How Labour endangered another journalist – Kevin Cassar

Malta’s Labour government has just been roundly condemned by the European Court of Human Rights, which found it decided to send a journalist to face possible torture or worse.

It found Malta’s decisions “disconcerting”. It identified “failures in the domestic procedures” which led to “rampant incongruence”, “without any reasoning”.

What is even more shameful is that the government lied at the European court. “It is difficult for the Court to give weight to the government’s allegation,” the judgement read.

Labour not only jeopardised the journalist’s safety but it violated human rights, embarrassed the nation and cost the taxpayer thousands of euros in court-awarded damages and court expenses.

The 20-year-old journalist from a popular television news channel uncovered corruption and fraud by the ruling party in the run-up to a general election.

In retaliation, he was severely beaten and required hospitalisation.  His home was vandalised and his family was forced to flee. His father received threats that “if your son stays in this country, your son will be disappeared and killed, you even cannot see his dead body”.

The journalist fled his country, Bangladesh. On 17 September 2019, he arrived in Malta by boat via Libya. He was immediately detained and his mobile phone was confiscated.

He lodged an application for international protection on 14 November 2019.  He submitted 40 pictures, his press cards, photos of him receiving journalistic prizes and awards, newspaper articles and even a discharge note from the hospital documenting the injuries he’d suffered.

Then he waited, in detention, without access to a phone or legal services.

It took seven months before he was interviewed – without legal assistance and the refugee commissioner rejected his application on 10 December.

The Commissioner concluded he was not a journalist and had come from a safe country. As to the threats he’d received, “they had been limited to threats of his disappearance or killing”.

Besides, the Commissioner noted, “On the day of the alleged beating he failed to file an official police report”.

He happened to be in hospital being treated for his injuries.

The decision to reject his application was then submitted to the International Protection Appeals Tribunal for review.

There’s nothing International about it.  It’s stacked with the Minister’s appointees. It simply rubber-stamps what the refugee commissioner decides. It has confirmed 478 of 482 decisions reviewed.

That tribunal confirmed the decision within 24 hours and without informing the applicant.

“It would have been nearly impossible for the applicant who was in detention, to prepare and make useful submissions to the Tribunal in 24 hours,” the ECHR.   But the Principal Immigration Officer swiftly issued a removal order for the journalist to be sent back to Bangladesh.

By then, the journalist had been detained for nine months – the maximum amount of time allowed by law.

On 13 December, he was released.  Three days later, he was detained again.

Nobody told him the Tribunal had rejected his application.  He only found out six months later during proceedings before the Immigration Appeals Board.

On 23 February 2021, he submitted another application for protection. He included two videos of himself as a journalist covering the 2018 Bangladeshi elections and eight newspaper articles.

Again, the Commissioner decided he wasn’t a journalist.  Again, the Tribunal confirmed that decision.

The European court intervened just in time to stop his removal to Bangladesh, where Labour would have cheerfully sent him back. Minister Byron Camilleri had taken the arbitrary decision that Bangladesh is a safe country.

In 2015, 197 people were killed in political violence in Bangladesh. In 2016, there were 215 deaths and 9053 injuries.  In 2017, 39 deaths and 3129 injuries in 234 separate incidents of political violence.  In 2020, 73 people were killed and 2883 injured.

In 2021, 247 journalists were subjected to attacks by state officials.  Police officers pistol-whipped them and beat them with sticks, iron rods, and bricks.

Journalists were shot with rubber bullets and sustained bruises, broken bones, a dislocated shoulder and a cracked skull.

But that’s safe enough for Byron Camilleri.

That 20-year-old couldn’t fathom why Malta continued to deny he was a journalist. He couldn’t understand why he was detained for so long without access to a phone, information or legal services. Neither could the European Court.

The Court lambasted the Tribunal whose decisions are taken by one man, the chairperson, behind closed doors – and without informing the applicant.

The Chairperson’s decision, according to the Court, “lacked any reasoning on points of facts and law”. The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission had expressed its concerns about the independence and impartiality of the Tribunal – because of the manner of its members’ appointment members and its lack of procedural transparency.

The Court was incredulous. The Maltese authorities concluded that “there was no risk for the applicant if he were returned to the country of origin”.

