NGOs insist on inquiry into use of rubber bullets

Human rights NGOs aditus and the Jesuit Refugees Service reiterated their call for government to hold an inquiry into the use of baton rounds (rubber bullets) during last week’s riots in Safi.

Lt Col Brian Gatt, who briefed the press shortly after the situation at Safi was brought back under control, said that riot gear – tear gas, batons and shields – had been used to quell the violent protest.

But he never mentioned the use of rubber bullets, which was later confirmed to The Sunday Times by the Ministry for Justice and Home Affairs.

A spokesperson for the Ministry said the statement by the ministry did not go “into the procedural details of the riot control operation.”

However, the statement did go into detail to describe and list the damage caused by the asylum seekers.

While government has already made it clear that no inquiry will be held, both JRS and aditus questioned the use of the rubber bullets, which could have been dangerous in the enclosed space.

“The statements by the NGOs are based on incorrect information which proves their unfamiliarity with the scenario, and the sequence of events that unfolded during the riot,” the spokesperson said.

“The fact that there was only one migrant who received slight injury during the entire incident further confirms that only the least amount of force required was used to bring the situation back under control.”

The spokesperson added that the Ministry does not believe that the circumstances to call for an inquiry exist.

In comments to MaltaToday, aditus lawyer Neil Falzon said he was “disappointed”. “We are not accusing anyone. We are simply calling for an official inquiry in light of the different reports which have emerged in the media.”

Falzon added that it is the people’s right to know which criteria and decisions led to the use of such force.

JRS human rights lawyer Katrine Camilleri reiterated that given that “a significant amount of force was used to quell the protest, an inquiry whether the measures used were proportionate and necessary in the circumstances would be appropriate.”

The Ministry defended the use of rubber bullets, saying that they were used to protect the lives of forces as well as for the well-being of the rioters themselves: “Notwithstanding the show of force, repeated verbal warning and the controlled use of tear gas, ever-increasing aggressiveness was evident toward the officers, several of whom were hit by human excrement, rocks and metal pipes.”

The spokesperson added that several warning shots had been fired and the situation was brought back under control, “only through this decisive and timely action”.

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Eighteen, not one or two but eighteen police and soldiers were injured. How many more, according to you people below had to be injured or killed before using rubber bullets was justified? Do you even care that our own people were hurt? Just pray that you never get caught in a riot or terrorist situation and the police just stay and watch because they have been emasculated by the dogooders.
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eleonoray86cws Ca?uana
I've heard rumors that Louise Vella is a school teacher. Hope they are false. And that if they aren't she resigns as soon as the first black child enters her classroom. I'm not referring to this comment in particular, but all Louise Vella's comments about immigrants - the African ones of course, she never complains about the others.
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I fully agree with and support the call for an inquiry on the use of rubber bullets in the Safi violent protests. Baton rounds as they are euphmestically calles are nothing more than less lethal forms of bullets and have caused serious injuries and deaths. especially where children and pregnant women were present in the protesting crowd. They should only serve as a weapon of last resort in crowd control. They should only be used within clearly defined rules of engagement and other than in a dire situation only following clear responsibility for ordering their use coming from the head of the army. I would have expected that a person like the home minister CMB would have immediately called an inquiry of his own volition immediately after the incident given the major ethical issues involved if he bothers reading the article in the highly respected medical journal the Lancet calling for their ban. As transpired in the divorce debate CMB does seem to attach great importance to ethical issues and the use of this type of less lethal weapon should morally concern him. Fortunately we have moved away from the dark days of firing live bullets into crowds by our special forces trained by the North Korean army. Let us not get stuck half way in Israeli army style. There is also the troubling racial question as to whether they would have been used with such abandon if a Maltese crowd was involved. Of course the army and police must be given all resources and trained in using less drastic methods of riot control for such incidents often aggravate because of lack of skill in anticipating handling and defusing them.
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Gilbert Bartolo
What a disgusting and creepy person you are Louise Vella. What is wrong with an inquiry on the use of rubber bullets? God forbid that rubber bullets start being used frequently. Democracy means full transparency. Apparently you are so paranoid and sick that you cannot even envisage a simple inquiry, which are the norm in other more developed societies than ours. And who exactly do YOU represent Louise Vella? The sickos and weirdos of Malta!?
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Gilbert Bartolo
What a disgusting and creepy person you are Louise Vella. What is wrong with an inquiry on the use of rubber bullets? God forbid that rubber bulets start being used frequently. Democracy means full transparency. Apparently you are so paranoid and sick that you cannot even envisage a simple inquiry, which is the norm in other more developed society than ours.
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And who do aditus and JRS represent? In the case of aditus we know as its website (www.aditus.org.mt) mentions only three lawyers - Neil Falzon, Nicola Mallia and Carla Camilleri. In the case of JRS we keep coming across the names of its director Joseph Cassar and lawyer Katherine Camilleri. And do these 5 persons added up together have the right to dictate to the Maltese government? The armed forces of Malta have the confidence of the government, the Opposition and the vast majority of the common people of these islands. Aditus and JRS belong to a small minority of persons who are always promoting the interests of illegal immigrants and think that by forming an NGO they weigh more than their numbers.