Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has appointed Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia to preside over a public independent inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The commission will be also composed of former Dean of the Faculty of Law, constitutional expert Ian Refalo and forensic expert Anthony Abela Medici.
The government said the Prime Minister has requested that the inquiry be concluded within nine months and published as directed by the same commission. The commission will regulate its own procedure.
The statement was issued on Friday evening, just minutes before Opposition leader Adrian Delia addresses a mass meeting.
In a report on the state of the rule of law in Malta published in June, the Council of Europe called on the government to set up a public inquiry aimed at establishing whether the journalist’s death could have been prevented.
The council’s imposed three-month deadline for the inquiry to begin would have expired on Thursday.
The government said on Friday the decision reflected the government's “consistent position that there exists no difficulty in establishing a public inquiry once it is assured that such inquiry does not undermine investigations and/or criminal proceedings which are pending in this case”.
It pointed out that, within 50 days of the murder, three persons were charged with the journalist’s murder in court and have now been placed under a bill of indictment.
The government said that in light of the resolution approved by Parliament on December 12, 2018, and the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on June 26, 2019, the government engaged in technical discussions with Council of Europe officials to ensure that the inquiry would not endanger the integrity of investigations and/or criminal proceedings already underway.
“Government had, and still has, serious reservations on the methodology used and the conclusions listed in the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
“Yet, government has full respect towards the Council of Europe, and the work carried out over the past weeks is testament to the reciprocal respect between Malta and this important institution,” it said.
What are the terms of reference?
The inquiry has to investigate and report to the Prime Ministeron the death of Ms. Caruana Galizia and on the events preceding, concomitant with, and following upon, the death with a view:
• to determining whether any wrongful action or omission by or within any State entity facilitated the death or failed to prevent it and in particular whether any State entity knew or ought to have known of a real and immediate risk to Ms Caruana Galizia’s life at the time from the criminal acts of a third party and failed to take measures within the scope of its powers which, judged reasonably, it might have been expected to take in order to avoid that risk;
• to establishing whether the State had and has in place effective criminal law provisions and other practical means to avoid the development of a de facto state of impunity through the frequent occurrence of unresolved criminal acts and to deter the commission of serious criminal offences, backed up by law enforcement machinery for the prevention, suppression, investigation and punishment of serious breaches of the law;
• to determining whether the State has fulfilled and is fulfilling its positive obligation to take preventive operational measures to protect individuals whose lives are at risk from criminal acts in particular in the case of journalists;
• to conducting the inquiry in such a way as not to impede or compromise any criminal investigation or prosecution or its integrity;
• The Inquiry shall be held in public but the Board of Inquiry may, where it considers necessary, conduct particular hearings in camera in such a way as to protect the confidentiality of investigations and of information received in confidence both when the confidentiality of those investigations or information is protected by law and when the Board of Inquiry considers that in camera hearings are otherwise justified;
• The Board of Inquiry shall have access to all information held by State entities and it shall act in accordance with the Inquiries Act and shall, subject to these terms of reference, regulate its own procedure on all matters including the question of access by the family of the deceased and by the public to the proceedings and acts of the inquiry.
• The Board of Inquiry shall endeavour to conclude its work within a time frame of nine months without prejudice to the proper fulfilment of these terms of reference.
Who will be carrying out the inquiry?
Michael Mallia served as a Judge of the Superior Courts from the 29th of September 2009 until his retirement on the 30th March 2015. During this time he served in the Courts of Criminal Jurisdiction and also presided over various trials by jury.
This appointment followed a vast experience of 23 years as Magistrate of Inferior Courts, where he also served as a Senior Magistrate.
Well-known for his integrity, in 2004 Dr Mallia was nominated as President of the Tribunal for the Investigation of Injustices, a post he held until December 2005, when all pending cases before the Tribunal were dealt with.
He is currently the Chairperson of the Judicial Studies Committee.
Ian Refalo is a Full Professor of Public Law and Dean Emeritus of the Faculty of Laws at the University of Malta and occupies the post of Ad Personam Jean Monnet Professor at the University of Malta.
He is widely recognised as a leading authority in administrative and public law and has practiced at the bar for over 40 years. His experience ranges across the entire spectrum of Human Rights, civil, commercial and administrative law, acting as lead counsel in landmark cases.
He also acted as counsel before the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice.
Anthony Abela Medici has served as Director of the Forensic Science Laboratory at the Malta Police Department between 1981 and 2010.
He was, and still is, appointed by the Courts of Law in Malta as a Forensic Expert in various fields of study.
He is a former member of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which is a committee of experts of the Council of Europe and also serves as a member of the European Regional Steering Committee for the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Dr Abela Medici is currently also the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations.
Victim's heirs request meeting
Daphne Caruana Galizia’s heirs on Friday night requested a meeting on the composition of the board of inquiry.
"A public inquiry chaired by a respected former judge is what all right-minded people have been calling for since our mother’s and wife's assassination," a statement from the family said.
Given the gravity of its purpose and its mandate to investigate state institutions, justice demands that the board's wider members have no financial or political links to the current political administration.
"The board will be unfit for purpose if the public has reason to doubt any of its wider members’ independence or impartiality. We ask to meet with the Prime Minister without delay to discuss our concerns in that regard."