MALTA: National Laws

Summary: General overview of Malta's national legal provisions on children's rights, including guidance on how to conduct further research.

National laws on children's rights

Status of the CRC in national law

Article 65(1) permits Parliament to make laws “in conformity with full respect for human rights, generally accepted principles of international law and Malta's international and regional obligations”, but international treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of Child, must be incorporated into national law to be applied as domestic law. The Convention has not been incorporated and it is not clear to what effect the Convention on the Rights of the Child can be used within national courts.

Constitution: Chapter IV of the Maltese Constitution includes a number of rights provisions that apply regardless of age, but only a small number of provisions that specifically address the rights of children can be found throughout the Constitution:

  • Article 2(3): requires the teaching of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Faith in all State schools as part of compulsory education
  • Article 10: provides for free and compulsory primary education in State schools
  • Article 11: requires the State to provide scholarships and to make other provisions on the basis of competitive examinations
  • Article 34(1)(g): includes deprivation of liberty for the purposes of education and welfare of a person under 18 years as among the permitted grounds of deprivation of liberty
  • Article 35(2): excludes from the the definition of “forced labour” work reasonably required for the purpose of education or welfare
  • Article 39(4)(c)(ii): permits the exclusion of persons, other than the parties to a legal dispute and their legal representatives, where to do so is in the interests of the welfare of persons under the age of eighteen years
  • Article 44: contains provisions on the citizenship rights of children
  • Article 113 and 114: contain provisions related to pension benefits payable to children

Legislation: there is no consolidated or comprehensive Children's Code in Maltese law, rather legislation relevant to children can be found in a number of Codes, Acts and Regulations. Legislation of particular relevance to children includes, but is by no means limited to:

  • The Criminal Code
  • The Civil Code
  • The Commissioner for Children Act 2003 (Ch. 462 of the Laws of Malta)
  • The Immigration Act (Ch. 217 of the Laws of Malta)
  • Child Abduction and Custody Act 2000 (CH. 410 of the Laws of Malta)
  • The Refugees Act of 2001 (Ch. 420 of the Laws of Malta)
  • Equal Opportunities (Persons with Disability) Act 200 (Ch. 413 of the Laws of Malta)
  • The Children and Young Persons (Care Orders) Regulations (Legal Notice 49 of 1985)
  • The Young Persons (Employment) Regulations (Legal Notice 440) of 2003
  • The Processing of Personal Data (Protection of Minors) Regulations (Legal Notice 125 of 2004)
  • The Broadcasting Code for the Protection of Minors (Legal Notice 160 of 2000)
  • The Overseas Adoption (Definition) Order 2004 (Legal Notice 398 of 2004)

Legal Research
The Justice Services website of the Government of Malta ( publishes national legislation online in English and Maltese, including the Constitution ( The website of the Parliament of Malta also provides legal information, including texts of Acts and Bills, in English and Maltese ( The World Legal Information Institute ( and the U.S. Law Library of Congress ( both provide a selection of links to legal and governmental resources.

Case Law
CRC Jurisprudence
Please contact CRIN if you are aware of any cases in national courts which reference the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Case Law Research
The Justice Services website provides a searchable database of domestic case law, predominantly in Maltese, though in English where proceedings were conducted in English (

Compliance with the CRC
In its Concluding Observations of 2013, the Committee on the Rights of the Child welcomed the adoption of the Commissioner for Children Act of 2003, but expressed concern that the State had not undertaken a comprehensive review of national laws to ensure compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee also urged the State “[to] consider enacting a comprehensive Child Rights Act at the national level, which fully incorporates the principles and provisions of the Convention and its Optional Protocol.”

In depth analysis
The Committee's 2013 Concluding Observations raised particular concern over Maltese laws on asylum-seeking and refugee children, noting the practice of detaining children without time limits pending age determination; that inaccurate age determination methods were used; that children were not provided with guidance about the immigration determination procedure; that there were no systematic or regular judicial review procedures and available procedures were frequently inaccessible and ineffective; that children were detained with adults in mixed sex facilities and that there were reports of violence and excessive force used to quell peaceful demonstrations in the facilities. The Committee recommended wide ranging reforms to the immigration system in response to these concerns, including that the state “refrain from criminalising children in irregular migration situations” and adopt legislation to subject custodial accommodation to clear limits and reviews.

Juvenile justice was also an area of Maltese law that led the Committee to express concern. Specifically, the Committee raised concerns over the low age of criminal responsibility in the State (9 years), that children aged between 16 and 18 could be tried as adults, that provisions allowed for children to be tried alongside adults as part of the laws on co-accused minors and that there were inadequate alternatives to deprivation of liberty. The Committee urged the State to address these concerns, including through legislation, to bring the juvenile justice system into conformity with the Convention.

Perhaps the most basic aspect of domestic law in conflict with the Convention was with regards to the definition of children which in many respects, particularly with regards to welfare and support services, only covered children up to the age of 16. The Committee also expressed concern that the minimum age for marriage was set at 16 and urged the State to harmonise its definition of children at 18 across all areas of domestic law.

Current legal reform projects
Please contact CRIN if you are aware of any current legal reform projects.


Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.