Thu 22 October 2020

Concerns have been raised about the independence and impartiality of those tasked with conducting the inquiry into the investigative reporter’s murder in Malta in 2017.

The Maltese Government has announced a public inquiry into the murder of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The investigative reporter, who reported on corruption at the highest levels in Malta, was killed in a car bomb in October 2017.

However, following the announcement, Andrew Caruana Galizia, the son of the late journalist, said his “hope was lost”.

“[There are] serious problems with regard to the members of the board of the inquiry announced as one represents clients my mother investigated for money laundering,” he said. “Another depends on the Prime Minister for his livelihood. These clear conflicts will poison the inquiry’s work.”

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The family of Caruana Galizia was not consulted before the inquiry was announced – a legal requirement – and said that those appointed to conduct the inquiry would be unfit for purpose if the public had reason to doubt their impartiality or independence. 

Retired Judge, Emeritus Michael Mallia,will be in charge of the inquiry and was also involved in the criminal investigation into Caruana Galizia’s assassination. This is ironic given that the Maltese Government’s official reason for the delay of a public inquiry into the death was in order “not to prejudice ongoing criminal investigations” and “prevent cross-contamination.” 

Dr  Anthony Medici, appointed to the board, relies on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for his employment as he serves as Commissioner for the Voluntary Sector, a state position which the Prime Minister can withdraw at any time. Ian Refalo works as a lawyer for Adrian Hillman, a man who Caruana Galizia alleged had a corrupt relationship with Keith Schembri, current Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister. He also represents the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) in Malta, which the late journalist had reported on extensively. Another client of Refalo is Technoline, which Caruana Galizia reported on when it was alleged to have benefited financially from the privatisation deal of state hospitals in Malta, which also allegedly involved Keith Schembri. 

Caruana Galizia’s other son, Matthew Caruana Galizia, added: “The inquiry is about finding out whether my mother’s murder could have been prevented. But it is also a way of breaking the system of corruption that has existed for many years in Malta. It is really more a truth and justice commission. And members of this inquiry cannot be a part of the same corrupt system that the inquiry is supposed to be breaking.”

The Caruana Galizia family has now secured a meeting with the Maltese Prime Minister to discuss their concerns.

Pieter Omtzigt, Special Rapporteur on the assassination of Caruana Galizia, welcomed the inquiry and stressed that it should be “fully independent and its members impartiality beyond question”.

Harlem Desir, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe  representative on freedom of the media, said he would continue to monitor the judicial process of the inquiry. “There can be no impunity for crimes committed against journalists… and there can be no justice unless this inquiry process is fully independent, comprehensive and impartial,” he said.

Meanwhile, legal cases against the murdered journalist continue to be brought weekly in Malta. Corinne Vella, her sister, confirmed to Byline Times that, between April and August this year, 39 court hearings were scheduled in Malta for civil defamation against Daphne Caruana Galizia and her son Matthew.

No date is set for the inquiry, but it is expected to last nine months and hear some evidence in private.

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