The Constitutional Court has confirmed a judgement which had ruled that the rights of two Somali migrants to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment had been violated by their forced repatriation to Libya in 2004. The court however reduced the quantum of damages awarded to the men from  a total of €20,000 to €16,000.

The case was filed by Abdul Hakim Hassan Abdulle and Kasim Ibrahim Nur against the Minister for Justice and the Interior and the Commissioner of Police in his capacity of Principal Immigration Officer.

The first court had found in favour of the two men and had ordered the authorities to pay them €10,000 each in compensation.

In its appeal judgement the Constitutional Court heard that in October 2004 the two Somalis had reached Malta from Libya together with 23 other persons. They were taken to the police headquarters where, they alleged, they were not informed of their right to seek asylum.

Later that month, together with three other persons, the two men were taken to the airport and, against their will, repatriated to Libya.

On their arrival in Libya the men were arrested, beaten and tortured by the Libyan authorities before being driven into the desert and abandoned there. They were rescued by a group of nomads and eventually made their way back to Tripoli and thence to Malta where they arrived in June 2006.

They claimed that their right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment had been violated for they had been sent back to Libya where the authorities knew there was a risk of them being ill treated.

The Constitutional Court said that it resulted from Kasim Ibrahim Nur's testimony that he had been tortured while in Libya. The court added that the first court had ordered the removal of the testimony of Abdul Hakim Hassan Abdulle from the court file because he could not be traced and could not be subjected to cross-examination.

The court examined documents exhibited in this case by the two Somalis. These included declarations by the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' Country Operations Plan, documents issued by Amnesty International and a declaration by the USA State Department. These indicated that prisoners, in particular those originating from sub-Saharan Africa, were regularly tortured in Libya.

The Maltese government, said the Court, could have investigated the situation in Libya before forcibly repatriating these two men to Libya.  The men had not been given an effective remedy and had not been informed of their legal rights.

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