Law student organisations are facing criticism for their failure to sign a statement by KSU calling for the resignation of Cabinet members previously involved in Joseph Muscat’s administration following the public inquiry findings into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The statement, issued by Kunsill Studenti Universitarji (KSU), was supported by 16 other organisations and 11 student representatives. Citing the inquiry’s conclusions, which established an unequivocal link between big business interests, the state and Caruana Galizia’s writings about corruption involving both spheres leading to her assassination, the students’ council called for Cabinet members left over from Muscat’s administration to “shoulder political responsibility”.
“The Cabinet, led by Joseph Muscat, were well aware of the corruption and impunity developing within the highest level of Government. Despite this, the Cabinet stood by Joseph Muscat and chose to remain silent, ignoring their duty to act for the benefit of the country,” the statement reads.
The statement further refers to “the connections and close relationships” that “show hazed and unclear lines between those governing the State and those who resort to criminality and corruption”, arguing that the verdict finding the state responsibile shows “a complete breakdown of the rule of law in Malta”.
Former members of the European Law Students’ Association (ELSA) have decried the fact that the organisation, along with fellow law student association Għaqda Studenti tal-Liġi, chose not to endorse the statement.
The decision to not endorse the statement issued by the University’s student council, featured in the photo above, was flagged by Christoph Schwaiger on Twitter, who criticised both ELSA and Għaqda Studenti tal-Liġi (GħSL) for “graduating with degrees but no spines”. Former European Law Students’ Association (ELSA) members picked up on Schwaiger’s thread.
“Truly sickened that ELSA, in particular ELSA Malta, has failed to rise to the occasion and has now cemented itself as an organisation that does nothing more than organise hollow anniversary events commemorating absolutely nothing,” said lawyer Michael Zammit Maempel who previously led the organisation in Malta and internationally.
Two former members of ELSA joined the thread to defend the organisation’s decision, arguing that ELSA’s statute prohibits it from taking political stances.
“ELSA’s philosophy statement is not to be abused for political propaganda of any kind, ELSA is an organisation that implements its philosophy by having an impact on the law and on legal education, not by participating in political debate,” former director of ELSA Online Thomas Fraiß stated.
The non-political argument pushed forward by Fraiß prompted further responses from seasoned legal experts such as former ELSA member and present member of the EU Commission’s Legal Service, Ken Mifsud Bonnici.
“They have no idea, but no idea, what it means to be a lawyer, or what it means to have a commitment to the rule of law. I regret ever having been a member of ELSA. None of those people should ever receive a warrant,” Mifsud Bonnici said.
Mifsud Bonnici further argued that the responsibility of the State for murder, corruption and impunity was established by the courts through the public inquiry.
“If you think that’s politics or propaganda, you are still a child, and you should never, ever be a lawyer,” he added, pointing out that there were senior European Court of Justice and European Court of Human Rights jurists in the thread and that the “condemnation” for the lack of support shown by the law student organisations was “scathing and unanimous”.
Mandy Mallia, Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sister, was also following the thread, arguing that “choosing to not endorse the KSU statement is, by default, still taking a political stance, by indirectly choosing the side of those who helped create the perfect environment for Daphne to be assassinated with impunity, at the very least”.
It is a known fact that student organisations often serve as pipelines for students with political ambitions who wish to further their career with a political party.
The only other organisation besides ELSA and GħSL that did not sign KSU’s statement was Pulse, an organisation whose direct ties to the Labour Party go back years. Dozens of former members of the executive branch of Pulse are now serving roles in government or within the Labour Party’s infrastructure.