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‘Public inquiry will not impinge on ongoing criminal investigation’

PACE Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt stresses public inquiry must be “truly independent”.

Updated to include the statement by the Opposition.

It is not enough for the Maltese government to state that it will abide by the three-month deadline set in the report by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) – it has to ensure the public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is “truly independent”.

PACE Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt reacted to statements, by Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela at the Global Conference for Media Freedom in London on Thursday, that the Maltese government would meet the deadline set in the report.

Omtzigt welcomed the government’s commitment to carry out a public inquiry into the background to the murder of the prominent journalist. He also insisted on the need for it to be truly independent.

“This inquiry should be conducted by a truly independent panel chaired by a retired or international judge and including trusted representatives of civil society with no political or government links,” he said.

“The public inquiry should concentrate on how the assassination could have been prevented, how similar murders can be avoided in future and what needs to be done to ensure that cases of high-level corruption such as those disclosed by Daphne Caruana Galizia are properly investigated without journalists having to risk their lives,” he added.

If carried out in this way, an independent public inquiry would not impinge on the ongoing criminal investigations “against the suspected killers in detention and the organisers and instigators of the crime who are still at large,” the Special Rapporteur said, addressing the government’s  reason for its reluctance to launch a public inquiry almost two years since the journalist’s assassination.

PACE adopted a resoultion on Omtzigt’s report on the investigation into Caruana Galizia’s assassination and the rule of law in Malta with “overwhelming majority” on 27 June. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat then said he would be seeking advice on the matter. There has been no government statement backing Abela’s stand in London.

The Nationalist Party noted the government “had found the willingness” to conduct a public inquiry, something that should have been done immediately after her death. In a statement, the Opposition also stressed the need for independence, saying it expected those leading the inquiry to be “independent and impartial” and free from political loyalties.

“Only then can it meet the requirements of the rule of law,” Opposition Leader Adrian Delia said.

The selection of those to be appointed to lead the inquiry should involve parliament and “not only Joseph Muscat who is forced to do this against his will,” the PN said.

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