Opinion: justice under siege

When Robert Abela speaks of his duty as prime minister to enforce checks and balances on the judiciary, he conjures phantoms out of thin air.

Our system of checks and balances enshrined in the principle of separation of powers really requires the opposite.

A cornerstone of our constitutional set-up, or what’s left of it, is the independence of the judiciary.

As the government argued in the Repubblika case before the European Court of Justice, this guarantee of independence begins at the moment of their appointment.

In that judgment, while sanctioning the Maltese system of appointment (including the role of the prime minister), the court introduced the principle of non-regression.

According to this principle, the states that have freely and voluntarily acceded to the Union must ensure that any regression in the protection of the founding values is prevented.

An essential part of the guaranteed founding values is the notion that the judiciary in any member state is free from political interference. So much for Abela’s misinformed justification.

We then move to the interference itself. Speaking before the extraordinary unravelling of events on Tuesday, Abela pre-empted the conclusion of the magisterial inquiry into the hospitals deal based on what he called ‘hearsay’ (diċeriji).

According to the prime minister, the timing of the closing of the inquiry ahead of the MEP elections would be tantamount to “political terrorism”.

It was mind-boggling. To begin with, it beggars belief that the prime minister should in some way imply that a magistrate is operating with a political agenda. If anything, this is a magistrate appointed under the system of guaranteed impartiality defended by the prime minister’s office in the Repubblika case.

Second, Maltese magistrates are no Antonio di Pietro. Unlike the notorious Italian magistrate, we can safely presume that there is no political advantage to be had personally to any magistrate when performing their duty.

Nor are Maltese magistrates some subtle manifestation of their American counterparts that are openly partisan in their operation. So where does this “political terrorism” come from?

We did not have to wait long. Abela’s disgraced predecessor was in the limelight all Tuesday when news finally came of the inquiry’s conclusion.

On cue, the disgraced former prime minister let loose a series of attacks on the magistrate, claiming, among other things, that this was a “vendetta” and that this was an act of “political terrorism” (again).

We do not know the content of the inquiry conclusions. What is clear at this stage is that their content is important enough to have forced the mobilisation of a massive propaganda machine hell-bent on discrediting the judiciary.

Our courts traditionally prefer to speak through their judgments. Not in moments like these, though. It is the responsibility of our Chief Justice to protect the judiciary and reassert its place in our constitutional set-up.

Justice cannot remain silent in the face of this affront. It should be the first to stand up to this potential regression.


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20 days ago

Sadly the PM knows he can influence the judiciary. He’s annoyed because it seems he’s not been able to influence those involved in the hospital inquiry.

20 days ago

the cornered rats are beginning to panic.

19 days ago

How did this Abela qualify as a lawyer?
He keeps saying legal stupidities.

Paul Borg
Paul Borg
19 days ago

It is the Chief Justice’s responsibility to defend the Judiciary when it is attacked in such a vile way.
What is he waiting for to put this Robert Abela upstart in his place?

18 days ago

Dr Abela’s duty as prime minister was to enforce checks and balances on the hospital deals, not on the hospital inquiry / judiciary.

16 days ago

He can only do as the money people tell him what to do, he is just a puppet with other people pulling the strings

Emanjel Cilia Debono
Emanjel Cilia Debono
15 days ago

The PM should know that in a democracy the Judiciary should be treated with the respect it deserves. The Office of PM is not above the law. Certain utterances are of a populist nature and are harmful to the rule of law ,

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