NGOs call for impartial inquiry into Lyster Barracks protest

10 local non-governmental organizations have raised concerns that inquiries into the conduct of security forces are neither impartial nor made available to the public

In a press release issued today, ten local NGOs insisted that transparency and accountability can only be ensured by a truly independent investigation. The NGOs say that the inquiry report on a protest by detainees at Lyster Barracks and its handling by the security forces is heavily skewed in favour of the authorities concerned and leaves key questions unanswered.  

The NGOs represented are aditus foundation, Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Integra Foundation, JRS Malta, KOPIN, Malta Emigrants Commission, Migrant’s Network for Equality, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, People for Change Foundation and SOS Malta. 

"On Friday, a board made up exclusively of members employed by the ministry responsible for the Detention Service (DS) and the Police accepted almost without question the institutional version of events on 25 February, when these two corps intervened to control a detainee protest," the press release stated.

"In reaching its conclusions, the board only interviewed three detainees, although some 28 or 30 people were involved and according to the report at least five received medical treatment after the incident. Instead, it appears to have relied heavily on evidence from other witnesses, who were either interested parties (DS and Police) or not present during the incidents (UNHCR and JRS)."

The NGOs called for a more impartial inquiry into the conduct of security forces when there are allegations of ill-treatment or abuse, saying that such an independent inquiry is the only way to redress human rights violations and to tackle impunity and possible abuse of power. "This is even more so within detention centres, which are by their very nature hidden from public scrutiny," they said. 

"We call upon the government to conduct a truly independent inquiry into the incidents of 25 February and to set up a mechanism to ensure that all such incidents are subjected to independent scrutiny in a systematic and timely manner," the press release continues, before lamenting the fact that inquiries into the conduct of security forces in recent years have only rarely been made public. One such example is the inquiry conducted by Judge Geoffrey Valenzia into the facts surrounding the death of Mamadou Kamara in June 2012.

The NGOs once again reiterated the need to bring the law and policy on detention in line with international human rights standards and called for a comprehensive review of this policy. 

More in National