Posts Tagged ‘Malta’

2020 Allard Prize for International Integrity to Daphne Caruana Galizia and Danish whistleblower

October 22, 2020

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On 21 October 2020 assassinated Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was posthumously awarded the 2020 Allard Prize for International Integrity, a prestigious global prize for people who demonstrate exceptional leadership and courage in protecting human rights. For more on this prize see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/1f084460-a5ea-11e7-8132-af7bdbf76e65

Caruana Galizia was co-awarded the prize last night along with Howard Wilkinson, the man who blew the whistle on the Danske Bank money laundering scandal.

Both Caruana Galizia and Wilkinson were awarded $50,000 prizes and the assassinated journalist’s family has dedicated their prize money to the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation.Andrew Caruana Galizia virtually accepts the prize on his late mother's behalf

Andrew Caruana Galizia virtually accepts the prize on his late mother’s behalf

Virtually accepting the prize on his late mother’s behalf, Andrew Caruana Galizia said that such prizes shouldn’t be viewed as frivolous but crucial in ensuring the fight for justice lives on. “We know there’s a connection between remembering and justice. If we forget the people who were murdered, the human rights activists and journalists who lost their lives fighting for our right to know, to live in a democracy and enjoy other rights, then no one will remember to fight for justice.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/26/son-of-maltese-journalist-daphne-caruana-galizia-tells-un-impunity-continues/

Co-winner Howard Wilkinson blew the whistle on the largest money laundering scheme in history, worth at least $230 billion, while acting as the head of Danske Bank’s trading unit in the Baltics. On September 19, 2018, news broke of the money laundering scheme that moved rubles out of Russia, converted them to dollars at the Estonian branch of Danske Bank, and then moved the dollars to New York with the assistance of three correspondent banks (Bank of America, J.P Morgan, and Deutsche Bank). Danske Bank admitted all of its internal controls designed to prevent money laundering had failed. The bank revealed that the scheme had been reported to the bank’s highest levels by a whistleblower over four years before. The whistleblower’s identity was required to be secret. But it took only days for Wilkinson’s name to leak out.

The Allard Prize website states: “Despite the considerable risk to himself and his family, Wilkinson testified before the European Parliament and advocated for greater protections for whistleblowers and a new regulation model that encourages greater transparency. The scandal led to numerous investigations and criminal charges across Europe, Danske’s CEO’s resignation, and Danske’s Estonian branch’s closing.

When accepting the award, Wilkinson said, “Whistleblowers are the most loyal employees at all. The whole point of whistleblowers is to make things better.

Wilkinson was profiled by Whistleblower News Network as its “Whistleblower of the Week” weekly feature on October 19. 

https://lovinmalta.com/news/humbling-and-encouraging-daphne-caruana-galizia-wins-prestigious-global-integrity-award/

UN Guidelines for use of emergency powers in time of covid-19 pandemic

April 14, 2020

UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions Agnes Callamard. Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Wikipedia.

a set of guidelines issued by the UN’s Human Rights’ Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESR), in whcih governments are urged to respect human rights across the spectrum, including economic and social rights, and civil and political rights as this would be fundamental to the success of the public health response.

The announcement shed light on the controversial decision by the Maltese government to close the country’s ports as migrant boats were stranded. The UN said it was aware that governments had to take difficult decisions in light of the coronavirus pandemic, but insisted measures should be proportionate. Emergency powers must be used for legitimate public health goals, not used as a basis to quash dissent or silence the work of human rights defenders or journalists.

This was also highlighted by Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions, who said these emergency measures also had to be lifted when these were no longer necessary for protecting public health. People needed to be informed about the emergency measures, where these applied and for how long they were meant to be in effect. “As the crisis passes, it will be important for governments to return life to normal and not use emergency powers to indefinitely regulate day-to-day life, recognizing that the response must match the needs of different phases of this crisis,” the CESC said.

Unfortunately, several governments around the world – and in the EU – have taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to implement a series of measures that roll back human rights.

