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Court dismisses government's appeal against Malian man's bail

A court has thrown out an appeal filed by the government against a decree which granted bail to a Malian asylum seeker, noting that the Court of Magistrates had been right in concluding that the required evidence had not been exhibited

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
9 January 2017, 4:28pm
The Criminal Court dismissed the Attorney General’s appeal and spared the man from having his bail revoked
The Criminal Court dismissed the Attorney General’s appeal and spared the man from having his bail revoked
A court has thrown out an appeal filed by the government against a decree which granted bail to a Malian asylum seeker who was rounded and detained up by the authorities in last November's crackdown on failed asylum seekers from the West African country.

Judge Edwina Grima had heard how Namake Noumo had arrived in Malta in 2008  and had immediately been declared a prohibited immigrant and slapped with a removal order.

Noumo had moved on to Italy, where he was given an Italian ID card and residence permit on humanitarian grounds, but returned to Malta in 2015 using someone else’s passport, in order to find work. Noumo had been arrested at the airport and spent six months in prison for doing so. His application for refugee status had been refused by the Refugee Appeals Board in March 2015.

The man was arrested again late last year when immigration police rounded up 33 failed asylum seekers who had been living in Malta illegally for a number of years, holding them at the Safi detention centre for over a month. The Malians had been arrested because of an impending visit from a Malian delegation, invited to Malta so as to identify its nationals and facilitate their return to Mali.

Noumo’s lawyer Jason Grima had filed a writ of Habeas Corpus - an urgent request for the judicial review of the legality of an arrest - in late December. The request for bail had been upheld by the court, which ordered Noumo’s immediate release. The Attorney General had subsequently filed an appeal to the decree.

In a decision handed down this morning, the Criminal Court dismissed the Attorney General’s appeal and spared the man from having his bail revoked.

Judge Edwina Grima noted that the Court of Magistrates had been right in concluding that the required evidence had not been exhibited. The article of the law upon which the AG was basing his arguments required a number of formalities, but that the Attorney General had not presented any supporting evidence, the judge added.

The court said that it “could stop here,” because there “wasn’t the slightest evidence that the Principal Immigration Officer had issued a decision to repatriate Nuomo, which would have explained that the man had the right to appeal. The only evidence presented by the Attorney General, the court said, was the removal order issued in 2008 after which Nuomo had voluntarily left Malta.

The removal order did not appear to have been reactivated, the court said. "This court would go so far as to say that in reality it had not even been issued!" the judge observed, describing the way in which the Commissioner of Police had exhibited his evidence as "unwise."

Madame Justice Grima went on to note that neither had there been a written decision on the man's repatriation taken by the Principal Immigration Officer, who it said had also failed to take the necessary steps to verify whether the man's permission to travel, which had been issued by Italy on humanitarian grounds, had been valid or not.

Nuomo had told the Court of Magistrates that the police had failed to give him any documents or information at the time of his arrest and that the only thing that had been explained to him was “that all the Malians have to go back.”

The court said it expected the Principal Immigration Officer to verify that the legally required  documents, allowing him to detain a person, were in hand before proceeding to detain Nuomo.

Confirming the decision of the Court of Magistrates, the judge held that "an individual's liberty is sacrosanct and this right should not be removed without a valid reason within the parameters of the law. Whoever has the legal authority to deny a person that liberty is to see that the law had been scrupulously observed in that the person detains is told the reason for which it is being deprived of that rights."

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...
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