This second volume in the series The Maltese Legal System is as welcome as the first. It deals with constitutional and human rights law. The latter I see as the uber-supreme law of the land, morally weightier in the hierarchy of values than the Constitution itself.
Judge Professor David Attard has taken upon himself the truly mammoth task of authoring the very first textbook of Maltese constitutional and human rights law. The systematic study of the extent and the workings of the Constitution, the well-spring of democratic life, had never been attempted before. Malta now has a handbook, a commentary and a thesaurus of constitutional law, written with authority, conciseness and clarity. Judge Attard occasionally puts side by side the more contentious interpretations of certain basic constitutional tenets.
The concept of human rights enforceable against the state dates back to the 1961 ‘Blood’ Constitution. By now the public, the legal profession and the judiciary have received as much exposure to this ultimate aspiration of mankind as can be desired. It was not always so, but thankfully the stage when human rights consciousness, not to say sensitivity, was direly missing in all levels of governance, from the political to the judicial, now rests in the skip of history. The opposite phenomenon faces us today: from the extreme when too little was human rights, to the other when too much is human rights. From the eviction of human rights, to their banalization.
Of course, one basic dogma of human rights is that they are universal, but this volume shows how the Maltese system has faced up to the challenge of understanding, evolving and interpreting them on the domestic level. Like other democracies, Malta followed its own national road to the universal human rights highway, with some of its glories and most of its pitfalls. No person, no student, no lawyer, no judge who really wants state-of-the-art information about constitutional and human rights law, how they work in theory and how they translate in practice, can do without this book. There is nothing to match it.
Dr Giovanni Bonello LL.D. is a former Judge of the European Court of Human Rights