The seven salient changes in the terms of the Caruana Galizia public inquiry

The terms of reference of the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder have been changed. MASSIMO COSTA reports on the salient differences between the first attempt and now

An independent public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder can finally get underway after important changes were announced last Friday.

After an agreement was reached between the journalist’s family and the government, the board conducting the inquiry now has two new members.

Former judge Michael Mallia has been retained as chair of the inquiry board but he will now be joined by former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino and sitting judge Abigail Lofaro.

The change comes after the Caruana Galizia family had objected to the presence of constitutional expert Ian Refalo and forensic expert Anthony Abela Medici on the initial board announced in September, insisting the former had a conflict of interest, and the latter’s expertise was irrelevant.

But as significant in Friday’s announcement was the news that the public inquiry’s terms of reference have also changed.

MaltaToday analysed the seven salient changes to the terms of reference:

1. Killing is now referred to as an ‘assassination’ not a ‘death’

The old terms of reference specified that the inquiry would be investigating and reporting on the “death” or Caruana Galizia and on whether the “death” could have been prevented. The new terms of reference, however, do away with references to her “death”, and instead use the term “assassination”.

This may appear a minor detail but the updated terms are closer to the truth, given that there is no doubt Caruana Galizia’s ‘death’ was premeditated murder.

2. State’s possible wrongful actions include having ‘caused’ murder

The previous terms said that the inquiry would have to determine whether any wrongful action or omission by or within any State entity could have facilitated the assassination or failed to prevent it, particularly whether the State knew or should have known of risks to Caruana Galizia’s life “at the time” of her murder.

The updated terms add that the inquiry will also consider whether the State not only knew of, but “caused” risks to her life. They also remove the words “at the time”, essentially broadening the period within which the State could have failed to stop the assassination.

3. Board has to publish inquiry report

The board is now bound to presenting the inquiry report to the Prime Minister and Attorney General, to notify the public that the inquiry has been concluded and presented to the Prime Minister, and, most notably, to publish the report within eight working days from when it is delivered to the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister has to table the report in Parliament within five days of receiving it. The original deadline of nine months within which the inquiry must be completed has remained in place.

4. Further qualifications on inquiry’s public nature

The old terms specified that the board could carry out particular hearings in camera to protect the investigation’s confidentiality, but the new terms also allow it to restrict the disclosure or publication of any document or evidence to safeguard such confidentiality. They are also more clearly defined on the circumstances when in camera proceedings and restricted publication of documents or evidence are necessary, specifically referring to protecting the safety and rights of witnesses, of national security and other sensitive information, and for the avoidance of prejudice to other proceedings.

5. Family to be given access to full inquiry report, including redactions

Although the terms allow for restrictions on the publication of the document, it specifies that the board must provide the family with the opportunity to read the full report, including the redacted parts, without being granted copies of the text underlying any redactions. The family are also prohibited from divulging the redacted content.

6. Family and public could be allowed to participate

The original terms say that the board can regulate its own procedure on all matters, including the question of access by Caruana Galizia’s family and the public to the inquiry’s proceedings and acts. The latest terms add that it can also regulate the matter of participation by the family and public in such proceedings.

7. Board can appoint experts to assist it

The board can now appoint persons such as technical assistants and experts in particular fields to assist the inquiry, as long as such persons are independent and impartial.

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