The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal


TITLE:  MALTA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                             
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Malta is a constitutional republic and parliamentary 
democracy.  Executive power is vested in a President who 
appoints as Prime Minister the leader of the party that gains a 
plurality of seats in the quinquennial elections for the 
unicameral legislature.  The two major political parties 
reflect widely divergent political views.  The Nationalist 
Party, which was brought back to power in 1987 after 16 years 
of Labor Party rule, won reelection in 1992 with a three seat 
majority in Parliament.

Law enforcement and internal security are the responsibility of 
the Malta police under the command of a civilian commissioner.  
The Minister of Home Affairs and Social Development has 
jurisdiction over the police.  Specially trained riot police 
form part of the regular police force.  There were no 
allegations of human rights abuses by the police force during 
the year.

The Maltese economy is a mixture of state-owned and privately 
owned industry.  Tourism and light manufacturing industry are 
the largest contributors to the economy.  Foreign investment is 
actively promoted.  The Government is attempting to develop 
Malta as a container transshipment point, as a center for 
offshore business and ship registration, and as a regional air 
transport center.

The Maltese Government is strongly committed to human rights.  
Constitutional protection for the fundamental rights and 
freedoms of the individual is upheld by an independent 


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or extrajudicial killing.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no instances of political disappearance.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits inhuman or degrading punishment or 
treatment.  These prohibitions are generally respected in 
practice.  Several prison disturbances in 1993 resulted in a 
formal government inquiry into prison conditions.  The inquiry 
report noted deteriorated conditions and proposed future 
remedial action.  In response, the Government acknowledged the 
need for prison improvement and program reform and launched a 
facilities rehabilitation project and introduced educational 
programs.  Although these initial efforts were largely 
superficial, attempts at more meaningful change are under 
consideration.  While prisons are old and lack other than 
essential facilities, prison conditions are not such as would 
inordinately threaten life or health.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention is provided for in 
the Constitution and generally respected in practice.  The 
police may, on the basis of reasonable suspicion, arrest a 
person for questioning.  Within 48 hours, persons so arrested 
must be brought before the court and charged or released.  They 
have no right to legal counsel during this 48-hour period.  
Persons incarcerated pending trial are granted access to 
counsel, and periodic hearings are mandatory.  Provision for 
bail exists.

Political exile is prohibited by law.  No cases of exile were 

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution requires a fair public trial before an 
impartial court.  Defendants have the right to counsel of their 
choice, including court-appointed counsel at public expense, if 
necessary.  Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, may 
confront witnesses and present evidence, and have a right of 
appeal.  The courts' jurisdiction is limited in certain areas.  
Lay tribunals (e.g., the Industrial Tribunal and the 
Inheritance Partition Tribunal) have exclusive authority over 
certain judicial functions.  Defendants before these tribunals 
may be represented by attorneys.

There are no political prisoners.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

Privacy of the home is protected in the Constitution and 
generally respected in practice.  Police officers of the rank 
of inspector and above may issue search warrants without a 
court order.  Electronic surveillance is prohibited by law.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of expression in speech and press is protected by the 
Constitution and generally respected in practice.  An exception 
is the 1987 constitutional amendment that bans foreign 
participation in local politics (e.g., guest foreign speakers 
sponsored by a political party) during the period prior to an 
election.  Maltese libel law is largely modeled on British 
libel law.  The dynamics of a small society result in some 
self-censorship, particularly on nonpolitical matters.  Both 
major political parties either own or are affiliated with major 
daily newspapers and radio stations and openly criticize the 
other in the media and in public.

The 1991 Broadcast Law established pluralism in the broadcast 
media.  Two government-owned stations, a Maltese/Libyan 
regional short-wave station, and eight private radio stations 
associated with political parties, the Roman Catholic Church 
and commercial interests, operated in 1993.  In addition to the 
government-owned television broadcasting system, a commercial 
cable television company, which began operations in 1992, 
offers diverse broadcast options, including Italian, British, 
French, German, and American channels.  In 1993 the 
Broadcasting Act was amended to allow holders of radio licenses 
to hold television licenses also.  Some commercial interests, 
as well as one of the two major political parties, have since 
submitted applications for two available television licenses.

Eleven newspapers--three daily, seven weekly and one 
fortnightly--freely express diverse views.  They are associated 
with political parties, labor unions, and the Roman Catholic 
Church, as well as with commercial interests.

