Former European Court of Human Rights Judge Vincent De Gaetano had nothing but praise for murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, describing her as “Malta’s most famous investigative journalist” who asked the big, and the right, questions.
“She wanted to call out her country’s dysfunctional electoral system, a two-party system heavily reliant on financial support from big business, understaffed financial regulators and spasmodic and largely ineffective investigations into money laundering; and she always asked how a European nation like Malta, an EU member state, was able to operate like this without consequences,” he said in an interview.
Caruana Galizia was murdered in October 2017 by a car bomb that detonated just a few metres away from her family home. Her death is being investigated by a public Board of Inquiry that is looking into whether her murder could have been prevented.
“For more than two years the Maltese government dragged its feet over a public inquiry that had been requested by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – peer pressure, again, at European level – but finally had to give in,” De Gaetano said.
The Board of Inquiry, which is composed of a retired judge as chairperson, a retired Chief Justice and a serving judge, has been hearing evidence in public to try and establish the background to her murder, and what responsibility, if any, the executive should bear for generating a climate of hatred and impunity which encouraged or facilitated her assassination.
De Gaetano pointed out that Caruana Galizia had exposed corruption at the highest level of government. “She was evidently inconvenient, and because of that she was eliminated – her car was blown up”.
Four people were facing criminal proceedings but the larger socio-political background picture involving former prime minister Joseph Muscat, his former chief of staff and another minister was still very unclear.
“The Prime Minister’s resignation, and that of the minister and of the chef de cabinet, was brought about by recent journalistic and other revelations about the web of intrigue, corruption and maladministration in the highest circles of the government in Malta,” he said.
De Gaetano touched upon several topics in his interview, including some examples of positive change brought about by the European Court of Human Rights, national sovereignty, together with a brief background of how the European Convention on Human Rights was set up and the role of judges in society.
He also mentions his role as a university lecturer of criminal law and law of criminal procedure, which he described as “exceptionally rewarding”.
“It gave me the opportunity to share my views with young people, and there were not a few occasions when I also benefitted from the views of my students,” he said.
De Gaetano also referred to when he was Attorney General and was responsible for the prosecution and conviction of former police commissioner Lawrence Pullicino who was jailed for 15 years after he was found responsible for the death of a man in police custody.
The man had been beaten during interrogation and thrown into his prison cell. His dead body was then taken out of the headquarters in a police car and dumped under a bridge. “That trial brought to a close a rather inglorious chapter in the history of the Malta Police Force,” he said.
Turning to his role as a former judge in the European Court of Human Rights, De Gaetano said the possibility of writing dissenting opinions, sometimes using strong language, on a number of issues also “gave me considerable satisfaction, and in many cases ensured that I could go home in the evening and sleep with a clear conscience”.
You can read the full interview here.