Twenty-five days from now, the Council of Europe’s deadline for the government to open an independent and public inquiry into the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia expires.

The government says it is looking for a solution to comply with the Council of Europe’s demand without prejudicing the ongoing criminal prosecution. That’s so much rubbish on so many levels.

I am not going to evaluate the credibility of the government’s claim that an open inquiry could put at risk the viability of the government’s case against the Degiorgio brothers and their alleged accomplice Vince Muscat. I’m not going to do that, not because I don’t have a view but because I’m not an expert on the subject, I have not had training in law and I can’t even claim to be a keen observer of what happens in court rooms. I’d rather defer to the experts on a matter that requires technical knowledge.

But I will say that though it appears to be up to the Attorney General to decide this matter, his is not the only expert opinion around.

Why then is the government’s claim of looking for a way to avoid prejudice, rubbish?

Because this is not something that is hidden somewhere and we can hope the government can find it in some box if they continue looking frantically before the time runs out. A ‘solution’ cannot be grown in a lab, like a vaccine to stop some virulent epidemic. There’s no precedent hidden in some medieval annals providing some crafty formula a forgotten numbered king devised.

The demand for an open and independent public inquiry has been on the national agenda for most of the two years since Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed. The grounds for calling it have been articulated competently and eloquently by the lawyers for the Caruana Galizia family.

Although no one can be right (or wrong) all the time, the legal advice the Caruana Galizia family has been provided with in the past two years on matters of human rights, with which the advisors to the government vehemently disagreed, has been consistently confirmed by the courts.

Consider for example the complaint that Silvio Valletta, husband of Justyne Caruana, who is the colleague and underling of potential suspects in this crime, ought not to be supervising this investigation.

The family successfully argued that his control of the investigation amounted to a breach of that aspect of the fundamental right to life that requires authorities to conduct an unbiased and independent investigation into a murder. It really should have been obvious to begin with. Surely, it must have been obvious to the government because they may be a lot of things, but stupid is not one of them.

The government ignored the family’s letters and the family’s protests. It defended a case brought by the family in the courts and lost. It appealed and it lost.

The further away in time from the crime itself, the more degraded the evidence is

At the end of that process they did the inevitable and relieved Silvio Valletta. But by then 10 months had passed.

If the potential conflict of interest that the family complained about and which the court found was alone sufficient to amount to a breach of fundamental rights, had at any time realised itself in those 10 months, it may be the reason why the guilty are never brought to justice.

Within a week of the murder, reporters were getting tipped by Valletta that this crime was about smuggling, not politics. That may have been god honest police work speaking. Valletta may have been convinced his theory was sound. He may even have been right.

But if he wasn’t, and time was lost looking in the wrong direction because of his conscious or unconscious conflict with the politi­cal interests of his wife, by the time the family secured his removal from the investigation the damage would have been done.

Another court found that the Caruana Galizia’s fundamental rights were breached, this time over the Planning Authority’s uncharacteristically speedy action in tearing down a banner that asked the police commissioner why Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri were not in jail and why Michelle Muscat was not under investigation. It also asked who killed their wife and mother.

The case was symbolic in that it represented all the daily government action that seeks to remove any protest and any public call for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia and for the truth to be told about the revelations from her work.

If you think the removal of a banner, or even of many, is merely spiteful, inelegant and just bad PR, the courts have disagreed. Ultimately if you’re not allowed to challenge the action and the policies of public authori­ties freely and openly, they can freely and openly do as they please without reproach. That is why it should have been obvious to the decidedly unstupid government that these acts of vicious censorships were not acceptable. They perpetrated and they defended in court the case brought by the family. Right up until they lost.

There is a pattern here of running down the clock on manifestly transparent breaches of legal principles, buying time and postponing the inevitable.

The government does this because we have grown to accept anything that is thrown at us, however outrageous. We know we’re frogs in a bubbling pot but there’s not much we feel we can do about it.

Journalists from outside the country who are following the case of Daphne Caruana Galizia express amazement that a date for the trial of the suspected assassins has not yet been set, almost two years since their arrest. They have courts in their countries too. They too have presumption of innocence and due process and the burden of prosecutorial proof beyond reasonable doubt. It still should not take this long, especially since it should be clear that if convicted the only people we’ll know for sure who the masterminds behind this crime are would be these three gentlemen. That should be useful to anyone who wants to get to the bottom of this.

And yet here we are, running down that clock as well.

The more these proceedings are pushed back, the less likely they are to provide certainty. The further away in time from the crime itself, the more degraded the evidence is. That’s not just a forensic truism.

It also applies to the necessary assessment of the behaviour of the State; to the answers people must give to questions such as: Has the government done all it could to avoid this? Has it learnt its lesson and improved the way it prevents its repetition? And so on.

Anywhere else in the democratic world these questions would be independently, publicly and immediately asked in cases far less serious than this. Those countries have rules on presumption of innocence and integrity of evidence too. Why do the same rules prevent us from obtaining justice in our own country?

If the government comes up with something in the next 25 days it will be a stillborn rabbit pulled out of an artful dodger’s hat. It will be a blinding piece of deception that cannot be either open or independent if people like the family and their attorneys have not had time to provide considered views about terms of reference and rules of conduct.

Which leaves us with the inevitable conclusion that our government wants us to accept that if any one of us is blown up in a car for what we write and what we say, it won’t care to find out who did it. It would not have cared to try to stop them in the first place.

It leaves us with the inevitable conclusion that someone, with the power to decide, does not want us to know who killed Daphne Caruana Galizia.

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