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When the justice minister distorts the rule of law

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici

Minister Owen Bonnici wrote an extremely deceptive and deceitful article on 12 October in a tone of indignant righteousness on The Malta Independent entitled “How the rule of law is being undermined”.

He accused the Times of Malta of colluding with former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil against him in the run-up to the June 2016 election in a campaign intended to smear him as being responsible for the erosion of rule of law in Malta. He based his accusation on an article in The Sunday Times of Malta with the exact same title as his piece.

He complained that this article was misleading and hurt his feelings, citing the various laws and reforms within the courts that he implemented in the four years prior to the article, which according to him ‘strengthened the rule of law considerably in Malta’.

He listed among others things the law on the financing of parties, which turned out to be unconstitutional and needs to be rewritten; and the Whistleblower Act which does not work in practice, as can be seen from the case of Jonathan Ferris, who may have evidence against persons in the government but needs to present his evidence to the government before he can be given whistleblower status.

When it comes to the reforms he implemented within the courts, the 2018 EU Justice Scoreboard Malta still remains at the bottom of the heap among all the EU countries on most of the key performance indicators in the report, contrary to the disinformation Bonnici disseminated on the Scoreboard.

The World Bank is not in agreement with him that the outcomes of the reforms he implemented have strengthened the rule of law.

He then came to the main point of the article. Busuttil ‘does not believe in the rule of law’ because he is still not convinced that Panama company Egrant does not belong to the Prime Minister or his wife (he believes Busuttil and the rest of the nation should rely on the Prime Minister’s words despite the fact that a fraction of Magistrate Bugeja’s report has been published).

His attempt at obfuscating facts is deplorable and despicable. As a lawyer, he knows that an inquiry is not a judgment, let alone a final one. A verdict is issued in a courtroom, and may not be the final verdict as there is always the possibility of appeal because magistrates and judges are not infallible).

Bonnici knows full well where the problems of rule of law really lie. This government has exploited the lack of separation of powers to the maximum, capturing all the institutions without exception and whole of the executive and the institutions, and is now turning its eyes on the judiciary, appointing to the bench mainly lawyers who were affiliated to the Labour party such as an ex-Deputy Leader. And Bonnici is a key and central integral part in all this.

What Bonnici calls rule of law is a fascist re-interpretation.

His latest deception is the statement that he had asked the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission to conduct a review of Malta’s legal and institutional structures of law enforcement, investigation and prosecution. The statement did not refer to the fact that this request came a week after the Council of Europe asked the Venice Commission to do this.

This request was not a spontaneous choice by the Maltese government, as Bonnici and the government would have us believe. It was the result of a request by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

PACE Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt called it out yesterday, saying despite the enthusiasm of MPs like Owen Bonnici have not even accepted his request to meet him.

Rebecca Vincent Reporters Without Borders

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