The Malta Independent 25 September 2020, Friday

Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation blasts government’s 'one-time' extension for public inquiry

Friday, 4 September 2020, 12:06 Last update: about 20 days ago

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation has shot down Prime Minister Robert Abela’s decision to give a one-time extension to the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, saying that the government should not interfere in the proceedings of the public inquiry.

The public inquiry into the assassination that shocked the country three years ago, started after the Caruana Galizia family, who run the foundation, incessantly campaigned for it for almost two years.

Former Joseph Muscat then gave the go-ahead for the public inquiry in December 2019, soon after Yorgen Fenech’s arrest in connection with the murder, while Malta was in the midst of one of its worst political crises to date.

Notably, the public inquiry was given a 9-month deadline, however this timeframe was cut short due to courts closing down when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Once these restrictions were dropped the inquiry started again.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Abela wrote to the state-appointed public inquiry board saying that he is granting a one-time deadline extension to 15 December 2020 for the public inquiry to come to a close.

This was met with derision from the family’s lawyers in that day’s sitting, and on Friday the Foundation released a statement in which it blasted this decision, saying that the government should not interfere in the public inquiry, while also filing a note of submission to the board regarding it.

“The board has stated that the new deadline is insufficient and a further extension will be necessary,” the statement read.

“The Terms of Reference for the public inquiry are clear. It is within the state-appointed board’s remit, and not the government’s, to decide when its work is complete. If the board decides it needs more time to fulfil its remit, the deadline of the public inquiry is automatically extended.”

The Foundation explained that the government’s role is to provide the board with the necessary resources to complete its task, and to act on the recommendations of its final report.

“In particular, we draw attention to paragraph 8 of the Terms of Reference, which government itself published on 15 November 2019: The Board of Inquiry shall endeavour to conclude its work within a time frame of nine months without prejudice to the proper fulfilment of these terms of reference. Imposing restrictions on the board runs counter to the inquiry’s Terms of Reference and amounts to a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.” 

In their note, the Foundation explained that it is clear that the board is working tirelessly and has called numerous witnesses, but it is also clear that there are still several witnesses that still need to be called to testify.

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