The Commission is suggesting the replacement of life imprisonment by fixed-term sentences, or else reviewing the situation of the offender regularly. For the most serious crimes, associated with certain personal characteristics, which represent a manifest threat, consideration could be given to the possibility of reducing the penalty to a fixed period of, say, 20 to 30 years, the offender’s situation being regularly reviewed, or ensuring that the situation of offenders sentenced to unlimited terms come up for periodic review.

Early release may be made subject to various conditions, notably victim compensation. Mid-Dlam Ghad-Dawl believes that victims’ rights are not safeguarded by a harsh sentencing policy that undermines rehabilitation and prevents social integration. Victims’ rights should be properly targeted through a proper legislative framework in whichMaltais still far back behind EU standards. This should be complemented by dedicated victim support services, as will be provided by Mid-Dlam Ghad-Dawl in Victim SupportMaltato start operating in the months to come.

Helsinki Conference on Victims of Crime

Two representatives of Mid-Dlam g]ad-Dawl, Fr. Mark Montebello and Ivan Cauchi, have just returned fromHelsinki(Finland) where they attended an inter-European conference about victims of crime. The conference, which was held between May 27 and 29, and was attended by 65 delegates from 20 European countries, was organised by Victim Support Europe (VSE; formerly the European Forum for Victim Services). The themes discussed included human rights and victims of crime, the welfare of those working with victims, hate and homophobic crimes, stalking, and cross-boarder trafficking in human beings. The executive of the European association, together with all the delegates at the conference, showed their satisfaction for the work being currently done in Malta by Mid-Dlam g]ad-Dawl in collaboration with government for the benefit of victims of crime.

Finland Conference on Victims of Crime

Dr Mark Montebello O.P. and Mr Ivan Cauchi, respectively Director and Co-ordinator of Mid-Dlam g]ad-Dawl (Daritama) are to participate at the 18th Conference of Victim Support Europe (VSE; formerly the European Forum for Victim Services) in Gustavelund (Tuusula, Finland). The conference will be held between the 26th and the 30th of this month.

The VSE is association of organisations that offer services to victims of crime and court witnesses. It incorporates organisations fromAustria,Belgium, theCzech Republic,Estonia,Finland,France,Germany,Hungary,Ireland,Luxembourg, theNetherlands,Portugal,Slovakia,Sweden,Switzerland, and theUnited Kingdom. VSE is in consultative status with the COUNCIL OF EUROPE and the UN.

The association exists to:

Promote the development of effective services for victims of crime throughoutEurope
Promote fair and equal compensation for victims of crime throughoutEurope, regardless of the nationality of the victim concerned
Promote the rights of victims of crime inEuropein their involvement in the criminal justice system and with other agencies
Exchange experience and information between member organisations to share best practices and knowledge.
The conference shall deal with such themes as victims services, workers’ welfare, hate crimes, and cross boarder victims. It shall meet under the presidency of Chairperson Dame Helen Reeves, the Chief Executive of Victims Support (UK).

At present Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl, the organisation working with prisoners, former prisoners, and their families, is in the process of creating in Malta Victim SupportMalta, which will be a support and information centre for victims of crime and court witnesses.

Condemnation of torture of Iraqi prisoners

Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl (Daritama) is shocked and disgusted by the deplorable treatment of Iraqi prisoners. Mid-Dlam ghad Dawl condemns such barbarities unreservedly.

Prisoners are persons, and never, and under no pretext, must they be considered to be undeserving of humane treatment. If they are to undergo a sentence for some proven crime, then they are to do so with full dignity and respect. Under no circumstances whatsoever is it ever permissible or acceptable that they be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment while in custody.

Consequently, Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl was pleased to note that the Government of Malta pronounced itself categorically against the ‘truely abhorent’ ill-treatment of fated Iraqi prisoners. Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl fully concures with this view.

Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl also encourages all international bodies to take all measures possible in order to bring to a speedy end these unmistakable breaches to, and violations of, international law.

Denunciation of unjustifiable actions at the prisons

In the light of the extraordinary circumstances that have occurred at the prisons since last Sunday Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl publicly deplores the actions that are currently being taken by the larger part of the prisoners. We feel that these actions are unnecessary, and may be of a detriment to the prisoners themselves.

As is well known, during the past weeks Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl organised a public campaign in favour that all prisoners be granted an amnesty on the occasion of Malta’s accession to the European Union. We have done this so that the celebrations for the occasion shall be truly for everyone, including the prisoners and their families. We still do believe this. However we surely do not believe, and incidentally we do denounce, that certain measures should be used such as those being currently done by the prisoners. During the past days Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl made various appeals directly to the prisoners so that they would not do such actions, and to accept quietly and with resignation any decision that may eventually be taken as regards the amnesty. With regret we note that these appeals were not listened to.

Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl would also like to extend its solidarity to all officials and wardens at the prisons during this moment of particular delicacy. We do this especially with the warden who unfortunately was attacked yesterday.

Finally, once more we publicly appeal to the prisoners to stop immediately the unjustifiable actions that they are doing so that they may return back to the cooperation that existed between then, between us, and between the prison authorities.