Council of Europe says Caruana Galizia public inquiry does not meet its expectations

The government of Malta responded to Peter Omtzigt's claims by saying that the PACE rapporteur lacked credibility when he aided a false witness several years ago

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rapporteur Peter Omtzigt
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rapporteur Peter Omtzigt

Peter Omtzigt, rapporteur on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has written that the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder instituted by the Maltese government "does not meet the European Parliamentary Assembly’s expectations."

The Council of Europe has endorsed Omtzigt’s views and has urged the Maltese authorities to “address the issues raised as a matter of urgency.”

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, in a statement, invited the Maltese authorities to address a series of issues with the inquiry’s terms of reference and membership.

Omtzigt said that serious concerns had already been expressed about the independence and impartiality of the three members appointed to carry out the inquiry, the three members being Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia, former Faculty of Laws Dean Ian Refalo and forensic expert Anthony Abela Medici.

“The composition of the Board of Inquiry must be such as to dispel any reasonable criticism of its actual or apparent independence and impartiality,” Omtzigt wrote.

He added that Caruana Galizia’s family should enjoy “a privileged position” in the inquiry, with the power to present procedural motions, question witnesses and make submissions.

“The inquiry’s report to the Prime Minister must of course be published immediately and in full. The credibility and status of the inquiry would be further enhanced were the Maltese government to commit itself to responding promptly to any recommendations contained in the final report,” Omtzigt wrote.

The Maltese government responded to Omtzigt’s comments and argued that Omtzigt had not even consulted it before he passed on his declaration to the Parliamentary Assembly.

“His declaration is riddled with elementary errors, like the fact that according to the declaration, the role of Commissioner for NGOs is dependent on the government of the day when in actual fact it is protected by ‘security of tenure’ as per the law,” the government said in a statement.

The government also criticised Omtzigt for his lack of credibility.

“He is known for his involvement several years ago in aiding a false witness in the way he answers questions and to infiltrate a meeting that was attended by the relatives of victims of the MH17 airplane crash. The government can never have faith in the integrity of someone with such a track record,” the statement read.

Instead, the government referred to a statement that had been released by Mija Pejcinovic Buric, the Council of Europe’s general secretary on 21 September, who had described the launch of a public inquiry as a positive development.