Speedy conclusion of inquiry into migrant deaths ‘not normal’

Repubblika has expressed surprise and concern about the magisterial inquiry into the death of 12 migrants at sea that was completed in only one month, saying it was “not normal”.

The organisation that filed the request for the inquiry and was the target of attacks by government officials, including the Prime Minister, as a consquence, compared the speedy conclusion of this inquiry with “other inquiries into the behaviour of Maltese politicians that are still pending three years later”.

“This one was closed after one month,” the organisation said in a statement.

The magisterial inquiry was carried out by Magistrate Joe Mifsud on the request of Prime Minister Robert Abela after Repubblika filed two criminal complaints arguing that Abela, the Army commander, Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi, and 11 soldiers were responsible for the death of 12 migrants at sea.

The group had filed the complaints in April and Abela ordered the inquiry within 24 hours following a press conference in which he appeared backed by the Cabinet, telling the nation that the activists wanted to see him and the army “spending a lifetime in prison”.

Their surprise at the quick closure of the inquiry comes in light of pending magisterial inquiries dealing with evidence related to Panama Papers findings and involving former OPM chief-of-staff Keith Schembri have not been concluded after three years.

In contrast, the Egrant inquiry, that ‘exonerated’ Muscat was concluded within a year and a half. It was kept under wraps for far longer, held only in the hands of the person at the centre of the investigation and those closest to him, until the court ruled that the Opposition Leader could receive a copy. Once published, its conclusions were criticised by legal experts.

Former European Court of Human Rights Judge Vincent De Gaetano was critical of the magistrate’s approach when “sticking to the narrow parameters of the report filed before him by the Police Commissioner, which in turn followed to the letter the request made to the police by the Prime Minister’s lawyers”. He also said the Attorney General had acted irresponsibly.

Repubblika is saying the testimonies and evidence recommended to be included in the inquiry could not have been gathered in such a short time.

The organisation pointed out that Abela had requested a copy of the inquiry report, adding that, if he did get hold of the document, then this should be published in full for its “quality to be examined by all”.

“We reiterate that it was our duty to request an investigation and present all the evidence we had in hand about what could have led to these deaths when the government and army repeatedly refused to give any replies,” Repubblika said.

Maltese institutions should ensure justice was served for the 12 people who died at sea, aside from the other illegalities that allegedly took place to send over 50 asylum seekers back to Libya.

This did not only refer to the inquiring magistrate but also the police who did not yet give any indication as to whether they had started investigating Repubblika’s criminal complaints.

This led to the group members facing an unprecedented amount of insults and attacks online while party supporters rallied together to form a national show of unity wrapped in a Maltese flag.

                           
                               
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