Former minister Joe Brincat asks to be made defendant in IVF constitutional case

Former Labour justice minister Joe Brincat, who is opposed to the case filed by pro-life lawyer Tonio Azzopardi to strike down the law, is asking the court to admit him as a defendant  

Former Labour Justice Minister Joe Brincat
Former Labour Justice Minister Joe Brincat

Lawyer and former minister Joseph Brincat has stepped into the fray surrounding the Embryo Protection (Amendment) Act, 2018, asking to be admitted as a defendant in Constitutional proceedings aimed at blocking it from becoming law.

Earlier this week, pro-life lawyer Tonio Azzopardi filed Constitutional proceedings asking the court to declare that changes to the Embryo Protection Act violated the embryo's right to life. In a constitutional application filed against the Attorney General, Azzopardi argued that life is protected from conception in the Maltese legal system, punishing those who endanger life with prison.

But in a court application Brincat filed this morning in his own name, he asked the Constitutional Court to admit him into the case filed by lawyer Tonio Azzopardi against the Attorney General – as a defendant.        

Removal of the IVF law would constitute a breach of the right to family life under the Human Rights Convention for those couples who wish to undergo IVF procedures Joe Brincat

“Lawyer Tonio Azzopardi saw fit to file a case [to impugn the changes to the Embryo Protection Act]…to defend certain principles,” Brincat’s application reads. “The undersigned has as much right as he has to defend the validity of the same law in that same case.”

If the law were to be declared in violation of the Constitution or the European Convention on Human Rights, it would also breach the right to family life, Brincat said. "The removal of the IVF law would constitute a breach of the right to family life under the Human Rights Convention for those couples who wish to undergo IVF procedures."

If they are going to be deprived of this right, the State would be failing in its obligation under the Convention, Brincat argued. 

Furthermore, as the procedure was up till now more practical in other EU countries against the payment of vast sums of money, there would be a violation of article 14 of the Convention due to discrimination on the basis of financial status, he said.

Brincat said he also had a right to defend article 116 of the Constitution which states that where a complaint on fundamental human rights is made, the complainant must show direct and personal interest and not simply a hypothetical one or an “actio popularis” in the name of a group of people who likewise aren’t victims of some provision of the same law.

Recent ECHR judgments had also established that the wishes of parents are protected by Article 8 of the Convention which sets out the right to private and family life, claimed the lawyer.

“And in order to invoke the Convention. One must have a personal interest, in the sense that the measure affects him and not in a philosophical sense, but factually.”

For these reasons, Brincat asked to be introduced as a party into the case (“in statu et terminis”) in the case in order to make the necessary observations and arguments.

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