Caruana Galizia family, NGO raise concerns about inquiry board composition

Murdered journalist's family ask for a meeting with Joseph Muscat to discuss concerns about public inquiry board's composition

Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bomb in October 2017. In June, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly called on the government to start a public inquiry into her assassination
Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bomb in October 2017. In June, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly called on the government to start a public inquiry into her assassination

The family of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia have asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to discuss its concerns about the composition of a Public Inquiry Board appointed to investigate whether the murder could have been prevented.

Yesterday, the government announced it had launched a public inquiry into Caruana Galizia's murder, presided over by Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia, and also composed of constitutional expert Professor Ian Refalo and forensic expert Anthony Abela Medici.

In a statement following the government's announcement, however, Caruana Galizia's family said that the board would "be unfit for purpose if the public has reason to doubt any of its wider members’ independence or impartiality. We ask to meet with the Prime Minister without delay to discuss our concerns in that regard."

“Given the gravity of its purpose and its mandate to investigate state institutions, justice demands that the Board’s wider members have no financial or political links to the current political administration,” the family said.

NGO Repubblika has also cast doubts on the suitability of the members of the board.

“We are now deeply disturbed to learn from the family’s statement of last night that the government has not consulted them in any way about the composition of the inquiry. The consequences of this are as grave as they ought to have been predictable,” the NGO said on Saturday.

Professor Ian Refalo’s legal representation of the FIAU, which was often the subject of Caruana Galizia’s investigations, as well as of Adrian Hillman and Technoline made him unsuitable for the role, said Repubblika. “This is another case where a member of this inquiry board is acting on the brief of someone who cannot be ruled out a priori from involvement in this case.”

Likewise, Chevalier Dr Anthony Abela Medici, who holds the position of Commissioner for the Voluntary Sector has no security of tenure in his job. “He serves quite literally at the pleasure of Joseph Muscat and while he is at his mercy, he cannot be considered in any way independent, let alone impartial.”

Retired judge Michael Mallia was also “an odd choice” said the organisation.

Judge Mallia had been tasked with assessing and investigating the content of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s work computer and is therefore part of the ongoing criminal investigations.

“His involvement in both inquiries is conflicted and by the rules of engagement set out by the government itself yesterday a paralysis for the proper conduct of either inquiry.”

“We are unhappy the government took almost two years to call this public inquiry and has done so only after international outrage and the certain prospect of a third condemnation in the courts for the breach of the Caruana Galizia family’s fundamental human rights,” reads the Repubblika statement.

It went on to say that the lack of consultation with the family showed that no attempt was being made to ensure that the inquiry is genuinely independent or that it allows for justice to be served and to be seen to be served.

It pointed to the request that the heirs of the murdered journalist accept fault in a libel case Muscat had filed against the journalist. “This policy of cold indifference to the suffering of a bereaving family is exacerbated by a campaign of hatred led by the prime minister himself who treats Peter, Matthew, Andrew and Paul Caruana Galizia as if they were perpetrators of a crime rather than victims. The remarks he made yesterday suggested they must submit to his mercy if they are not to expect to defend a law suit, he – Joseph Muscat – filed against their mother when she had not yet been killed for her work.”

Saying that there was “serious doubt” as to how genuine the government’s intentions were, Repubblika urged the authorities to accept the family’s request for a meeting to discuss the terms of reference and composition of the inquiry.

In June, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a damning report on the rule of law in Malta which called on the government to set up an inquiry into the assassination within three months of the report's date. The three-month timeframe would have elapsed on Thursday.