- Masterminds behind Caruana Galizia assassination still at large, Council of Europe report notes
- Scathing report highlights serious damage that can be done by Malta's dysfunctional system
- Weaknesses a 'source of vulnerability' for all of Europe
Updated 7pm with PN, PL reactions -
A draft Council of Europe report about Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination and the rule of law in Malta points a finger at Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for offering his chief of staff Keith Schembri, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and Nexia BT managing partner Brian Tonna total impunity under his “personal protection", despite their involvement in a raft of scandals.
The report, seen by the Times of Malta, concludes that the rule of law in Malta is seriously undermined by the extreme weakness of its system of checks and balances.
The report says the Council of Europe’s assembly considers that recent events in Malta illustrate the serious damage that can result from its “dysfunctional system”.
“Despite certain recent steps, Malta still needs fundamental, holistic reform, including subjecting the office of Prime Minister to effective checks and balances, ensuring judicial independence and strengthening law enforcement and other rule of law bodies”, the report says.
Weaknesses a source of vulnerability for all Europe
It warns that Malta’s weaknesses are a source of vulnerability for all of Europe.
“Maltese citizenship is European Union citizenship, a Maltese visa is a Schengen visa, and a Maltese bank gives access to the European banking system.”
If Malta cannot or will not correct its weaknesses, European institutions must intervene, the scathing report says.
The Council of Europe urges the Maltese law enforcement bodies to end the prevailing climate of impunity by robustly investigating and prosecuting those suspected of being involved in or benefitting from the scandals exposed by Daphne Caruana Galizia and her colleagues.
The report reminds the relevant authorities that evidence is not a pre-condition for launching a criminal investigation, but its possible result.
To prevent impunity, investigations shall be launched as soon as credible information, such as the Panama Papers, indicates that a crime could have been committed, the report continues.
Last month, a court acknowledged that evidence of a crime could exist in the Panama Papers. The decree paved the way for the first comprehensive probe into the involvement of top government officials in the Panama scandal.
No one arrested for masterminding assassination
The report links rule of law weaknesses in general and the criminal justice system in particular to its analysis to the assassination of Ms Caruana Galizia.
Ms Caruana Galizia was blown up by a car bomb in October 2017.
The report highlights how the three men suspected of carrying out the bomb plot have still not been put on trial, with their custody limit expiring in two months.
“No one has been arrested for ordering the assassination. A magisterial inquiry is still ongoing, with no news on its progress”, the report states.
The Council of Europe’s report notes a series of concerns about the murder investigation, including the Prime Minister’s promotion of the original magistrate leading the inquiry, the failure of the police to interrogate Economy Minister Chris Cardona over possible contacts with the suspects and “false claims” by the Home Affairs Minister about the progress of the investigations.
It also calls out the “inflammatory and misleading statements” by persons close to the Prime Minister and questions the possibility that the Maltese security services may have had prior intelligence about the bomb plot.
Criminal proceedings against the three men have showed that one of the suspect’s phones was being tapped prior to the murder.
This report, which is expected to be put to the Council of Europe's assembly next month, calls on Malta to set up an independent public inquiry within three months.
PN reaction - Malta's reputation tarnished again
In a reaction, the shadow minister for foreign affairs, Carm Mifsud Bonnici, told a press conference that the Council of Europe report was another condemnation of the Maltese government which also undermined Malta's international reputation.
Dr Mifsud Bonnici said it was a shame that it had to be the European institutions to intervene following the government's failure to ensure that the rule of law prevailed.
This stage should never have been reached, and the least one could now expect was that the government implemented recommendations made in this report and others in the past few months, including Greco and the Venice Commission.
PL: Reality is different
The Labour Party said the report which the PN was rejoicing about was written by a member of its own political family, and the reality on the ground was very different from what was described.
The people on Saturday had a right to send a signal to those who were working abroad against Malta's interests, the PL said.