Civil society NGO Repubblika on Saturday said they were being portrayed as "traitors" for wanting to get to the bottom of the death of a number of stranded migrants. 

Giving “an account of the facts”, Repubblika president Vicki Ann Cremona said the government had been twisting facts and propelling a narrative that those seeking justice were working “with the enemy”.  

“The accusation being made against us is that we are traitors and working for the 'enemy'. Our lawyers are being verbally attacked simply for assisting us. We love our country and believe that justice should rule,” she said.    

On Friday Prime Minister Robert Abela gave an address to the nation broadcast live at 8pm, and said that police had launched an investigation into himself, AFM brigadier Jeffrey Curmi and crew members of patrol boat P52. 

That followed two police reports filed by Repubblika, in which they asked the police to investigate whether the army and prime minister had caused the death of migrants at sea by failing to rescue them.  

A second complaint concerns the alleged intentional sabotage of a rubber boat carrying asylum seekers.

The reports were filed on the NGO's behalf by its four lawyers, among them PN MP Jason Azzopardi. The other lawyers were Andrew Borg Cardona, Joe Ellis and Paul Borg Olivier. 

A boat carrying more than 50 people was returned to Libya this week with five dead bodies aboard and another seven people missing, after it spent days drifting in Maltese waters. 

Abela argues that the criminal complaints mean that there are some who want him, the brigadier, and AFM crew to spend their lives in prison.  

'We only want justice'

On Saturday, Cremona however said that the NGO’s only interest was to ensure that responsibility was shouldered for the death of migrants at sea.  

The rule of law, she said, should be equal for all.  

Asked whether they felt those concerned should step down, as is normally the practice when a criminal investigation is launched, Repubblika member Manuel Delia told Times of Malta that that is for the involved parties to consider.  The civil society groups’ main interest, he said, was for justice to be done.  

Meanwhile, Cremona said that despite the gravity of the accusations being levelled against the government and the AFM, there had been no official denial that a migrant boat had had its engine cable cut by an AFM patrol, or that migrants had been left to die in Maltese waters. 

Malta has followed in Italy’s footsteps in declaring its ports 'unsafe' for migrant disembarkation, citing the COVID-19 out break as its primary concern.  

Cremona, however charged that this was not a justified reason to leave people stranded at sea - especially when Malta had legal and humanitarian obligations to intervene.

Repubblika had also filed an urgent request at the European Court of Human Rights seeking an interim measure for Malta and Italy not to allow refugees fleeing Libya to remain abandoned at great risk to their lives.

The European Court had already, in July 2013, stopped Malta from pushing immigrants back to Libya.

Despite this, Repubblika’s request was turned down this week.   

Cremona said the prime minister had presented this as a victory, but it was anything but the case.  

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