Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
Let justice take its course, rule of law NGO Repubblika told Prime Minister Robert Abela following the government statement on Tuesday in which the judges presiding over the inquiry were told that once they had taken it upon themselves to extend the inquiry’s deadline and its terms of reference, they must now assume responsibility for the consequences.
The NGO warned Abela to allow the institutions to function independently without any interference.
Repubblika marked the 38th month since the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia on Wednesday evening when its president Robert Aquilina at the makeshift memorial in Great Siege Square in Valletta.
During his speech, Aquilina said that its aim was to send a message to Abela on behalf of civil society.
He explained that in line with the health regulations due to the coronavirus pandemic it was necessary to refrain from holding any protests.
“The government should not mistaken our efforts to take care of one another as a sign that our anger has subdued,” Aquilina said.
Aquilina noted that today would have been a good day for a protest to express their anger at the government’s attempts “to hide the truth”.
“We have spent three years saying that their can be no justice without change,” Aquilina stated, explaining that the change they were referring to did not mean that instead of governing from Castille, Malta would get a “puppet” controlled from Burmarrad in reference to Abela’s predecessor Joseph Muscat.
Aquilina explained that when activists spoke about a “true change” they meant a true separation of powers, a judiciary and parliament which are independent from the executive, institutions that serve the country and a state where the rule of law is upheld.
“If the rule of law is upheld there would be no need for protest, journalists would not be killed,” Aquilina said.
After three years, Abela yesterday publicly “threatened” the judiciary for having taken it upon themselves to extend the public inquiry’s deadline, Aquilina pointed out.
“Instead of a search for the truth in the case of the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, he [Abela] wants them to be silent and go home,” Aquilina said.
“We are warning the government to refrain. When the government threatens journalists, we protest. When it threatens the judiciary, we protest. It is our duty to ensure that those who serve faithfully our country are not victims of the same criminal tyranny which killed Daphne,” Aquilina said.
He ended his speech by warning that if Abela attempts to bring the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, the government will be met with resistance.
Threats condemned by press freedom organisations
Seven international press freedom organisations have condemned the continued threats made by the government against the independent public inquiry into the circumstances of the assassination of Caruana Galizia and its three board members.
The press freedom organisations underlined that the independence of the inquiry is vital as they called on the government to uphold its commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights and ensure the inquiry is supported to fulfil its terms of teference free from all political threats and interference.
“We reiterate our full support for the public inquiry and its board members as they come under political attack.”
The organisations noted that Abela told members of the board presiding over the public inquiry that they must “shoulder the responsibility of its decisions and the consequences these bring” after the inquiry panel ruled to extend the inquiry’s deadline in line with its terms of reference.
Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis reiterated this threat, stating in Parliament that “If the public inquiry is not completed, the rule of the jungle will take over.”
This followed a decree made by the members of the board of inquiry the previous day, following testimony from former OPM Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri where they stated that the inquiry would continue past the 15 December deadline set unilaterally by the Prime Minister and that “they would not accept any undue pressure or interference curtailing their brief.”
The organisations said that they believe that this extension is necessary to ensure all avenues of investigation into the circumstances of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder are exhausted. This includes examination of relevant data extracted by Europol from electronic devices pursuant to the investigation, which is expected to be accessible to the Board by mid-January 2021. Even representatives of the Maltese state, including the Head of the Financial Crimes Unit and a member of the Homicide Squad of the Malta Police, have indicated in their testimony before the board that this data could “be substantially useful” to the inquiry.
“It is not for the Government to say when the inquiry is complete,” the statement reads as they referred to a statement by Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family in a recent statement and reiterated by her sister Corinne Vella this week, “It is only if the public inquiry completes its mission, as set out in its Terms of Reference, that lessons can be learnt from Daphne’s assassination, however uncomfortable this process may be for those who bear responsibility.”
“The public inquiry must be guided by the evidence and need for investigation, not by arbitrary deadlines established by the Maltese Government, which is subject to the inquiry itself.”
The organisations reasserted their commitment to a fully independent and transparent public inquiry is key to achieving justice for Caruana Galizia’s assassination and ensuring that this will never happen again.
The statement was signed by ARTICLE 19, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), IFEX, International Press Institute (IPI), Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).