Court turns down human rights breach claim by inmate serving 12-year jail term
A Constitutional court has turned down a human rights claim filed by Joseph Feilazoo, a Nigerian man currently serving a 12-year sentence for drug trafficking.
Joseph Feilazoo arrived in Malta on 27 August, 2008 on a flight from Spain. He was caught carrying 25.04 grams of heroin, 912 grams of cocaine and 25.04 grams of cannabis leaves, in 65 capsules, which were found in his stomach and rectum.
The accused was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and fined €50,000, and was also to pay €1,269 in court fees. 24 months were later added to his sentence after he failed to pay the fine or the costs.
Mr Feilazoo filed this Constitutional case before the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction, arguing that his right to a fair trial had been breached. He said that he was not assisted by a lawyer during interrogation.
He also said his rights were breached due to the manner in which the Attorney General had exercised his discretion on whether to indict him or remit his case to the Court of Magistrates for trial. He also argued that the fines imposed on him were excessive and that he was unable to pay them.
Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti disagreed with the applicant’s allegations, stating that for a judgement to be deemed inhumane, humiliation or suffering must go beyond what is connected with a legitimate form of punishment.
The court found that his right for legal assistance during interrogation was breached, but the court found this breach to be merely formal and that it had no effect on the righteousness of the justice process.
The court noted that the applicant failed to raise the validity of his statement at any stage, and only brought it up after judgement was given.
As for the AG’s discretion, the court noted that there was little doubt he would have escaped appearing before the courts.
The court found that the fines were inevitable as a result of his criminal acts.
His application was dismissed.