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TITLE:  MALTA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                             MALTA


Malta is a constitutional republic and parliamentary 
democracy.  The Head of State (President) appoints as Head of 
Government (Prime Minister) the leader of the party that gains 
a plurality of seats in the quinquennial elections for the 
unicameral legislature.

The police are commanded by a civilian commissioner under the 
effective supervision of the Government.

The economy is a mixture of state-owned and private industry,  
with tourism and light manufacturing as the largest sectors.

The Government is strongly committed to human rights.  An 
independent judiciary upholds the Constitution's protections 
for individual rights and freedoms.  However, societal 
discrimination against women remains widespread.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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 known instances of political disappearance.

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

The Constitution prohibits inhuman or degrading punishment or 
treatment.  There were no reports of violations.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides for freedom from arbitrary arrest and 
detention.  There were no reports of violations.  The police 
may arrest a person for questioning, on the basis of reasonable 
suspicion, but within 48 hours must either release the suspect 
or lodge charges.  Arrested persons have no right to legal 
counsel during this 48-hour period.  Persons incarcerated 
pending trial are granted access to counsel.  Bail is normally 
granted.

The law prohibits political exile.  No cases were reported.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary is independent of the other branches.

The Constitution requires a fair public trial before an 
impartial court.  Defendants have the right to counsel of their 
choice or (if they cannot pay the cost) to court-appointed 
counsel at public expense.  Defendants enjoy a presumption of 
innocence.  They may confront witnesses, and present evidence.  
They also have the right of appeal.

There are no political prisoners.

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

The Constitution protects privacy of the home and prohibits 
electronic surveillance.  The Government respects these 
provisions.  Search warrants are issued by police officers of 
the rank of inspector or above based on perceived reasonable 
grounds for suspicion of wrongdoing.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution protects freedom of speech and press, and the 
Government respects this.  However, the 1987 Foreign 
Interference Act bans foreign participation in local politics, 
including speechmaking, during a period leading up to 
elections.  Three daily, seven weekly, and one biweekly 
newspaper freely express diverse views.

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.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution protects freedom of religion, and the 
Government fully respects this.  The state-supported religion 
is Roman Catholicism.  The Government grants subsidies only to 
Roman Catholic schools.  Students in government schools have 
the option to decline instruction in Roman Catholicism.

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

The Government does not arbitrarily restrict movement within 
the country, foreign travel, or emigration.  A court order may 
prohibit the departure from the country of anyone who is the 
subject of a formal complaint alleging nonfulfillment of an 
obligation, such as nonpayment of a debt or nonsupport of an 
estranged spouse.

Since 1992 the Government has granted temporary refugee status 
to over 900 persons, pending their relocation abroad, and has 
provided assistance and counseling in cooperation with the U.N. 
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  The Government expels 
or repatriates persons it deems to be economic refugees.

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

Citizens exercise this right in multiparty, secret-ballot 
elections held every 5 years on the basis of universal suffrage 
for those 18 years of age or over.  In the 1992 election, 96 
percent of the electorate voted.

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

Various human rights organizations and persons interested in 
promoting and protecting human rights operate freely.  The 
Government also places no restrictions on investigations by 
international human rights groups.

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

The Constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on 
gender; they do not address other discriminatory factors.

     Women

The Constitution provides that all citizens have access, on a 
nondiscriminatory basis, to housing, employment, and 
education.   However, the society traditionally does not treat 
women's rights as matters of human rights; reflecting this, the 
Government has been passive regarding women's rights.

Women constitute a growing portion of the work force, but most 
either remain in traditional "women's jobs" (such as sales 
clerk, secretary, bank teller, teacher, or nurse) or move into 
more rewarding jobs only in family-owned businesses or in a 
certain few professions (e.g., medicine).  Women generally earn 
less than their male counterparts.

There is no widespread pattern of family violence against 
women, but a continuing increase in reports of such incidents 
has made plain that the problem is not negligible.  A special 
police unit and several voluntary organizations provide 
assistance to victims of domestic violence.  For women who are 
threatened or physically abused, the Government also maintains 
an emergency fund, and subsidizes a shelter,

Available data show prosecutions of six rape cases in 1994.  
Rape carries a sentence of up to 10 years.  The law treats 
spousal rape the same as other rape.   Divorce and abortion are 
not legal in Malta.

     Children

The Government views the rights of children within the context 
of general family law.  Specific legislation to protect 
children's rights has languished in the Parliament for the past 
2 years.  Meanwhile, the number of reported cases of child 
abuse has grown as public awareness has increased, but it is 
not clear whether the actual number of incidents has increased.

     Persons with Disabilities

The law protects the rights of the disabled.  The 1969 
Employment of Disabled Persons Act led to greater employment of 
disabled persons in government agencies.  The 1992 Structures 
Act requires accessibility to public buildings for people with 
physical disabilities, but implementation has been slow.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers have the right to associate freely and to strike, and 
the Government respects this.  Only noncivilian personnel of 
the armed forces and police are prohibited from striking.  
There are 24 registered trade unions, representing about 50 
percent of the work force.

Although all unions are independent of political parties, the 
largest, the General Workers' Union, is generally regarded as 
having close informal ties with one party.  There is no 
prohibition on unions affiliating internationally.

Under the Industrial Relations Act of 1976, the responsible 
minister may refer labor disputes either to the Industrial 
Tribunal (a government-appointed body consisting of 
representatives of government, employers, and employee groups) 
or to binding arbitration.  The International Labor 
Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts objects to a provision 
of the Act that permits compulsory arbitration to be held at 
the request of only one of the parties, but neither unions nor 
employers appear to object to this provision.  In practice, a 
striking union can ignore an unfavorable decision of the 
Tribunal by continuing the strike on other grounds.  No 
disputes were referred to the Tribunal in 1994.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers are free, in law and practice, to organize and bargain 
collectively.  Unions and employers meet annually with 
government representatives to work out a comprehensive 
agreement regulating industrial relations and income policy.

Under the Industrial Relations Act, an employer may not take 
action against any employee for participation or membership in 
a trade union.  Complaints may be pursued through a court of 
law, through a tripartite (union-employers-government) 
tribunal, or through the Commission Against Injustices (a 
government-appointed body composed of representatives of the 
Government and the opposition); but most disputes are resolved 
directly between the parties.  Workers fired solely for union 
activities must be reinstated.

Malta has no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution bans forced labor, and it does not occur.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law prohibits employment of children younger than age 16.  
This is generally respected, but there is some employment of 
underage children during summer months, especially as 
domestics, restaurant kitchen help, or vendors.  The Department 
of Labor enforces the law effectively, but is lenient in cases 
of summer employment of underage youth in businesses run by 
their families.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The legal minimum wage, $103 (40.33 Malta liri) per week, 
affords a decent standard of living for a worker and family 
with the addition of government subsidies for housing, health 
care, and education.  Wage Councils, composed of 
representatives of government, business and unions, regulate 
workhours; for most sectors the standard is 40 hours per week, 
but in some trades it is 43 or 45 hours per week.

Government regulations prescribe daily rest periods of 1 hour.  
The law mandates an annual paid vacation of 22 work days.  The 
Department of Labor effectively enforces these requirements.

After several years of debate, and amid reports of an 
increasing number of industrial accidents, Parliament passed 
the Occupational Health and Safety (Promotion) Act in February 
1994.  The Act calls for the establishment of an agency to take 
over enforcement responsibility from the Department of Labor, 
which has been lax regarding these matters.  A date for 
implementation has yet to be set.


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[end of document]

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