Opposition leader Adrian Delia took up legal criticism of the bill splitting the dual role of the Attorney General as public prosecutor and lawyer to the government, insisting the changes would weaken the rule of law.
The government’s bill is intended to address criticism by the Venice Commission, but speaking in Parliament, Dr Delia highlighted and quoted extensively from law professor Kevin Aquilina’s recent criticism that the proposed law failed to live up to the commission's recommendations.
Prof. Aquilina, former dean of the University of Malta faculty of laws, slammed the proposed law in an article as “half-baked and ill-conceived, and has been drafted hastily, shabbily, superficially, and without enough thought and research put into it”.
The Opposition has already said it will be voting against the bill, primarily over its failure to adopt a proposal for the Attorney General to be appointed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
Speaking during the bill’s second reading on Wednesday, Dr Delia highlighted several other criticisms levelled at the bill, including that the Attorney General will still be appointed by the Prime Minister, whose already wide powers of appointment were highlighted by the Venice Commission, and that the Attorney General would continue to hold several other posts that had been flagged as creating potential conflicts of interest.
Dr Delia also noted that decisions on undertaking criminal proceedings will not be subject to judicial review, and that a proposed merger of prosecuting police with the Attorney General’s prosecuting office had not been taken up.
“This law will strengthen the Prime Minister's powers to pick his people and keep them in their posts, while ensuring that their decisions cannot be challenged,” he said.
Rather than strengthening the rule of law, Dr Delia added, the bill would weaken it further.
Prof. Aquilina’s criticism – in which he argued that the government was “deliberately acting in bad faith” - followed similar analysis by Council of Europe special rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt, who said the bill fall short of the changes proposed by the Venice Commission.
‘Criticism is farcical and dishonest’ - Herrera
Earlier, Environment Minister Jose Herrera turned his guns on the Venice Commission members, arguing that flaws in their home countries’ national systems meant their criticism rung hollow.
“If we had the systems the Venice Commission members' countries had, they would call us a dictatorship,” Dr Herrera said, proceeding to list issues in each country he said were similar to the criticism levelled at Malta.
“Their systems, by their own yardsticks, are flawed and should be investigated,” he said.
Dr Herrera added that the bill the government had put forward went above and beyond to create a better system, and said the Opposition were weakening the new post – and hence the rule of law – by not agreeing to entrench the changes in the Constitution.
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