“We have it in back and white that Daphne was telling the truth. She deserved to be treated much better.”
These were the words of lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia during a press conference held today following yesterday’s publication of the report of the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination in 2017.
Comodini Cachia, who is also an opposition MP, told the media the inquiry proves that Caruana Galizia was assassinated because of her work and because what she was writing and publishing was true.
The report also found that the Maltese state, government, and entire cabinet of disgraced ex-prime minister Joseph Muscat must shoulder responsibility for her assassination. It detailed multiple and wide-reaching failures in every part of the administration, including government and law enforcement, leading to a collapse of the rule of law and a culture of total impunity.
The 400+ page report also laid down many recommendations that, if implemented, would reform almost every aspect of government, civil society and law enforcement, as well as the media environment and conditions for journalists in Malta.
Comodini Cachia is representing the Caruana Galizia family in the ongoing court proceedings against her alleged killers, as well as during their submissions to the inquiry.
The press conference brought together the legal team that fought for the inquiry to be held, including Comodini Cachia, Jason Azzopardi, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC at Doughty Street Chambers, Tony Murphy Partner at Bhatt Murphy solicitors, and Rebecca Vincent, Director of International Campaigns at Reporters Without Borders.
Daphne Caruana Galizia should still be alive today
Paul Caruana Galizia, Daphne’s youngest son, was also present and spoke briefly to address the report’s findings.
“The report confirmed what we long suspected; that the state must bear responsibility for her murder and that she should still be alive today. That really rings in my ears…she should still be alive today.”
Caruana Galizia said one of the most poignant parts of the report for him was the confirmation of the “government-sponsored dehumanisation campaign” against his mother that “prepared the ground for the assassination.”
He added that acknowledging that this campaign was coordinated by members of the government and ultimately led to her death was a “huge step forward.”
Caruana Galizia also addressed the apology given by Prime Minister Robert Abela in Parliament this morning. He confirmed that the family accepts Abela’s apology and agrees that the apology is owed to them and the whole of Malta.
He did, however, note that the proposals regarding reforms made by Abela this morning were not entirely in line with the recommendations of the report.
A common thread between all speakers was the necessity for the recommendations made by the inquiry panel to be implemented in full. There was consensus that this must be done in a completely independent, non-partisan, and transparent manner.
Caruana Galizia insisted that the reforms and recommendations proposed by the inquiry report must not be turned into “government-run reforms that cherrypick recommendations.”
“The most important thing is that recommendations are implemented in full, independent from the government themselves. They must be open, honest, transparent, and the country must unite over them. A panel of experts must be established, and they must be non-partisan,” he said.
International community has questions to answer too
Comodini Cachia said: “I want Malta to stand united in the process of reconciliation. Parliament must appoint a truly independent committee of experts that includes journalists on an equal footing. This is the only way we can start the process of reconciliation.”
She added that Daphne’s assassination, the pain of her family, and the struggle it took to get to the stage of an inquiry must not be in vain.
Gallagher agreed, noting that the international community has some “hard questions to answer” about how a situation such as the assassination of Daphne was allowed to happen. She stressed that Daphne reported on corruption and crime every day, and the Council of Europe was aware she was at risk.
Yet despite this, nothing was done, and “Malta was allowed to fester.”
As an EU Member State and also a part of the OSCE, United Nations, and Council of Europe, the QC said there needs to be a “process of reflection internationally about why this was allowed to happen under their noses.”
It’s imperative that EU Member States have a mechanism in place that is enforced at a bloc and national level to ensure this doesn’t happen again, she concluded.
Vincent called on the Maltese people to hold their government to account. She reiterated that they and the international community have known for several years that the rule of law was deteriorating in Malta, and that the inquiry report’s imperative recommendations are implemented.
She said that RSF has observed that journalists in Malta are “at tremendous risk,” even those that just report day-to-day news.
It was also essential that local and international journalists continue to report on the story beyond the inquiry results. This should include the implementation of reforms and the ongoing criminal cases, she said.
Answering a question from The Shift on what happens if the government doesn’t fully or adequately implement reforms, Gallagher said there is room to continue pursuing legal action.
“Taking it to the European Court of Human Rights isn’t the ideal solution or a focus the family has, but we could take them there if accountability mechanisms fail.”
She also noted that other mechanisms are available such as through the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), who have “played a critical role in getting us to the stage of an inquiry.”
She said as well as judicial recourse, the option was there to call on PACE to enforce international standards.
Paul Caruana Galizia also confirmed that prime minister Abela is yet to reach out to the family, and there has been no invitation for a meeting to discuss the report or steps forward.
He concluded by thanking all the legal team, activists in Malta and abroad, journalists, and international organisations who helped the family get to the stage where a full, independent, public inquiry report was published.