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Human rights complaints put Malta’s detention facilities in spotlight

Detention facilities in Malta will again fall under the spotlight today when three complaints are decided by the European Court of Human Rights.

Aden Ahmed v. Malta (no. 55352/12)

The case concerns in particular immigration detention conditions. The applicant, Aslya Aden Ahmed, is a Somali national who was born in 1987 and entered Malta irregularly, by boat, in February 2009.

Upon arrival she was immediately served with a deportation order by the immigration authorities and placed in detention pending her removal. In May 2009 she escaped and travelled to the Netherlands where she claimed asylum.

She was returned to Malta in February 2011 under the Dublin II Regulation and was charged with escaping from public custody and giving false information. She was found guilty and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. When she had served this sentence, she was again detained for immigration purposes.

Relying on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Ms Ahmed essentially complains about the conditions of her detention for more than 14 months from June 2011 when she was released from prison and placed in Lyster Barracks Detention Centre, Hal Far (Malta), to August 2012, the date of the lodging of her application to the European Court of Human Rights.

Ahmed complains in particular of populated dormitories, an inadequate diet, lack of female staff to deal with women detainees and lack of access to the recreation yard and fresh air. She alleges in particular that these detention conditions caused her to suffer from insomnia and depression, exacerbated by being separated from her son who had remained with her parents when she left Somalia and by a miscarriage suffered while in detention.

She also alleges that her detention was unlawful and there was no effective remedy to challenge the lawfulness of that detention, in breach of Article 5 §§ 1, 2 and 4 (right to liberty and security).

Mikalauskas v. Malta (no. 4458/10)

The applicant, Tomas Mikalauskas, is a Lithuanian national who was born in 1981 and was detained in Malta on drug charges in September 2009. He was then repeatedly remanded in custody over a period of ten months, after which he was granted bail subject to high financial guarantees. As he was unable to pay, he remained in pre-trial detention for another 12 months. He was eventually released from detention in July 2011 when the guarantees were reduced. He currently lives in Qawra, Malta, while the criminal proceedings are still pending against him.

Relying on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Mikalauskas alleges that the conditions of his detention were inhuman and degrading given the health problems (recurring headaches)
he suffers from, and that the medical care provided to him in detention was inadequate.

He also complains under Article 5 §§ 3 and 4 (right to liberty and security) about the excessive length of his detention on remand and his inability to effectively contest the lawfulness of his detention on account of the repeated refusals to grant him bail and the high financial guarantees once bail was eventually granted.

Suso Musa v. Malta (no. 42337/12)

The applicant, Ibrahim Suso Musa, allegedly a Sierra Leone national, entered Malta in an irregular manner by boat in April 2011. Upon arrival, he was arrested by the police anddetained. His asylum application was rejected in a decision upheld in April 2012 and he remained in detention with a view to his removal until March 2013.

Relying on Article 5 §§ 1, 2 and 4 (right to liberty and security), Suso Musa complains in particular that his detention was unlawful, that on arrival he was not provided with information regarding the specific reasons for his detention and – having unsuccessfully brought lengthy proceedings to challenge its lawfulness – that he did not have an effective means to have the lawfulness of his detention reviewed.

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