Human rights’ activists call on MPs to endorse human rights for all

In the aftermath of the damning Kamara inquiry, 29 NGOs organise peaceful protest in Valletta and present statment to parliament.

29 NGOs gathered in Valletta to mark Human Rights Day. All photos by Matthew Agius / MediaToday
29 NGOs gathered in Valletta to mark Human Rights Day. All photos by Matthew Agius / MediaToday

Just days after an inquiry report on the tragic death of Mamadou Kamara in 2012 flagged a blatant abuse of human rights by Malta’s detention policy, some 30 human rights’ organisations have this afternoon joined forces in calling on members of parliament to endorse human rights for all – irrespective of race, identity and religion.

Marking International Human Rights Day, a sizeable crowd of demonstrators representing 29 NGOs marched through Valletta on Sunday morning.

Armed with placards reading “Justice for Kamara”, and chanting “human rights for all,” the NGOs called on parliament to take a stand in defending human rights and to ensure that human rights are for everyone.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat published the Kamara inquiry that showed that former home affairs minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici prevented disciplinary proceedings against Detention Services officers involved in the death of 29-year-old Nigerian Infeanyi Nwokoye – an escaped asylum seeker who died a year before the Kamara murder.

Muscat said that the Kamara inquiry report was shelved because it calls for a review of the detention system, while on a more serious note, the report discovered that Mifsud Bonnici had prevented the former head of the Detention Services, Lt Col. Brian Gatt, from sacking detention services officers involved in the death of Nwokoye.

The report not only highlighted the disturbing conditions that asylum seekers were made to live in, but also established that amongst the detention officers, there were indeed the “worst of the worst” – including sexual predators who preyed on vulnerable migrant women.

Speaking to MaltaToday, Dr Maria Pisani, from the Integra Foundation, underlined that the Kamara inquiry was a reminder of the fragility of human rights, but far from the only breach.

“Human rights are not just about migrants and gay people, there are many other sectors that do not get the attention they deserve,” she explained.

Echoing Pisani, Aditus director Neil Falzon explained that the aim of the demonstration was “to hammer home the concept that human rights are for all.”

“Democracy is not something you do every five years, but something you do every day. There’s an element of solidarity with other organisations, we’re here to also support groups who may deal with other issues that we do not,” Falzon said.

The human rights’ activists will also be presenting a statement to parliament calling on every MP to uphold human rights.

While acknowledging that Malta has “come a long way” in respecting and protecting human rights, the NGOs explained that serious efforts are still needed in order to fully safeguard the fundamental human rights of all persons.

In the statement, the NGOs called on the government to introduce sanctions for breaches of human rights and granting victims the option of claiming compensation.

The document calls on the government to establish administrative bodies to monitor human rights in Malta, to ensure that all new legislative measures are in compliance with human rights obligations, and the commit a “zero tolerance policy” against any form of attack or harassment on staff of civil society organisations.

The statement is endorsed by Aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Breaking Limits, Caritas Malta, Deaf People Associating, Din l-Art Helwa, Inspire, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service, KOPIN, KSU, Libya Foundation for Rehabilitation, Living Ability not Disability, Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisations, Malta Gay Rights Movement, Migrant Offshore Aid Station, Moviment Graffiti, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, People for Change Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta, Richmond Foundation, Right2Smile, SOAR, SOS Malta, the Critical Institute, Troupe, UpBeat Music House, Victim Support Malta, and We Are.