Malta should ‘make reforms real, end impunity and ensure justice for Daphne’ – Omtzigt

Pieter Omtzigt

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt, the Council of Europe’s rapporteur on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the rule of law in Malta, welcomed the Venice Commission’s opinion on the government’s proposed reforms but expressed his concern at recent revelations about Maltese police and the criminal justice system.

He said that the commission’s opinion “is a welcome sign that the Maltese government recognises the need for fundamental reform and is willing to engage with the international community,” declaring himself particularly pleased by the proposed overhaul of the judicial appointment procedure.

But “on other crucial issues, there is still a lot to do,” Omtzigt continued.

“The prime minister’s powers of appointment may still be too extensive. There is a lack of clarity on ‘persons of trust’ and ‘positions of trust’, which have been abused to reward party members and buy the compliance of MPs. Nothing is being done to turn {arliament into an effective scrutineer. The Attorney General has still not taken responsibility for prosecutions from the police – even though the law allowing this was passed almost a year ago. Magistrates’ inquiry powers will not be transferred to the Attorney General – even though magisterial inquiries are demonstrably failing in high-profile cases,” he said.

Omtzigt also emphasised that the proposals were just concepts at this stage, and lamented that there had been no proper public consultation on them.

Criminal justice system ‘not fit for purpose’

He highlighted that the opinion arrived while Malta’s reputation “is further besmirched by yet more revelations of corruption and impunity.”

“Former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar is under investigation for tipping off a suspect in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Former deputy commissioner Silvio Valletta is under investigation for his dealings with the suspected mastermind, after he fell under suspicion. Testimony from officers in the economic crimes unit has revealed confusion, procrastination and apathy – to put it charitably – in the unit’s work on ‘political’ cases,” he maintained.

Omtzigt stressed that weakness in the rule of law, the impunity for corruption and the murder of Caruana Galizia were all connected, and that there was an international dimension, with related investigations taking place in Italy, France and Latvia.

“Malta’s criminal justice system is still not fit for purpose, and the promised reforms will not bear fruit for months, at least. The world has already waited long enough,” he said, calling on the authorities to establish joint investigative teams with foreign police  forces tackling related issues “so that there can at last be an end to impunity in Malta, and justice for Daphne.”