Academic freedom is generally respected.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right of peaceful assembly.  
Police permits are routinely issued for political meetings and 
other public activities of political parties or groups of 

Membership and participation in political parties are 
voluntary.  However, strong societal (e.g., family or 
employment) pressure exists for affiliation with particular 
parties.  A worker may not be fired for refusal to join a 
particular political party or be refused a job if not a party 

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution protects the freedom to practice the religion 
of one's choice and this is respected.  The dominant religion 
is Roman Catholicism; small groups freely practice other 
religions.  There are no laws prohibiting evangelizing or 
proselytizing.  Government subsidies are granted only to Roman 
Catholic schools.  Students enrolled in government schools have 
the option at any stage to decline instruction in the Roman 
Catholic faith.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Movement within the country, foreign travel, and emigration are 
generally not restricted, but civil rights groups, including 
the Association of Men's Rights, continue to criticize the  
"Impediments of Departure," a court action which may prohibit a 
person from departing the country for such offenses as 
nonpayment of debts or nonsupport of an estranged wife or 
children.  Maltese emigrants who have acquired the citizenship 
of another country and have resided abroad for a minimum of 6 
years may hold dual citizenship.  Maltese born abroad must 
renounce their foreign citizenship by age 18 if they wish to 
retain Maltese citizenship.

Several hundred persons of various nationalities, many of them 
Iraqis, sought refuge in Malta in 1992, and the influx 
continued in 1993 to a level of approximately 700.  Although 
foreign nationals seeking refugee status are not permitted to 
remain permanently in Malta, they often are granted employment 
permits (or undertake illegal employment) while awaiting 
resettlement in a third country.  The Emigrants' Commission, 
which was established in 1987 as the local representative of 
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 
provides assistance and counseling for refugees while awaiting 
UNHCR review of their cases.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Malta is a parliamentary democracy in which the incumbent 
Nationalist Party and the opposition Malta Labor Party are 
important forces in daily life.  Elections in which all parties 
participate freely are held every 5 years, with universal 
suffrage for those 18 years of age or over.  In the 1992 
election, 96 percent of the electorate voted.

Section 4  Government Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Several human rights organizations and persons interested in 
promoting and protecting human rights operate freely.  The 
Government, strongly committed to human rights, places no 
restrictions on investigations by international human rights 

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


All Maltese citizens have a legal right of access to housing, 
employment, and education on a nondiscriminatory basis.  
However, tradition and local culture have often separated 
women's rights from the overall concern for human rights, and 
enforcement of equal rights laws has been passive.  Due to 
economic necessity and changing social patterns, women 
constitute a growing portion of the work force.  Most women 
remain in traditional "women's jobs" such as sales clerks, 
secretaries, bank tellers, teachers, or nurses, or achieve 
success in family-owned businesses or selected professions 
(i.e., medicine).  Women generally earn less than their male 
counterparts.  In August Parliament passed legislation granting 
women equality in matters of family law.  Similarly, a 1991 
constitutional amendment which became effective in July 1993, 
commits the Government to promote equal economic, social, 
cultural, civic, and political rights for all persons 
regardless of sex and to undertake appropriate measures to 
eliminate discrimination between the sexes.  Remnants of 
discriminatory language within existing laws are undergoing 

Victims of sexual discrimination have redress before the 
criminal courts.  However, as no sexual discrimination cases 
have been argued before the courts, the actual limits of police 
or court support for such cases has not been tested.  A pending 
case raises the question of a daughter's right to assume her 
father's union shipyard job after his death, a privilege 
previously accorded the eldest son.

Recent changes in the law appear to have had little effect on 
day-to-day life as many cultural patterns that appear 
discriminatory remain in place by general consensus.  Women's 
primary accepted roles remain those of wife and mother.  
Cultural pressure reinforces these roles.  Women continue to be 
underrepresented in management, government, and politics.  
Family violence against women and children has received 
increased attention, which has led in turn to an increased 
number of reported cases.  A special police unit and several 
voluntary organizations provide support in cases of domestic 
violence.  A government emergency fund and subsidized shelter 
for battered women offers assistance for verbally and 
physically abused women.

Trafficking in prostitution is a serious offense under Maltese 
law; traffickers are subject to heavy penalties.  Rape and 
violent indecent assault likewise carry heavy penalties under 
the law.  The law does not distinguish between rape inside and 
outside marriage.

Divorce is not legal in Malta.


The rights of children and their role in society have generally 
been viewed within the larger context of family law.  The 
Government has preferred to remain neutral in such matters.  
However, legislation aimed at guaranteeing and protecting 
children's rights is under consideration.  As public awareness 
has increased, so has the number of reported cases of child 
abuse.  However, there is no indication that the actual number 
of cases has increased, but rather the number reported.

