Human rights lawyer Tonio Azzopardi has filing a judicial protest against the Prime Minister calling upon him to respect human life and fulfill his duty of ensuring that fundamental human rights are safeguarded.
In his judicial act filed before the First Hall, Civil Court, Dr Azzopardi took upon himself the plight of the hundreds of migrants who perished in the Mediterranean while attempting to make the crossing from Libya after fleeing persecution in their home countries.
Although the “honourable Prime Minister was doubtlessly aware” of these individuals who lost their lives at sea, nonetheless “decisions had been taken and were still being taken” which did not respect the right to life of such persons, some 628 of whom perished in June.
The lawyer explained that rescue vessels operated by NGOs were not being allowed to fulfill their “noble aim” namely that of saving human lives.
Worse still, spotter planes had now also been halted in their reconnaissance operations while boatloads of migrants continued their incessant crossings.
After allowing the charity ship Lifeline to dock at Malta following a spat with Italy, Malta closed its ports to ships carrying migrants that are operated by NGOs. The move was denounced by humanitarian organisations and also the Church.
Later, it also blocked the civil search aircraft Moonbird from operations.
This meant that the government was not only abdicating from its obligation to save human lives but was taking decisions which were incompatible with duties undertaken by the country, especially under the European Convention of Human Rights.
Such behaviour on the part of government was hampering rescue missions denying those conducting such missions the right to save human lives, a right which in itself was one manifestation of the right to freedom of expression as safeguarded under article 10 of the European Convention.
Such a right to freedom of expression could only be curtailed if the interference was prescribed by law, was intended to safeguard national security, territorial integrity, public security or to prevent disorder and crime, or for health reasons and was necessary in a democratic society. Such reasons did not exist, Dr Azzopardi argued.
The right to deny NGO vessels access to Malta’s harbours was a matter which fell within the parameters of domestic law, an expression of the nation’s sovereignty as acknowledged by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The government’s decision to stop spotter planes from assisting in rescue operations was “unjustified, abusive and illegal,” Dr Azzopardi concluded, calling upon the protested party to recall his “legal, moral and ethical duty as Prime Minister of Malta to abide by the dispositions of the European Convention on Human Rights which formed part of Maltese law, as well as by his oath of office”.
Dr Azzopardi reserved the right to safeguard the fundamental rights of every person, even by means of a positive action in terms of law.