The Malta Independent 14 November 2018, Wednesday

The Maltese constitutional and human rights law

Noel Grima Tuesday, 7 August 2018, 11:12 Last update: about 4 months ago

This is the second volume in the series The Maltese Legal System and is as welcome as the first volume.

Professor Attard has taken upon himself the task of writing the first textbook on Maltese constitutional and human rights law. Nobody had ever attempted to study in a systematic way the extent and the workings of our Constitution. This is now the handbook, plus a commentary and a thesaurus of Maltese constitutional law.

The first human rights law dates back to the Blood Commission in 1961. At that time, human rights did not have the fundamental importance they now have. Human rights consciousness was practically missing at all levels of power, from the political to the juridical levels.

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Then followed the inputs due to the British influence behind the Independence Constitution and following that the approach to human rights as followed by EU legislation and that of the Council of Europe.

Together with the first volume, this is a brave attempt at introducing a general reader to the intricacies of the Maltese legal system with its chequered past which is at a par with Malta's convoluted history.

This book forms part of Volume II entitled 'Constitutional and Human Rights Law' and covers Maltese constitutional law and human rights law. A subsequent volume, Volume II Part B, was to provide a comprehensive analysis of the human rights and fundamental freedoms jurisprudence of Maltese courts and the European Court of Human Rights with regards to Malta.

Having described the nature and definition of a constitution, the author discusses the issue of the supremacy of Parliament as against the doctrine of the supremacy of the Constitution. He refers to the polemic between Judge Giovanni Bonello and Chief Justice Emeritus Giuseppe Mifsud Bonnici in June-July 2012.

On the one hand, Judge Bonello argued that in fact Parliament has the final say as to whether laws declared as void by the Constitutional Court shall remain binding. Professor Mifsud Bonnici argued that the Constitution does not authorize the Constitutional Court to declare any law invalid.

This fundamental disagreement shows how far are we from any understanding of what needs to be done to upgrade and renovate the fundamental law of the State of Malta, 53 years after the attainment of Independence.

Over the past years, especially under Presidents George Abela and Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, attempts have been made to share ideas about the upgrading required in the Constitution but the method chosen so far seems to have been more towards the piece-meal sporadic changes when the need arises than a holistic renovation that tackles the question from the root upwards.

People and successive governments talk about a new Constitution but that's all we have so far - talk, talk and more talk.

The appendices of the book are, maybe, as important than the book itself. They include a copy of the Constitution, with some specimen examination papers on the subject; what I consider as the most interesting in the book, a Manual of the President of the Republic, written by former President Ugo Mifsud Bonnici hopefully to help successive presidents in their term of office; and various rulings by Speaker Anglu Farrugia referring to the past legislature.

The book with its various references to case law, has received the help of Professor Kevin Aquilina and the Head of the International Law Department Patricia Mallia.

 

 

David Joseph Attard

The Maltese legal system Volume II

Constitutional and Human Rights Law Part A

Malta University Press

2015

405pp


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