  • As people are being called upon to stay at home, governments must take urgent measures to help people without adequate housing. …The authorities should also take particular care to prevent more people from becoming homeless and implement good practices such as moratoriums on evictions, deferrals of mortgage or loan payments.
  • It was also important to keep in mind people who relied on community and home services to eat, dress and bathe – including people with a disability or the elderly.
  • The guidelines also refer to prisoners and those kept in detention, saying these were at a higher risk of infection in case of an outbreak. Social distancing was difficult to maintain in these places, which had a high risk of contamination. States should “urgently explore options for release and alternatives to detention to mitigate the risk of harm within places of detention,” it said.
  • The document also tackled the issue of migration, saying migrants and refugees also faced “particular risks” as these may be confined to camps and settlements, which might be overcrowded, overstretched and with poor sanitation. “It is also vital that any tightening of border controls, travel restrictions or limitations on freedom of movement do not prevent people who may be fleeing from war or persecution from accessing safety and protection,” the committee said.

This recommendation is the exact opposite of the decision taken by the Maltese government last week to close its ports, making it very clear that it would not be taking any more migrants as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This announcement came 24 hours after Italy closed all its ports, saying its harbours could not be considered safe. The decision was harshly criticised by more than 20 non-governmental organisations who called on the prime minister to ensure that all persons within Malta’s responsibility were rescued and their safety guaranteed. “The nation cannot quietly celebrate Easter while men, women and children are drowning on our doorstep. Saving lives and ensuring their disembarkation at a safe place is a fundamental legal obligation and also a moral imperative that can in no way be negotiated or renounced,” the NGOs said.

The guidelines called on governments to take “specific actions” to include migrants and refugees in national prevention and response campaigns by ensuring equal access to information, testing, and health care for all, regardless of their status. Earlier this month, the Maltese authorities put the Hal Far open centre under a two-week quarantine after eight migrants tested positive for coronavirus. The decision was slammed by local NGOs who said this would exacerbate the situation where the virus could potentially spread among the 1,000 residents.

On 14 April 2020 Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, called on States not to use state of emergency declarations during the COVID-19 crisis to impose wholesale restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and released detailed Guidelines governments and law enforcement agencies must follow to avoid human rights abuses.

No country or government can solve this health crisis alone and I am concerned about worrying trends and limitations emerging from civil society reports around the world, including on civil society’s ability to support an effective COVID-19 response,” said Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. “Civil society organisations are key in helping States to frame inclusive policies, disseminate information, and provide social support to vulnerable communities in need,” he said.

In his 10 Guidelines, the expert said that where new laws or regulations are adopted, any limitations on rights imposed must adhere to the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. Free-flow of information is crucial in times of crisis and laws criminalising ‘false news’, including those targeting human rights defenders, must be avoided. “It is inadmissible to declare blanket restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Voule said. “Exemptions should be foreseen for civil society actors, particularly those monitoring human rights, trade unions, social services providing humanitarian assistance, and journalists covering the management of the crisis. “State of emergency does not halt the freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association,” the human rights expert said.

Voule said his Guidelines could help States reassess measures already in place to ensure compliance with their human rights obligations and to take citizens’ demands fully into account.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/covid-19-restrictions-should-not-stop-freedom-assembly-and-association-says-un-expert

Coronavirus emergency measures must be timely and proportionate

NGOs demand that rules against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) are upgraded

January 28, 2020

Journalist Carole Cadwalladr, activist Arlindo Marquês and slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia have all being victims of SLAPP.

. to European Commissioner Vice President Věra Jourová ahead of proposed new laws. The NGOs want to ensure that EThe organisations include the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Europe

Jourová is preparing legislation which will work to deter such lawsuits.

In essence, SLAPPs are used to silence individuals and organisations that play a watchdog role and hold those in positions of power to account,” they wrote. Naming journalists within the European Union affected by SLAPP, the groups called the lawsuits received by assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia one of “the most striking examples which include journalists”. Maltese reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia had 47 law suits pending against her at the time of her assassination,” they said. (The Maltese government has refused to ban the use of SLAPP suits in Malta, rejecting a motion by the Opposition in parliament).

The Shift, which works with international organisations to fight the threats against journalists, has also itself faced threats of SLAPP suits twice – one by a Russian banker and another by Henley & Partners, Malta’s concessionaire for the cash for passports scheme. The same firm also targeted Caruana Galizia prior to her assassination. In both cases, The Shift did not back down. Journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who exposed the Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting scandal, is also facing SLAPP action, the organisations noted. British co-founder of the Leave.EU campaign Arron Banks is refusing to drop the final two SLAPP lawsuits against the journalist who now started a crowdfunding campaign to cover the massive legal costs.

