Justice Minister fails to explain why ‘his life would be easier with Judge Mizzi’

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici cited confidentiality when asked to explain what he meant by when he told the Caruana Galizia family that his life would be easier if Judge Antonio Mizzi was accepted on the Board of Inquiry leading the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

A spokesperson for Bonnici said that both parties were committed to respect the confidentiality of such meetings. He added that Minister Bonnici intended to uphold this commitment. However, the failed to reply on why Judge Antonio Mizzi was proposed on the Board of Inquiry, and the subsequent remark reportedly made by the Justice Minister during a meeting on the composition of the Board.

During a hearing on Friday morning, Paul Caruana Galizia recalled how his family fought tooth and nail for this public inquiry to take place. He explained that their request for a public inquiry ‘was rubbished and derided by the Attorney General’. He described the tone used by the AG in the correspondence between the Attorney General and their lawyers as aggressive and condescending.

While letters from the family remained unanswered, in some letters the AG suggested that the legal team appearing for the Caruana Galizia family were lying and/or that the family misled them. He explained that once the Council of Europe deadline was looming, the government convened a public inquiry. Paul Caruana Galizia told the Board of Inquiry that it was clear that the AG failed to advise the government on the requirements as laid out in Article 2. The government had to change its terms of reference and board composition.

Paul Caruana Galizia explained that he was present for the second meeting which was about the composition of the board. For this meeting, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, the then deputy AG, his brother Andrew, his father, Therese Comodini Cachia and himself were present. Justice Minister Owen Bonnici had proposed an arbitration board model – each side picks a member and then agree on a chair. Caruana Galizia explained that the family refused this approach saying it was not in line with independence requirements. He then recalled how Bonnici kept proposing an individuals which Paul Caruana Galizia described as demonstrably inappropriate. Some of those who Bonnici reportedly proposed had already been turned down.

One of the members, Bonnici proposed was Judge Emeritus Antonio Mizzi who is now Law Commissioner. Paul Caruana Galizia quoted the Justice Minister as saying ‘at the end of the day, this one will be in minority,’ adding that by accepting ‘they’ll make his life easier’.

In a reply to questions sent by Newsbook.com.mt, a spokesperson for the Justice Minister said that the Minister said that the family and the minister met and communicated a number of times in order to find an agreement over the composition of the Board of Inquiry and the terms of reference.

He added that both parties were committed to respect the confidentiality of such meetings, saying that Minister Bonnici intended to uphold this commitment.

Newsbook.com.mt also asked whether the Justice Minister preferred some members of the judiciary over others. The spokesperson said that Bonnici had trust in all members of the judiciary. He explained that throughout the meetings several former members of the judiciary were mentioned as well as sitting members of the judiciary until an agreement was reached.

The spokesperson for the ministry said that throughout the meetings, Bonnici sought to reach an agreement on the Board’s composition and the terms of reference.