The reasons for rejecting his application were “disconcerting”, according to the ECHR.

“The Court finds it hard to believe that anything but a superficial assessment could have been undertaken by the tribunal”.

The applicant was never informed of the decisions.  Yet the Maltese government claimed that several attempts were made to contact him by mobile phone. But the applicant was in detention and his mobile phone was confiscated. The interview transcript specifically indicated his phone was held in Marsa.

“It is difficult for the court to give weight to the government’s allegation that notification was repeatedly attempted by the authorities calling on the applicant’s mobile phone”.

Our Labour government was doing what it does best – lying to cover up its guilt: “The Court cannot but note the incongruent conclusions reached”.

Despite the serious risks the young man faced, the court found that “at no stage did the authorities conduct a risk assessment in relation to his individual situation”.

The ECHR found failings in the domestic asylum procedure, a lack of access to an effective remedy and that Malta had again violated human rights.

The court ordered Malta to pay all the journalist’s costs and thousands more in damages.

This is a story of Labour’s callousness, its disregard for human life and the truth.

This is who we’ve trusted with power.

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3 months ago

Ha jimlew lil Malta bil-Bangladexxjani biex jaqdu u jpaxxu lill-big businesses li jfondu lil-Labour… imma mbaghad fejn jidhlu l-proceduri tad-drittijiet tal-bniedem u tar-rispett lejn il-bniedem jigu jaqghu u jqumu. Il-mentalità medjokri u l-inkompetenza grassa ta’ dal-poplu huma l-kagun tar-rovina tieghu. Goodluck.

Paul Berman
Paul Berman
3 months ago

Byron Camilleri is qualified to do what exactly? Certainly not the job he was gifted not earned

Last edited 3 months ago by Paul Berman
Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul Berman

He is only biologically qualified to sit on the toilet.

Anne R. Key
Anne R. Key
3 months ago

This is a story of Labour’s callousness, its disregard for human life and the truth.”
But labour has no choice – since all top level position appointees, have been chosen for their absolute ignorance of procedure. What can one expect eh!

3 months ago

The whole story proves it, this is all a matter of a political nature. I wonder where the passport of this journalist has been deposed while he has held in detention. The excuse that the Maltese authorities tried to make contact with him via his mobile phone is sarcastic (given that they know about the usual ‘standard’ procedure to confiscate mobile phones from arriving refugees), or a bad joke (given that they don’t know anything at all).

I presume that not less of those refugees who made it to Malta, either had lost their documentations on their ways of travel, or the traffickers have stolen these from them, some even destroyed anything about their real identity for various reasons. But not in this case, where the applicant was providing all the documentation which have been ignored and its vailidity denied.

Maybe, the applicant shouldn’t have told the Maltese authorities about his profession and the suffering he had to endure in his home country for being a journalist in the first place. Obviously, in Malta it doesn’t make a difference. But he was honest and naive because nobody told him beforehand that the Maltese PL govt has an issue with journalists per se, not just domestic ones but foreign ones as well.

It looks to me, and that is what I have become convinced about, that the Maltese authorities are doing much to build up a very negative impression of Malta in the minds of foreign nationals (refugees or legal immigrants) in order to deter them from coming to Malta. In contrast to that, the Oligarchs with the big and filthy money are always welcome. But currently, the PL money worshippers seem to face the problem that their Oligarchs have had to go into hiding because they are rarely welcome in other countries, apart from some.

3 months ago

Good article Kevin highlighting just some of the crooks in power
These people are Renowned Mafia gangsters who really couldn’t give a fuck, arrogant beyond doubt and totally unable to find employment in the real world. Whatever they deserve it’s on the way threefold.

Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
3 months ago

This is the prototype of what Joseph Muscat defines ‘subjective and objective’ qualities of the judges he wants for his court complaints.

3 months ago

Would a tailor made one do?

Last edited 3 months ago by Judy
3 months ago

Mela il Ministru joħodlok il mowbajl , imbagħad iġib li skuza li ma irrispondejx il mobajl , u allura titkeċċa. U biex ikompli jiċċewweċ ikollhom nies il ħabs u joħorġu arrest warrant għax ma deherx il-qorti. Ministru bla moħħ u bla qalziet.

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