The Council of Europe’s report “paints a very worrying picture of systemic failings in Malta”, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) which has urged the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) delegates to support the report when it is presented to the committee.
The international press freedom organisation was reacting to press reports yesterday on some of the issues outlined in the assessment by Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt, which was leaked.
The Dutch MP was tasked by PACE to investigate the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the rule of law in Malta. It is the first EU Member State to be subjected to the scrutiny of a Special Rapporteur.
“The report paints a very worrying picture of systemic failings in Malta in terms of rule of law and democratic checks and balances – a situation that allowed for the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and continued impunity for her killers over a year and a half later,” said RSF’s UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.
Last week, RSF called on PACE to open country monitoring procedures on Malta during a hearing held in London.
RSF is urging all PACE delegates to support the report and the accompanying draft resolution when it is presented to the committee. “In failing to bring Caruana Galizia’s killers to justice and refusing to address the deteriorating press freedom climate and broader democratic shortcomings, the Maltese government is in clear breach of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and must be held to account,” Vincent told The Shift News.
The report describes Malta’s system as “dysfunctional” and says the reform packages recommended by the Venice Commission and GRECO must be implemented “as a matter of urgency”. It also calls on Malta to establish an independent public inquiry on Caruana Galizia’s assassination within three months.
“We strongly support the call for the immediate establishment of a public inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s assassination, and would welcome an amendment calling for PACE to open country monitoring procedures on Malta if a public inquiry is not launched within the three-month window set out in the report,” she added.
The report raises no less than 10 “serious concerns” about the investigation into Caruana Galizia’s murder. The current state of the murder investigation is described as suffering from a “prevailing culture of impunity”.
Maltese authorities are called upon to robustly investigate and prosecute those suspected of being involved in the scandals Caruana Galizia exposed, as well as those who carried out the murder and masterminded it.
Most alarming of all, the report points out that the security service could have had prior intelligence about the bomb plot, and that suspects may have been warned before their arrest.
The government had attempted to remove the mandate of the Special Rapporteur but failed – a move the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) had said was “deeply concerning”.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s had also attempted to discredit the Council of Europe’s Special Rapporteur in Parliament in Malta when he said he had “doubts” about his integrity.