Govt publishes letter sent to Venice Commission; Opposition and Repubblika react

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Minister for Justice, Equality, and Governance Edward Zammit Lewis sent an undated letter to the European Commission for Democracy through Law of the Council of Europe, better known as the Venice Commission, which includes the government’s proposals for judicial and institutional reforms.

The letter incorporates legal concepts about extensive, historic, and unprecedented reforms which the government plans on implementing, particularly in the judicial sector.

This letter is a result of ongoing discussions with the same Venice Commission in the past weeks, said the Ministry for Justice in a statement.

“In just a few weeks, even though hampered with the Covid-19 pandemic, the government still managed to push forward with these legislative proposals for the reforms, based on the 2018 Opinion of the Venice Commission,” said Minister Zammit Lewis.

The Justice Minister also said that Maltese government has made sure that, whilst it puts forward proposals in conformity with the 2018 Opinion of the Venice Commission, it does not abandon the Maltese legal traditions, and further strengthens the existing systems.

According to the letter published, these proposals will be a set of reforms which are historic for Malta, especially with regards to the judiciary pillar of democracy.

The government has also committed himself to consult with all interested parties, including civil society. The Minister also reaffirmed that this process will be continued with determination for the weeks and months to come.

After the consultation process comes to an end, the government shall be taking its final decision upon the ultimate opinion of the Venice Commission.

The government shall also be implementing further reforms, including others which are being led by the President of Malta, George Vella, in his eventual launch of the Constitutional Convention.

Repubblika to scrutinise letter

Both the Opposition and the rule of law NGO Repubblika noted the publication of the Government’s letter sent to the Venice Commission, and said that they plan on studying it and giving their opinion in a constructive manner.

In a press release reacting to the publication of the letter, Repubblika said that it will provide the criticism “in the hope that a true and just reform will be put in place which will address and halt the consequences of partisan appropriation of the judiciary, that has been the case for the past seven years.”

The NGO went on to outline that Malta’s current judicial system does not respect democratic norms, claiming that “this defect has been exploited by Government; in the past seven years, out of 30 judicial appointments, 21 appointments had partisan connections.” It mentioned its work done with this regard in the past few months, including the judicial protest filed on 16th April insisting that the letter be published.

“We shall be expressing our opinion after having examined Government’s proposals very carefully. We will be making our opinions public in order to contribute to the national discussion about this important topic,” said the NGO.

Opposition not consulted

In its reaction, the Opposition said that it was neither informed nor consulted by the Government on these proposals, and so, it too shall be scrutinising them in the coming days.

It added that this is not an adequate way to rule. Democratic countries consult amongst themselves, involving experts and the civil society, said the press release signed by Opposition Shadow Minister for Justice Jason Azzopardi and Shadow Minister for Constitutional Reform Chris Said.

Download letter here