Three NGOs strongly condemned the way a group of arrested migrants, including minors, were escorted by the police to court this morning, saying it was inhumane.
Aditus foundation, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service issued a statement criticising the way athe arrested migrants were brought to court through Republic Street. All the men were tied together in pairs with cable ties and seemed to be wearing the same clothes they had on when arrested the day before. Some were barefoot. A large number of the accompanying police officers were wearing white gloves.
The NGOs said this treatment was “inhumane and prejudicial to the presumption of innocence principle. International and European standards include the State obligation to ensure that suspects are not presented in Court or in public in a manner that infers guilt”. This treatment also amounted to institutionalised racism since this way of parading accused persons seems to be reserved to non-Maltese nationals, they pointed out.
“We are unclear as to why the men and children were paraded in public in such a manner. It is customary for arrested persons to be brought to court from the back entrance in Strait Street, and attempts are generally made to respect their privacy and dignity”. Minors should be awarded specific protection throughout criminal proceedings such as restriction on the publication of their names and identity but the NGOs noted that this was not the first time migrants, including children, brought to court in this manner.
“We are, therefore, led to believe that these are not isolated episodes but, rather, intentional conduct of members of the Police Force or the result of a policy decision,” they said.
They urged the police, the correctional facilities and also the courts to ensure that all children benefited were protected in criminal proceedings.
All the migrants were all charged with crimes in relation to a protest that took place in Safi Detention Centre on Monday. “We have previously had the opportunity to note that the ongoing detention of hundreds of men, women and children at Safi detention centre and the Marsa initial reception centre is illegal, as explicitly pronounced by Maltese courts in November 2019”.
Also, the prolonged detention of asylum-seekers in Safi was also found to be illegal and not within the bounds of the law by UNCHR Malta.
“We question whether this is the best Malta is truly able to offer people fleeing war, persecution and other human rights abuses in their home countries: illegal detention and a parade as criminals along Republic Street,” the NGOs said.
It was imperative that the police provided an explanation as to why the group of 22 were brought to court in this inhumane manner and outlined the safeguards put in place to protect the vulnerability of the children in the group.
They also urged the police to draw up and implement procedures for escorting accused persons to court, without discrimination on the basis of the person’s country of origin.