Court throws out human rights violation claims made before proceedings ended

Man's claims that his rights had been violated were thrown out by a judge since the proceedings against the applicant have not yet been terminated.

Mr Justice Tonio Mallia threw out the claim that the rights of a man charged with drug trafficking had been violated, saying that since the proceedings against the applicant have not yet been terminated, he cannot be regarded as a victim of human rights violations.

Charles Steven Muscat, known as ‘il-Pips’, was, along with 18 others, charged with conspiring to traffic drugs. At the end of the compilation of evidence, the case was sent for trial.

However, using his unfettered discretion, the Attorney General issued a counter-order ruling that 11 of the 19 accused were to face a Magistrate while the other eight were appointed for a trial by jury.

On 5 February 2014, Muscat filed a Constitutional Case against the Attorney General, claiming his right to a fair trial had been violated.

In his reply the Attorney General claimed that Muscat had neither been tried nor convicted. “The jury has not even started so the claim of facing an unfair trial cannot be raised”, the Attorney General said.

Quoting evidence tendered by the main investigators, the judge said that Muscat was implicated as one of the main conspirators. “He organised the buying and selling, had close ties with the original supplier, influenced other in the same ring and had very high expectations of financial gain.

"The difference between the applicant and the 11 others who were to face a Magistrate rather than a jury is very clear”, Judge Mallia explained.

The wording of Article 7 of the Convention is limited to cases in which a person is held guilty of a criminal offence. A prosecution that does not lead to a conviction or has not yet done so cannot raise an issue under Article 7. The proceedings instituted against the applicant have not even started, hence he is not held guilty of any criminal offence.

Mr Justice Tonio Mallia ruled that applicant Muscat cannot be regarded as a victim of a violation of Article 7 of the Convention, and his claim is manifestly ill-founded.