Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt has called on the Maltese government to seek parliamentary consensus on the appointment of the new police commissioner to help rebuild trust in the Malta police force and “work towards ending impunity”.
In a tweet, Omtzigt, who reports back to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, pointed out that “recent scandals have battered the reputation of Malta’s police force, from top to bottom” and called for the new commissioner to be approved by parliament instead of being appointed by the Prime Minister.
Recent scandals have battered the reputation of Malta's police force, from top to bottom.
The government should seek parliamentary consensus on the appointment of a strong and credible new commissioner to rebuild the force and work towards ending impunity.
— Pieter Omtzigt (@PieterOmtzigt) February 24, 2020
He was referring to the recent case of overtime abuse where the majority of police officers in the traffic section were found to have embezzled thousands of euro by claiming pay for hundreds of hours they never worked.
In a statement, the police said around 40 police officers were arrested in connection with this investigation – four of these have resigned from the corps. At least 25 officers were suspended and were granted police bail while the investigations are ongoing.
It is believed that this abuse has been going on for a number of years and was revealed at a time when the Maltese police force is under the temporary leadership of an acting commissioner.
Former commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, who was highly criticised for his lack of action in investigating top officials named in relation to the murder investigation of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, resigned a week after new Prime Minister Robert Abela took office. He was then given a consultancy contract with increased pay.
During a recent meeting with Abela and Cabinet ministers, Omtzigt was given a rundown on the new procedure to appoint the police commissioner. This includes an open call for applications and a screening process by the Public Service Commission that will shortlist the final two candidates. The prime minister will make the final choice and parliament will vote on it.
Omtzigt has been very vociferous about the state of rule of law in Malta and the need to implement recommendations made by the Venice Commission on needed checks and balances and reform of the justice system.
In an interview with The Shift following his to Malta earlier this month, Omtzigt said the Muscat government had ignored almost all recommendations by the Venice Commission on strengthening the rule of law and installing checks and balances and reform of the justice system.
He said Malta still had a long way to go to reach the required standards but it was still possible with political will.