Robert Aquilina claims breach of human rights in ongoing struggle to obtain FIAU information

Repubblika’s Robert Aquilina fears unfair treatment at hands of tribunal deciding on freedom of information requests for list of police nominees to FIAU board during Lawrence Cutajar's time as police commissioner

Repubblika President Robert Aquilina
Repubblika President Robert Aquilina

Repubblika’s Robert Aquilina has filed constitutional proceedings over the State’s refusal to publish the names suggested by a former police chief for the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit board.

Aquilina is claiming the State breached his fundamental rights as a result of ongoing struggles to obtain information about the selection of the FIAU’s board of governors.

The constitutional proceedings were filed against the State Advocate, the Data Protection Commissioner, the Commissioner of Police and the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry for Finance and Employment.

The case concerns the repeated refusal by the State to provide him a full and uncensored list of nominees for the FIAU board, which former police chief Lawrence Cutajar, proposed to the finance ministry.

Former deputy police chief Silvio Valletta was ultimately appointed to the board for the police force.

News of the application was met with consternation by the appeals tribunal chairman, when he was informed of the proceedings when the case continued before him today.

The chairman declared that he would not allow anyone to tarnish his integrity.

Aquilina had filed a freedom of information request for this data, but was only given copies of documents from which the names of the nominees who had not been selected were redacted.

The justification given was that the names were personal data protected by Data Protection law. Aquilina had filed an appeal to that decision, which is being heard by the tribunal.

Anna Mallia, the chairperson of the appeals tribunal, had accepted a request for her recusal, leading to the appointment of lawyer Noel Camilleri as substitute chairman, in March 2022.

The proceedings were further delayed by Camilleri’s offer of resignation in view of the subsequent general elections.

Aquilina is arguing that this offer shows that Camilleri’s position is beholden to the government, and that this meant that he will not receive a fair hearing before the tribunal. He also pointed to news reports about a Facebook post by Camilleri in which he lavishes praise on Joseph Muscat’s political vision.

This constituted a violation of his right to a fair hearing, freedom of expression and justice within a reasonable time, as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights and related local legislation, Aquilina argued.

The activist added that the fact that it has taken almost three years for his requests to be decided was also preventing him from effectively holding the government up to scrutiny. 

 “In the circumstances, the applicant cannot but doubt the impartiality of the tribunal’s chairperson, [a doubt] which is such that even an ordinary person could arrive at objectively.”

Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia signed the constitutional application.