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Title:  Malta Human Rights Practices, 1995   
Author:  U.S. Department of State    
Date:  March 1996    
 
 
 

                                MALTA 
 
 
Malta is a constitutional republic and parliamentary democracy.  The 
Head of State (President) appoints as the 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, and it provides 
residents a moderate to high standard of living. 
 
The Government is strongly committed to human rights.  An independent 
judiciary upholds the Constitution's protections for individual rights 
and freedoms.  Cultural and religious patterns reinforce the homogeneity 
of society.  Societal discrimination against women persists, and 
domestic violence is a problem. 
 
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 other extrajudicial killings. 
 
On October 26, Fathi Shiqaqi, a leader of the Palestinian group, Islamic 
Jihad, was shot and killed in Sliema. 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
The Constitution prohibits inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment.  
There were no reports that officials employ them. 
 
Prison conditions meet minimal international standards, and the 
Government permits visits by human rights monitors. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The Constitution and law provide for freedom from arbitrary arrest, 
detention, or exile, and the Government observes this prohibition.  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. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The judiciary is independent of the executive and legislative branches.  
The Chief Justice and nine judges are appointed by the President on the 
advice of the Prime Minister.  There is a civil court, a commercial 
court, and a criminal court.  In the latter, the presiding judge sits 
with a jury of nine .  The Court of Appeal hears appeals from decisions 
of the civil and commercial courts.  The Court of Criminal Appeal hears 
appeals from judgments of conviction by the criminal court.  The highest 
court, the Constitutional Court, hears appeals in cases involving 
violations of human rights, interpretation of the Constitution, and 
invalidity of laws.  It also has jurisdiction in cases concerning 
disputed parliamentary elections and electoral corrupt practices.  There 
are also inferior courts presided over by a magistrate. 
 
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, present 
evidence, and have the right of appeal. 
 
There were no reports of 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.  Police 
officers with the rank of inspector and above may issue search warrants 
based on perceived reasonable grounds for suspicion of wrongdoing. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the 
Government respects these rights in practice.  However, the 1987 Foreign 
Interference Act bans foreign participation in local politics during the 
period leading up to elections.  An independent press, an effective 
judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combine to 
ensure freedom of speech and of the press, including academic freedom.  
One biweekly, three daily, and seven weekly newspapers freely express 
diverse views.  Two government-owned television stations, an opposition 
party television station, a commercial cable network, and eight private 
radio stations also function freely. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Constitution provides for the right of peaceful assembly, and the 
Government respects this right in practice. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
respects this right in practice.  The state- supported religion is Roman 
Catholicism.  The Government grants subsidies only to Roman Catholic 
schools.  Students in government schools may opt to decline instruction 
in Roman Catholicism. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The Government does not restrict arbitrarily 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 
1,000 persons, pending their relocation abroad, and cooperates with the 
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.  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. 
 
Women are underrepresented in government and politics. 
 
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 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 sex.  The 
Government respects this prohibition. 
 
   Women 
 
There is no widespread pattern of family violence against women, but 
continuing reports of such incidents have made plain that the problem 
exists.  A special police unit and several voluntary organizations 
provide support to victims of domestic violence.  For women who are 
threatened or physically abused, the Government also maintains an 
emergency fund and subsidizes a shelter. 
 
Prostitution is a serious offense under Maltese law, and heavy penalties 
are reserved for organizers.  Rape and violent indecent assault carry 
sentences of up to 10 years.  The law treats spousal rape the same as 
any other rape.  Divorce and abortion are not legal. 
 
The Constitution provides that all citizens have access, on a 
nondiscriminatory basis, to housing, employment, and education.  While 
women constitute a growing portion of the work force, they are 
underrepresented in management.  Cultural and traditional employment 
patterns often direct them either into traditional "women's jobs" (such 
as sales clerk, secretary, bank teller, teacher, or nurse) or into more 
rewarding jobs in family owned businesses or select professions (i.e. 
academia or medicine).  Therefore, women generally earn less than their 
male counterparts, and many leave employment upon marriage.  The 
Government's Department of Equal Status of Women and women's rights 
groups actively address women's issues.  Legislation enacted in 1993 
granted women equality in matters of family law, and a 1991 
constitutional amendment committed the Government to promoting equal 
rights for all persons regardless of sex.  Redress in the courts for 
sexual discrimination is available. 
 
   Children 
 
The Government has expressed concern for children's rights and welfare 
but addresses those concerns within the context of family law.  Although 
sensitive to children's rights, Parliament has failed to pass specific 
legislation to protect children's rights.  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. 
 
   People 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.  Overall 
government and private sector efforts to advance the status of disabled 
persons have been uneven. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
Workers have the right to associate freely and to strike, and the 
Government respects these rights in practice.  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 the Labor 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 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 1995. 
 
   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-employer-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. 
 
There are 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 youths in businesses 
run by their families. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
The legal minimum wage, $117 (40.38 Malta liri) per week, provides a 
decent standard of living for a worker and family with the addition of 
government subsidies for housing, health care, and free 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 a daily rest period, which is normally 
1 hour.  The law mandates an annual paid vacation of 4 workweeks plus 4 
workdays.  The Department of Labor effectively enforces these 
requirements. 
 
Enforcement of the 1994 Occupational Health and Safety (Promotion) Act 
is uneven, and industrial accidents remain frequent. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

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