In the realm of human rights
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In the realm of human rights

Human rights laws are related directly to human existence and human betterment, something Kevin Aquilina has been studying and reflecting upon for more than 30 years.

The Department of Media, Communications and Technology Law at the Faculty of Laws of the University of Malta has published the second volume of his selected writings on the subject to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the United Nations General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The introduction discusses human rights, the perspective of the Constitution of Malta and the European Convention on Human Rights. The provisions are compared with previous Maltese constitutions and other countries’ constitutions relevant to Malta. Respect for human dignity – the foundation for human rights law – is also considered.

The publication features a paper on the European Court of Human Rights case law related to proceedings for the removal from judicial office of Judge Carmelo Farrugia. It also refers to the white paper on the establishment of a Human Rights and Equality Commission for Malta, the impact of human rights law on internal disciplinary procedures, changes proposed to the Industrial Tribunal, the warrant of precautionary injunction and the new Media and Defamation Act.

A rather lengthy report submitted to the Council of Europe on freedom of expression restrictions included in Maltese law is published for the first time. Racial hatred from the perspective of freedom of expression is also addressed. Freedom of information is discussed in relation to the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act. The technology law implications of privacy are analysed and the book answers the question: to what extent does the National Archives Act violate the right to privacy?

The extent to which children’s rights impact upon the Maltese audio-visual landscape is debated. Two short contributions study the Broadcasting Authority from the angle of natural justice. The situation of human rights law vis-a-vis media law, bloggers and their sources, the chilling effect of defamatory libel, garnishee orders and media gagging, and government’s media law volte-face attributed in part to the Bill’s inconsistencies with human rights law are also addressed.

Other aspects discussed are how should the secret state be brought in line with the granting of access to government-held information; how the notice of action procedure in Maltese Adjectival Law raises serious human rights law concerns; the requirement to introduce more European Convention on Human Rights compliant provisions in the Criminal Code with regard to the right to legal advice during police detention and interrogation; the right against self-incrimination; the presumption of innocence and reverse onus provisions; the complimentary or conflicting status of the Maltese crime of espionage on the one hand and the nullum crimen sine lege certa legal maxim, on the other.

The publication delves into the principle of legality, the human rights implications of a non-literal transposition of an EU Council Framework Decision in the Criminal Code and the breach of the right to a public trial by a provision in the Official Secrets Act.

Development planning also has a human rights law angle. The case law of the European Commission of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights up to 1998 is set out. Two pieces study the human rights implications of the Environment and Development Planning Bill (of 2010) and the new Development Planning Bill of 2015.

Published papers relate to the removal of a judge from office with the participation of non-judicial organs of the state. Strasbourg case law has consistently emphasised that Parliament is inappropriate, from a human rights view, to remove judges from office as it does not satisfy the requirements of impartiality.

Also commented upon is the right to a fair hearing in the light of compulsory arbitration and the general prohibition of discrimination.

Six pieces deal mainly with the juridical nature of administrative offences, shifting the criminal sanction into Administrative Law, the right to a fair and public trial in administrative broadcasting proceedings and administrative sanctions and broadcasting law viewed from a natural justice narrative.

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