This was the reaction of lawyer and academic Justin Borg-Barthet to news of a leak of the Council of Europe Greco Report, reported by The Times of Malta. Last week, Greco – the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption unit – requested the Maltese government’s publication of the full report on its findings, but the government has refused.
Social media has been alight with calls on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to resign, as well as harsh criticism of his government.
“The crisis culminated in October 2017 with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, who had reported extensively about the number of anomalies in the conduct of public affairs in recent years”
— Justin Borg-Barthet (@JustinBBarthet) March 31, 2019
Former Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil dubbed it “the strongest condemnation yet of the government”. Researched and compiled in the wake of the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017, the report investigated several key areas of concern including law enforcement and the judiciary.
THE STRONGEST CONDEMNATION YET of our @MaltaGov for FAILING to bring the #PanamaPapers gang to #justice. If the Prime Minister had a shred of decency he would RESIGN immediately for bringing us to this shameful state of rot and paralysis. https://t.co/1zi0LixHrK
— Simon Busuttil (@SimonBusuttil) March 31, 2019
The Greco report – from the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption unit – states that the country’s justice system is “at risk of paralysis” unless a redistribution of responsibility takes place between the police, the Attorney General, and inquiring magistrates, according to The Times of Malta.
The report noted that the current capacity of the legal system to handle allegations of corruption against government officials was not sufficient, resulting in a feeling of total impunity. This was described as “worrying”.
Members of the Greco committee who visited Malta wrote how they met ” a culture of secrecy,” adding that “this is not compatible with an effective system of checks and balances”. They recommended the implementation of rapid changes.
Officials observed that the criminal justice system became easily paralysed by political influence, according to The Times of Malta. It was also noted that those who were meant to hold the government accountable suffered from a lack of courage to carry out their duties.
Even more worryingly, the report said, “most, if not all” files against officials in executive positions were stuck in the early stage of criminal proceedings, despite new revelations coming to light every month.
The Greco evaluation team said they found it “particularly strange” that the Commissioner for Standards did not investigate the case of 17 Black – they referred to the Commissioner as a “weak body”.
Police “refused to spontaneously open cases,” the report notes, adding that it had to be made clear to them that there was no need for “hard evidence” to be submitted for an inquiry or investigation to be opened.
Other criticisms of the police included a lack of robust ethical standards, a lack of a clear merit-based approach for promotions, and the need for a better training system, among others.
The report highlights the fact that Caruana Galizia had been reporting extensively on the number of anomalies in public affairs at the time of her murder in 2017. In the report, the three suspects arrested for the murder were merely implementing orders “at the request of influential persons”.
The centralisation of power in the country also came under criticism. It was described as being facilitated by the Prime Minister, particularly in terms of appointments and dismissals of essential State functions.
“There is also a clear perception in Malta that political support currently prevails over the enforcement of the law and the general interest,” the leaked report noted.
The report has still not been published by the Government, despite an official call to do so from the Council of Europe last week.
When asked by The Shift News, if the report would be published, Head of Communications Kurt Farrugia said: “The Greco Evaluation was received in the past hours and as per standard procedure is being reviewed by the Attorney General’s office. Government will be consenting its publication, like it has always done, in the coming days once the process is finalised”.
A spokesperson from the Council of Europe contradicted this statement, saying it had been sent “earlier in the week”.
Malta remains one of a handful of countries that have so far refused to publish the report, including Hungary that has faced widespread criticism for failing to combat corruption, and Belarus that was found to be “non-compliant” and “globally unsatisfactory”.