The Human Rights Law Practice of ISOLAS LLP is headed by the Hon Neil F Costa who joined the firm as a Partner in October 2019. Prior to joining ISOLAS LLP, Neil served for eight years in Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar as Minister for Tourism, Commercial Affairs, Public Transport, and the Port, subsequently as Minister for Business and Employment and, finally, as Minister for Health, Care and Justice.
During his tenure as Minister for Health, Care, and Justice Neil led on significant legislative reforms relating to human rights and civil liberties, including:
- Introducing the Lasting Powers of Attorney and Capacity Act 2018; an important piece of legislation regarding decision-making for those who lack capacity to make decisions on matters relating to their health, care and treatment.
- Introducing amendments to Gibraltar’s Proceeds of Crime Act, which expanded the definition of unlawful conduct to include conduct by public officials outside Gibraltar that constitute human rights abuses against a person.
- Finalising the Legal Services Act 2017, which represented the first regulatory overhaul of Gibraltar’s legal profession in over 50 years.
- Enacting one of the most significant reforms in access to justice by increasing the pool of persons eligible to enjoy free legal advice and representation in certain civil cases and by introducing the duty legal representative scheme guaranteeing, for the first time, free legal representation 24 hours a day, every day for arrested persons.
The Gibraltar Constitution Order 2006
Unlike the United Kingdom, Gibraltar has its own written constitution. The Gibraltar Constitution Order 2006 (the ‘Constitution’) was implemented following a referendum by the people of Gibraltar held on 30 November 2006. Many of the fundamental rights and freedoms in the Constitution are materially similar to the fundamental rights, freedoms and protections that are contained within the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (the ‘ECHR’). Some of these include, for example: the protection of right to life; the protection from inhuman treatment; the protection of right to personal liberty; the protection for privacy of home and other property; and the protection of freedom of expression. The Constitution also contains the powers of the Legislature, the Executive and His Excellency the Governor.
By a declaration dated 23 October 1953 (the ‘Declaration’), the United Kingdom extended the ECHR to Gibraltar. The ECHR has not been directly transposed into Gibraltar law; however, in the case of Thauerer and Matichek v Attorney-General for Gibraltar  Civil Appeal 9 of 2000, the Court of Appeal said the following:
‘[A]lthough the Human Rights Convention is not part of the law of Gibraltar, it may have some influence. When the United Kingdom subscribed to the Convention in the early 1950s, it did so on its own behalf and also on behalf of dependencies, including Gibraltar. We were told that if Gibraltar does not observe the Convention, the United Kingdom is in breach of its international obligations, and liable to be brought before the European Court of Human Rights.’
It is important to note that the legal position has evolved since Thauerer to the extent that section 18(a)(i) of the Constitution provides that a Gibraltar court or tribunal determining a question which has arisen in connection with one of the fundamental rights and freedoms set out in the Constitution, or their limitations, must take into account any judgments, decisions, declarations or advisory opinions of the European Court of Human Rights (the ‘ECtHR’).
Further, the Declaration provides for the recognition of the right of individual petition before the ECtHR.
In addition, various human rights and civil liberties are also protected in other Gibraltar legislation. For instance, the Equal Opportunities Act 2006 protects against, amongst other matters, the discriminatory treatment between men and women in respect of employment, vocational training, promotion and working conditions. Similarly, the Employment (Bullying at Work) Act 2014 serves to confer a right on employees not to be subjected to bullying and/or victimization in the workplace.
Our lawyers have experience in advising a variety of clients on a wide range of legal issues relating to human rights and other fundamental freedoms.
As we have already noted, human rights permeate different areas of law. The human rights team at ISOLAS LLP ensure that whoever our client, they receive practical, timely, and effective legal advice that addresses their concerns. We make it a priority to understand clients’ instructions and tailor our advice in accordance with the intricacies of each case.
If you are concerned about a possible infringement of your human rights, then we encourage you to seek legal advice swiftly. Often, claims involving breaches of human rights, especially in cases involving judicial review, are time-sensitive and may become barred very quickly.
Infringements of your human rights can take on many forms, and you are likely to require a legal team that understands the nuances of human rights law as it applies within different areas of the law, such as employment law. For instance, your fundamental right to privacy may have been breached by your employer unlawfully monitoring your correspondence at work. In a different scenario, a business next to where you live may be breaching your right to family and private life if your health is being harmed by the pollution that they are emitting.
If you are uncertain as to whether there may have been an infringement of your human rights, it is sensible to err on the side of caution by contacting a member of our dedicated team. Our professional and diverse human rights team will ensure that you are properly advised and that your best interests are always kept at the forefront of everything we do.