Updated | Repubblika request consultation on judicial reform before proposals sent to Venice Commission

NGO Repubblika files judicial protest requesting Justice Minister consult with it on judiciary reform before sending proposals to Venice Commission • Edward Zammit Lewis says government open to consultation but won't be prevented from moving reform forward to Commission

Repubblika have filed a judicial protest requesting that they be consulted on the judiciary reform before any proposals are sent to the Venice Commission
Repubblika have filed a judicial protest requesting that they be consulted on the judiciary reform before any proposals are sent to the Venice Commission

Updated at 7:43pm with Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis' comments to MaltaToday

Repubblika has filed a judicial protest against the minister for justice, demanding that it be consulted on the judiciary reform the government intends to put in place before any proposals are sent to the Venice Commission.

In its protest, filed after having met Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis on the prospective reforms to be submitted to the Council of Europe, the NGO said it wanted to have a copy of the proposals on the way judges and magistrates are appointed, before the government sends these to the Venice Commission.

Republikka is also requesting that it be invited to present its submissions on the proposals.

Last week, the members of the NGO met with Zammit Lewis where they emphasised that the discussion on the reform should include civil society and be scrutinised by the press. The government had previously announced in Parliament that it had agreed on a package of reform with the Opposition, but the details had not been published.

After the meeting with the minister, the civil society group later wrote to Venice Commission president Gianni Buquicchio, telling him that although they had asked Zammit Lewis for a copy of the amendments before they were submitted to the Commission, it resulted that the changes would only be made public once an agreement was reached with the Commission.

Government open to consultation but won't be stopped from moving reforms forward - Justice Minister

Asked by MaltaToday for a reaction to Repubblika's judicial protest, Zammit Lewis said that while the government has been and will remain open to consulting with all interested parties about the reform, it would not be stopped from bringing the needed changes forward.

Malta's obligation was to present the proposed changes to the Venice Commission, the minister said, and while suggestions were welcome, no organisation would prevent the government from taking the reform to the Commission just because Repubblika had not yet reviewed them.

"Repubblika filed a judicial protest asking that I consult with it before I continue the judiciary reform process with the Venice Commission. The government has consulted and wants to continue to consult throughout the entire intitutional reform process which it wants to put in place without delay," Zammit Lewis said.

"The free press and all other interested parties will have, at the opportune moment, the opportunity to scrutinise of all the work done [on the reform]," he stressed, "Robert Abela's adminstration has nothing to hide in this regard and we will be an open book with everyone."

Zammit Lewis, however, insisted that "nobody has the right to stop a legitimate government from continuing with its current reform momentum" and to prevent it from presenting the changes to the Venice Commission, Council of Europe and European Commission.

He added that the government wanted to put the reforms in place as soon as possible so as to improve Malta's reputation and ensure strong investment is attracted to the country.

Zammit Lewis also noted that, in a letter sent to Repubblika last week, he had assured the NGO that they would be kept updated about reform progress and that they would be consulted where necessary.

The letter, sent on 11 April, can be viewed here: