Government sets up an independent inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia

Following months of relentless pressure, PM Muscat has set up an inquiring committee into the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Garuana Galizia.

Daphne Caruana Galizia

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat appointed Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia to preside over a Public Independent Inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and to finalise the report in nine months time. The terms of reference for this Inquiry, called following relentless international pressure on the government since the murder of the investigative journalist, include an examination of the extent, if any, of wrongful action in the prevention of the assassination.

The Terms of Reference

1. to determine whether any wrongful action or omission by or within any State entity facilitated the death or failed to prevent it and in particular whether any State entity knew or ought to have known of a real and immediate risk to Ms. Daphne Caruana Galizia’s life at the time from the criminal acts of a third party and failed to take measures within the scope of its powers which, judged reasonably, it might have been expected to take in order to avoid that risk;

2. to establish whether the State had and has in place effective criminal law provisions and other practical means to avoid the development of a de facto state of impunity through the frequent occurrence of unresolved criminal acts and to deter the commission of serious criminal offences, backed up by law enforcement machinery for the prevention, suppression, investigation and punishment of serious breaches of the law;

3. to determine whether the State has fulfilled and is fulfilling its positive obligation to take preventive operational measures to protect individuals whose lives are at risk from criminal acts in particular in the case of journalists;

4. to conduct the inquiry in such a way as not to impede or compromise any criminal investigation or prosecution or its integrity;

5. The Inquiry shall be held in public but the Board of Inquiry may, where it considers it necessary, conduct particular hearings in camera in such a way as to protect the confidentiality of investigations and of information received in confidence both when the confidentiality of those investigations or information is protected by law and when the Board of Inquiry considers that in camera hearings are otherwise justified;

6. The Board of Inquiry shall have access to all information held by State entities and it shall act in accordance with the Inquiries Act and shall, subject to these terms of reference, regulate its own procedure on all matters including the question of access by the family of the deceased and by the public to the proceedings and acts of the inquiry.

7. The Board of Inquiry shall endeavour to conclude its work within a time frame of nine months without prejudice to the proper fulfilment of these terms of reference.

The Inquirers

Apart from Mr Justice Michael Mallia, the Commission will be also composed of former Dean of the Faculty of Law and constitutional expert Professor Ian Refalo and forensic expert Dr Anthony Abela Medici.

In a statement, Government said that this decision precisely reflects it’s ‘consistent position’ that there exists no difficulty in establishing a public inquiry once it is assured that such inquiry does not undermine investigations and/or criminal proceedings which are pending in this case. “One must point out that, within 50 days of the murder, three persons were arraigned in Court accused of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and have now been placed under a bill of indictment” observed the government statement, issued minutes before the PN Leader and leader of the Opposition was due to speak in a Mass meeting on the eve of Independence day. .

In light of a resolution approved by the House of Representatives in 2018 Government said it engaged in technical discussions with officials of the Council of Europe to avoid that the public inquiry endangers the integrity of investigations and/or criminal proceedings which are already underway in this case.

“Government had, and still has, serious reservations on the methodology used and the conclusions listed in the Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Yet, Government has full respect towards the Council of Europe, and the work carried out over the past weeks is a testament to the reciprocal respect between Malta and this important institution” concluded the statement.

The Prime Minister has requested that the Public Inquiry is to be concluded within nine months and published as directed by the same Commission.

The Commission will regulate its own procedure.