In Memory of Bernice Cassar
The fundamental right to life is one of the most important human rights that we, as citizens and residents of a European country, should enjoy. In our everyday life, in its good and bad, we exercise this fundamental right to life by enjoying our freedoms and accessing resources that make it possible for us to live our lives. The state and its institutions are responsible in ensuring these fundamental human rights, also by protecting us from violence and from the arbitrary abuse of our rights by other people. Time and time again, states have failed. In this case, the state of Malta has failed not only this family, but all of us too.
The state is obliged according to law to not only ‘respect’ our human rights, but also to PROTECT us from anyone who tries to abuse or violate our human rights. This obligation of the state to protect has been established in various judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. One landmark judgment (amongst many) that feels close to home is Opuz v Turkey (2009) relating to the state’s failure to protect in the face of persistent domestic abuse that also lead to murder.
The European Court of Human Rights not only found the state responsible for its failure to protect, but it also found that discriminatory judicial passivity leads to an atmosphere where violence against women is tolerated, amounting to gender based violations and discrimination against women. The judgment emphasised that “authorities knew, or ought to have known at the time, of the existence of a real and immediate risk of the identified individual from the criminal acts of a third party and that they failed to take measures within the scope of their powers which, to judge reasonably, might have been expected to avoid that risk.”
The state and its institutions are obliged by law to ensure that our right to life is not only respected by THEM, but also protected from, and respected by, other people in society who can abuse of us, violate our rights, and take our lives.
The state is also obliged to ensure the FULFILLMENT of human rights in society. This means that an environment of social awareness needs to be created in order for us as a Maltese society to move forward and become better people. In her statement, President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca held that ‘Hemm bzonn training intensiv lil Membri tal-Korp tal-Pulizija. Hemm bzonn edukazzjoni mic-cokon u mill-iskejjel taghna. Hemm bzonn aktar rizorsi. Hemm bzonn strategija u pjan ta’ azzjoni bis-serjeta’. Ma’ nistghux nkunu komdi kif ahna!’
Education on all levels is extremely important as we are in dire need of nurturing a society that understands what human rights freedoms and obligations are, where they start and end, and ultimately- what we all should do to develop into a community that enjoys peace, equality and ultimately respects fundamental human rights.
Throughout the course of half a century, Malta has ratified the United Nations’ Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the European Convention on Human Rights; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; amongst other legal instruments that bind our country to do better.
With 2023 looming ahead of us, we HAVE to do better.