     People with Disabilities

Numerous pieces of legislation exist to protect the rights of 
the disabled, including the 1969 Employment of Disabled Persons 
Act which ensures employment opportunities for the disabled.  
The 1992 Structure Plan set forth policies requiring 
accessibility to buildings and public transport.  Basic 
educational and training programs for persons with physical or 
mental disabilities are available.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Labor rights are traditionally well protected in Malta.  
Workers have the right to associate freely and to strike, a 
right respected in practice.  Only uniformed personnel of the 
armed forces and police are prohibited from striking.  In 1993 
there were 24 registered trade unions, representing about 50 
percent of the work force.  Although all unions are independent 
of political parties, the largest union, the General Workers' 
Union, is perceived as having a close association with the 
Malta Labor Party.  During the year there were 10 strikes which 
resulted in the loss of 2,480 work days.  The major strike was 
in public transport (bus service) with a loss of 1,300 
workdays.  Other strikes were centered on the banking, cargo 
handling (ports), and public works industries.  Under the 
Industrial Relations Act of 1976, the responsible minister may 
refer disputes to the Industrial Tribunal for binding 
settlement.  The International Labor Organization (ILO) 
Committee of Experts objected again in 1993 to the provision 
that permits compulsory arbitration at the request of only one 
of the parties, but local labor and employers appear to have no 
objection to it.  No disputes were referred to the Industrial 
Tribunal in 1993.  In practice, a striking union can ignore an 
unfavorable decision by continuing the strike on other grounds.

There is no prohibition on unions affiliating internationally.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers are free, in law and practice, to organize and bargain 
collectively.  While most wages are negotiated between unions 
and employers, the Government in 1990 mandated a substantial 
nationwide wage increase after reaching agreement with the 
unions and employers.  In December 1990 the Government, trade 
unions, and employers signed a comprehensive agreement 
regulating industrial relations and income policy.  
Cost-of-living increases are now established in accordance with 
government statistics based on the retail price index as 
calculated by a tripartite independent committee.  During the 
agreement's 3-year term, which was due to expire in December, 
the Malta Council for Economic Development informs the partners 
semiannually of the projected changes in the price index.  The 
projections served as a basis for negotiating collective 
agreements.  According to the Industrial Relations Act, an 
employer may not take action against any employee for 
participation or membership in a trade union.  Complaints may 
be addressed through a court of law or an industrial tribunal 
composed of one representative each of the employer, union, and 
government.  As most disputes are resolved directly between the 
parties involved, few are brought before the court or 
tribunal.  However, for the few which have been, both methods 
of negotiation proved effective.  Complaints of discrimination 
may also be lodged with the Commission Against Injustices.  
Workers fired solely for union activities must be reinstated.  
An October 1993 Employment Commission decision awarded two 
Malta drydocks workers substantial compensation for having been 
routinely denied overtime opportunities because of their 
political beliefs.  All workers, both union and nonunion, are 
protected from discrimination, although it has not been 
necessary for the Government to enforce the matter actively.

Malta has no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is prohibited by the Constitution and does not 
exist.  Any claimed violations could be submitted for 
adjudication to the Constitutional Court.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Children younger than 16 years may not legally be employed.  
The law is generally respected, although instances of 
employment of underage children as domestics, restaurant 
kitchen help, and vendors during summer months occur.  The 
Department of Labor, which is responsible for enforcement of 
the law, does so effectively.  Due to economic necessity and 
the family nature of many businesses, enforcement of summer 
employment of underage youth is occasionally lax.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The legal minimum wage, $103 (40.33 Malta liri) per week, which 
is generally enforced, provides a decent standard of living for 
a worker and family when government subsidies for housing, 
health care, and free education are added.  In addition to the 
minimum wage, employers are required to pay an annual bonus of 
approximately $295 (116 Malta liri), half payable in March and 
half in September.  The Government pays a worker a marriage 
bonus of approximately $2.55 (1.00 Malta liri) weekly and an 
annual child assistance payment for each child under 16 years 
of age beginning at approximately $500 (195 Malta liri) for the 
first child, $390 (153.40 Malta liri) for the second child, and 
$260 (101.40 Malta liri) for each additional child.  The 
average Maltese family is commonly viewed as a working husband, 
wife and two children.

Hours of work are regulated by wage council orders for various 
trades.  For most sectors the standard is 40 hours per week, 
but in some trades the standard before overtime is paid is 43 
or 45 hours per week.  Government labor regulations prescribe 
daily rest periods of 1 hour.  The annual paid vacation 
mandated by law is currently 22 working days.  In general, 
these laws and regulations are effectively enforced by the 
Department of Labor.

Despite several years' discussion, the government-proposed 
establishment of an authority for workers' health, safety, and 
welfare still has not occurred.  Enforcement of occupational 
health and safety standards, the responsibility of the 
Department of Labor, has been lax.  Reports of an increasing 
number of industrial accidents in 1993 add credence to the 
concerns of some that existing laws may be outdated and 
inadequate to protect workers effectively.

[end of document]


Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.