Malta’s request to appeal two recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights was rejected on 9 December 2013, thereby rendering the judgments final. The two judgments of 23 July held that Malta’s immigration detention conditions and lack of adequate review of detention violate Articles 3 (prohibition of degrading treatment), 5(1) (right to liberty) and 5(4) (right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court) of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR).

The first case, Aden Ahmed v. Malta, concerns the detention for 14 and a half months of a Somali asylum seeker. The Court found that her detention conditions, in particular the cold temperature, lack of female staff, no access to open air and exercise facilities for a three month period, and an inadequate diet, amounted to a violation of Article 3, especially considering the applicant’s poor health and emotional fragility.

In addition, the Maltese authorities had at no time during the applicant’s detention attempted to progress deportation proceedings, which led the Court to also find a violation of Article 5(1). Finally, the Court declared a third violation with the ‘speediness’ requirement in Article 5(4) given that the applicant’s complaint to the Immigration Appeals Board had failed to result in a decision on the lawfulness of her detention after more than six months.

The second case, Suso Musa v. Malta, concerned the lawfulness of the applicant’s immigration detention for nearly two years. The Court in this judgment ruled that the Maltese authorities had taken an unreasonable amount of time to determine whether the detained applicant, a Sierra Leonean asylum seeker, should be allowed to remain in Malta. Furthermore, after the asylum request was rejected, the authorities had failed to act with due diligence in deporting the applicant. Accordingly, his detention both before and after the asylum decision was unlawful, and therefore failed to comply with Article 5(1).

The Court also found a violation of Article 5(4) due to the absence of any effective opportunity for the applicant to challenge his detention before a judicial body.

In an effort to ensure implementation and prevent future similar applications, the Court recommended that Malta establish a mechanism for ensuring that reviews of detention lawfulness are resolved within a reasonable time-limit, and that the length of detention is shortened.

The Court ordered compensation of 30,000 Euros for the first applicant and 24,000 Euros for the second applicant.

Requests to appeal judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are accepted if the case raises ‘a serious question affecting the interpretation or application of the Convention or its protocols, or a serious issue of general importance’ (Article 43(2) ECHR). Most requests are rejected.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 20 December 2013
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