I filed a judicial protest in court today against minister Byron Camilleri and three of his officials: the prisons director, the director for detention centres and the principal immigration officer.
I claimed that their rejection of my request to visit detention centres and the prison is an abuse of human rights. Of course, we’re not talking about idle curiosity here. We don’t all have a ‘right’ to stroll into the prisons. As a journalist I have the duty to scrutinise all activities of government especially those activities that involve the handling of human beings society trusts the government to take care of on its behalf.
There’s a further reason. There are allegations emerging from our detention facilities of degrading and inhuman treatment. Of the use of torture and disproportionate intimidation. Of institutionalised failures amounting to the basic rights of every human being including prisoners and detainees.
A few days ago I wrote about my repeated requests to the government to be allowed to do my job. Journalistic scrutiny of prisons and detention facilities is just what is expected in a democratic country. Clearly, a prison is a disciplined environment where liberties are restricted by order of the law. But the restrictions of freedoms are defined by the law and by the sentences handed down by the courts. Any excess beyond the definitions of the law amounts to abuse and no one, no matter what they have done, should be subjected to abuse.
It becomes worrying when the alleged perpetrator of that abuse is the state. There are active abusers and passive abusers. The minister is not likely to have beaten up anyone or even ordered for someone to be beaten.
But how has the state ensured that the directors who supervise detention facilities are properly qualified and trained to do that delicate job? What have they done about any complaints they may have received?
Today’s judicial protest may need to be followed by further legal action unless the government agrees to reverse its refusal for my request to be given access to these facilities.
Lawyer Paul Borg Olivier is representing me in this case.