The organisations said that SLAPP lawsuits are not limited to journalists, but are also targeted at academia, trade unionists, activists, civil society organisations and individual citizens, including human rights defenders. Strong EU anti-SLAPP measures, including legislation and legal funds for victims, at a time when there is no such legislation in force in any EU member state will help protect those who are vulnerable to this type of legal harassment, they said. Such measures would also send a strong political message that the EU is ready to stand up for its citizens and protect fundamental rights,” they continued.

EU legislation must cover everybody affected by SLAPP – 27 NGOs

RSF’s Press Freedom Award 2019 goes to three women journalists

September 16, 2019

On 12 September Reporters Without Borders (RSF) awarded its 2019 Press Freedom Prize to Saudi journalist Eman al Nafjan, Vietnamese journalist Pham Doan Trang and Maltese journalist Caroline Muscat, at a ceremony held for the first time in Berlin. The award used to be called the Reporters Without Borders Prize {see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/reporters-without-borders-prize} but is increasingly referred to as Press Freedom Award which could be confusing as there are other awards with that name such as: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-press-freedom-awards-canada and http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-press-freedom-awards-cpj.

The Prize for Courage, which is given to journalists, media or NGOs who demonstrate courage in the practice, defence or promotion of journalism, was awarded to Saudi journalist Eman al Nafjan. The founder of the SaudiWoman.me website and author of many articles in the international media including the Guardian and New York Times, Eman al Nafjan spearheaded the Saudi women’s campaign for the right to drive and against Saudi Arabia’s oppressive male guardianship system. Arrested along with other women’s rights activists in May 2018, she was freed conditionally on 28 March 2019. According to the Saudi media, she is accused of endangering “national security,” maintaining “suspicious contacts with foreign entities” and of being a “traitor,” for which she could be jailed for up to 20 years.

The Prize for Impact, which is given to journalists whose work has led to concrete improvements in journalistic freedom, independence and pluralism, or to an increase in awareness of these matters, was awarded to Vietnamese journalist and blogger Pham Doan Trang. She is the founder of Luât Khoa, an online magazine that specializes in providing information about legal issues, and she edits another, thevietnamese, which also helps Vietnamese citizens to defend their rights and resist the Communist Party’s arbitrary rule. The author of many books including one defending the rights of Vietnam’s LGBT communities, she has been beaten by the police because of her work and was detained arbitrarily twice for several days in 2018.

The Prize for Independence, awarded to journalists for resisting financial, political, economic or religious pressure, went to Malta’s Caroline Muscat. After fellow Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in October 2017, she helped to create The Shift News, an independent investigative news website committed to combatting corruption and defending press freedom in Malta. In this small island nation where most media outlets are subservient to the government, she has exposed many cases of corruption implicating local politicians. Although the repeated target of gag suits, The Shift News has refused to comply with content take-down demands from Henley & Partners, a British firm that advises governments on residence and citizenship-by-investment policy. She received an award from the European Commission in 2015 for her journalism,

Every year, award-winners are unable to attend because the leaders of their countries prevent them,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said. “Two of this year’s three laureates have been unable to collect their awards personally,………… These journalists, who should be honoured in their countries, are denied the freedom to travel and often their freedom, period. But their commitment transcends borders without the dictators being able to do anything to prevent it.”

https://rsf.org/en/news/journalists-saudi-arabia-vietnam-and-malta-honoured-rsfs-2019-press-freedom-awards

Son of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia tells UN impunity continues

February 26, 2019

Andrew Caruana Galizia

As the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) began its 40th session in Geneva, the son of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Andrew Caruana Galiziasaid her targeted assassination was a culmination in failures of government protection, followed by libel suits against her estate, as reported by  on 25 February 2019. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/20/human-rights-defenders-issues-in-the-40th-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/

Caruana Galizia spoke of the difficulty in maintaining international media and political attention around cases, and how weakening multilateralism made that even harder. It has fallen on her family and her children to sustain that, he said. He spoke at HRC urging them to ensure Malta accepts specific recommendations made at the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) five months ago for an independent public inquiry into his mother’s death. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/11/maltas-aditus-foundation-urges-government-to-improve-relationship-with-human-rights-defenders/]

