Pieter Omtzigt flags ‘failing system of magisterial inquiries’, despite reforms

Council of Europe special rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt warns institutional reforms did not fix “failing” magisterial inquiries system

Malta’s system of magisterial inquiries is failing and is allowing for impunity to foster, Pieter Omtzigt has warned.

The Council of Europe special rapporteur tweeted that, while he welcomed the government’s progress in implementing reforms proposed by the Venice Commission, various concerns remains.

The government, he said, had put in place reforms to decrease the Prime Minister’s excessive powers and increase accountability.

But, despite sending the reforms it had drafted to the Venice Commission, it did not wait for its opinion before putting them in place, he noted.

Moreover, he said the reform process was untransparent, and there had been not been a public consultation.

“I remain concerned that the overall reform process still seems erratic, uncoordinated, non-transparent & piecemeal, with no meaningful public consultation, as requested by both [the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission],” Omtzigt said.

“Most of all, I am concerned that the failing system of magisterial inquiries remains unreformed. This is the real bottleneck that allows impunity for high-level political corruption, as identified by GRECO.”

The Dutch MP went on to highlight that the fact a judicial review could now take place of the Attorney General’s decision not to prosecute would change nothing if the reason for the AG’s lack of action was because a magisterial inquiry never came to a close, or if it did end but the AG still failed to take a decision.

He added that ongoing magisterial inquiries had been used as an excuse for police inaction on money-laundering allegations against former OPM chief of staff keith Schembri.

Omtzigt’s comments come after the government and Opposition on Wednesday unanimously approved significant Constitutional changes following the Venice Commission’s recommendations.

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