Konrad Mizzi’s refusal to meet Council of Europe rapporteur belies Muscat’s assurances

Despite Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s reassurances that he and his ministers will be meeting the Council of Europe’s Special Rapporteur on Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death, tourism minister Konrad Mizzi has declined the meeting.

Mizzi told the Times of Malta he was unavailable for a meeting with Pieter Omtzigt, the Special Rapporteur tasked by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to ensure the truth behind the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia emerges.

This belies Muscat’s assurances that “meetings requested by Mr Omtzigt, including meetings with myself and other government ministers will be held.” 

On 10 October in reply to a Parliamentary Question by Opposition MP David Stellini, Muscat said the meetings “will be held notwithstanding the government’s serious reservations regarding Mr Omtzigt’s fitness to carry out his task.”

Last week, The Shift News reported that Omtzigt announced that Mizzi, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri and Economy Minister Chris Cardona have so far not replied to his request for a meeting when he visits Malta as part of his mandate on 22 October.

Omtzigt, a Dutch MP, will be in Malta as part of his work investigating Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder and the state of the rule of law in Malta.

Mizzi’s spokesperson said the minister implicated in the Panama Papers scandal was “unavailable for the meeting” but failed to give a proper explanation. 

Mizzi and Schembri have repeatedly refused to meet other delegations from the European Parliament investigating the rule of law in Malta. 

During his stay, Omtzigt should be meeting Attorney General Peter Grech, Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar and the head of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, Kenneth Farrugia, who have agreed to see him.

Last month, the Maltese government’s attempt to have Omtzigt removed was rejected. A request by former Labour home affairs minister Manuel Mallia to withdraw the Omtzigt’s mandate was widely criticised.

The EU Representative and Advocacy Manager at The Committee to Protect Journalists Tom Gibson said in a tweet that Malta’s attempt was “deeply concerning” adding that it “strengthens the need for full and independent investigations”.

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