The NGO Article 19, which organised the panel, stressed that impunity for attacks against journalists must end. It listed worrying trends of human rights violations, all of which pose a major threat to freedom of expression globally:

  • Continued impunity for attacks against journalists;
  • Failures by States to combat religious intolerance, while also failing to secure the rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression;
  • The abuse of counter-terrorism laws to target civil society and dissenting voices;
  • Attacks against women human rights defenders and environmental and land defenders.

https://theshiftnews.com/2019/02/25/impunity-persists-son-of-murdered-journalist-tells-un-human-rights-council/

2017: a year to forget for human rights defenders – but don’t forget the human rights defenders

December 31, 2017

A bad year for human rights defenders comes to an end and it is fitting to so with drawing your attention (again) to Amnesty International‘s BRAVE campaign which has branded 2017 as a “bad year to be brave”. Since the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in December 1998, at least 3,500 activists have been killed – an average of 180 deaths a year – and the annual death toll shows no sign of diminishing. [e.g. in 2014, Front Line Defenders recorded 136 killings of human rights defenders; in 2016 that number had risen to 281 – and this year is set to be the deadliest year yet – see also my post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/13/stop-the-killings-you-can-help-front-line/].

In the Brave campaign Amnesty highlighted a number of high profile deaths in 2017:

Amnesty warned of a wider “open season” on activists – which has seen alarming numbers of people imprisoned, threatened, beaten and abused in attempts to silence them. [ see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/06/amnesty-just-published-major-report-on-human-rights-defenders/]

Better forget this year and put our hope in 2018, but do not forget the human rights defenders themselves who are willing to pay the price as long as we pay attention…

have a good New Year…

Malta’s Aditus foundation urges Government to improve relationship with human rights defenders

December 11, 2017

In commemoration of International Human Rights Day, the Aditus foundation (a non-governmental organisation established in 2011 by a group of young lawyers who monitor, report and act on access to human rights by individuals and groups; the focus is primarily Malta, but also covers the regional & international dimensions of human rights in Malta) noted the precarious situation of Malta’s human rights defenders and called for a broader respect for their central role in promoting and contributing towards Malta’s overall well-being. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/04/the-new-normal-rising-attacks-on-human-rights-defenders/]

In a statement released to the media, the foundation said that Malta’s human rights defenders are …are present where State interventions are either absent or insufficient, where the risk of human rights violations is high. It continued to say that without human rights defenders, Malta would probably not be able to boast today’s’ levels of social wellbeing. As activists dedicated to ensuring human rights enjoyment for all persons, most of us push for stronger legal and policy standards, support the training of public officials, provide public information, support victims of violations and strive to hold the State accountable and responsible for its failures. “In return, many of us are bullied, harassed, insulted, threatened and stigmatised. Many of us are denied access to important dialogue with State entities, or exploited by the State as we provide those public services the State refuses or is unable to provide. As the community of Malta’s human rights defenders is still mourning the brutal assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, we are uncertain of the security of our working environment and are concerned for the physical and psychological safety of our staff and volunteers.”

“We are not satisfied that our concerns are being taken seriously by the competent authorities, especially in view of the fact that we are often victims of hatred perpetuated by those entities responsible for our protection.”

“Understanding the importance of human rights defenders is fundamental for the fostering of a society that is geared towards respecting, protecting and fulfilling everyone’s human rights.”

“By tolerating this on-going abuse of its human rights defenders, Malta is not only offending the principles human rights embody – equality, non-discrimination, individual and social empowerment – but it is also further marginalising those communities and themes human rights defenders so vehemently stand up for.”

“On International Human Rights Day, we therefore urge Malta to rethink its relationship with human rights defenders. This means to not merely refrain from activities that instil fear and insecurity, but to take steps towards actively supporting human rights defenders.”

http://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2017-12-09/local-news/Adutis-foundation-urges-Malta-to-rethink-relationship-with-human-rights-defenders-6736182455

http://aditus.org.mt

Remembering women killed fighting for human rights in 2017

December 4, 2017

Source: Remembering women killed fighting for human rights in 2017 | AWID