The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom and 24 organisations representing thousands of journalists and human rights activists have written to the Prime Minister calling for a public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
"Both the criminal proceedings and magisterial inquiry focus solely on criminal culpability. Neither process is investigating the wider and even more serious question as to whether the Maltese state is responsible for the circumstances that led to Ms Caruana Galizia’s death," the organisations said.
"Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires Malta – as a
Member State of the Council of Europe – to comply with its protective obligation
(a) whether Malta knew, or ought to have known, of a real and immediate risk to Ms Caruana Galizia’s life;
(b) the adequacy of any steps taken by Malta to guard against that risk;
(c) any steps that Malta needs to take to prevent future deaths of journalists
and/or anti-corruption campaigners."
The organisations observed that on August 9, a team of international lawyers from Doughty Street Chambers and Bhatt Murphy Solicitors in London issued a legal opinion finding that Malta had failed to institute any inquiry into whether the Maltese state bears any responsibility for the loss of Ms Caruana Galizia’s life. Following the legal opinion, the family called for a public inquiry.
"We fully support the request and urge you to reconsider your position and
to respond immediately and positively to the request of the family of Ms
Caruana Galizia. Protecting the lives and voices of journalists in Malta and
across Europe depends upon this public inquiry. There is nothing to fear from
this inquiry but the truth," the organisations said.
The appeal was also signed by Access Info, Active Watch, aditus foundation,
Article 21, Blueprint for Free Speech, Committee to Protect Journalists, European Federation of Journalists, Global Editors Network, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and IFEX (the global network of over 100 freedom of expression organizations).
Index on Censorship, Integra Foundation, International Press Institute, OBC Transeuropa/ Centro per la Cooperazione Internazionale, Ossigeno per l'Informazione, PEN International, PEN America, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM), Press Emblem Campaign, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), South East Europe Media Organisation, Transparency International, The Critical Institute, The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom and The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).
Council of Europe hearing on Monday afternoon
The Council of Europe’s legal affairs committee on Monday afternoon (today) will hold a public hearing about the investigation into the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a car bomb a year ago.
Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt has been tasked with drawing up a report about the murder and ensuing investigations. Last month, he faced a failed attempt by Labour MP Manuel Mallia to have his mandate withdrawn. The attempt was roundly rejected by fellow members of the legal committee.
Among those who are expected to testify in the hearing are lawyers representing the slain journalist’s family.
The family’s lawyers have said that if the government refused to open a public inquiry, they would commence legal proceedings in Malta and perhaps ultimately in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Bhatt Murphy argued that unless a public inquiry was held, the Prime Minister would not be fulfilling his obligation under the European Convention of Human Rights.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has flatly rejected the need for a public inquiry.
In a letter to Bhatt Murphy, Attorney General Peter Grech said last week there could be a number of reasons for deferring the decision on whether a public inquiry should be launched or not.
One reason, Dr Grech said, was that even if a public inquiry were held now it was unlikely that anything would be resolved before the criminal investigation.
It was also pertinent to ask whether there would be any risk of prejudice to criminal investigations and proceedings if an active public inquiry ran in parallel with them, he said.
Labour MPs last year voted down a parliamentary motion calling for such an inquiry.