NGO calls on parties to put human rights on agenda

In a letter sent to leading political parties, People for Change Foundation say racist candidates should not be allowed to run for election

The People for Change Foundation has called on political parties to prioritise human rights issues ahead of the 3 June election.

In a letter to Labour leader Joseph Muscat, PN leader Simon Busuttil, AD chairperson Arnold Cassola and PD leader Marlene Farrugia, the foundation’s directors Jean-Pierre Gauci and Christine M. Cassar said “whilst elections can be divisive, human rights issues and concerns should be prioritized to ensure that beyond the political process of voting, Malta can benefit from positive and proactive measures to boost equality, equity and ongoing participation.”

Pointing out that the parties are in the process of finalising their political manifestoes outlining their vision for Malta in the coming years, “we request that you ensure the human rights concerns take centre stage in both the election process and policies.”

People for Change Foundation added that over the past 10 years it has reported on a number of key human rights concerns, including discrimination and racism towards minorities, a lack of integration policies, insufficient attention and contributions towards official development assistance, a delay in the formation of a human rights commission, and a lack of understanding of the socio-demographic requirements of an ever-changing population in Malta. 

Among the proposals, the foundation urged all parties to “avoid populist and divisive discourse” and address sensitive topics relating to migration, migrant groups and ethnic minorities, including asylum seekers and refugees “responsibly and fairly” to safeguard their dignity and avoid stigmatisation.

Parties were also urged to condemn, and wherever possible stop, any materials and statements that intentionally or indirectly incite hatred or express prejudice on the grounds of race, colour, nationality or national origin, ethnic background, migrant and legal status or religious belief.

People for Change Foundation also said that parties should refrain from political alliance or association with any political party, organisation or individual candidates that incite ethnic prejudice and racial hatred and to ensure that all candidates contesting on the party’s ticket refrain from such rhetoric.

“Candidates who engage with such rhetoric should be reprimanded and removed from the party’s ticket.”

Turning to policy, the foundation called for a strong commitment to uphold human rights principles and practice when it comes to policies relating to minorities and particularly migration policies and practice including access to protection, reception conditions, status and protection, residence rights and access to citizenship.

Among the 10 proposals put forward in its document, People for Change Foundation urged parties to set up a up a “truly independent and strong” equality body or human rights commission.

The foundation said parties should make “an effort to investigate and prosecute hate crimes and hate speech including those occurring online. This work should include investment in training and resources needed for law enforcement bodies to adequately investigate and prosecute such offences.”