The Malta Independent 11 August 2022, Thursday

LIBE committee raises concerns over slow justice system, calls on Malta to scrap passport scheme

Semira Abbas Shalan Wednesday, 25 May 2022, 14:24 Last update: about 4 months ago

The delegation from the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs has determined that Malta’s ‘excruciatingly slow’ justice system continues to impact the quality and efficiency of the way justice is brought about.

Addressing journalists at Europe House at the end of the LIBE Committee visit to Malta, Chairperson of the Committee Sophie in't Veld said that the importance of ending the culture of impunity in the country is crucial for all member states of the EU, including Malta. In’t Veld said it was ‘shocking and horrifying’ to see there has still been no justice for the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia after four and a half years.

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She expressed disappointment at the fact that not even the alleged mastermind of the murder has been convicted, as well as the alleged perpetrators who have not been convicted as of yet. In’t Veld said it was ‘disgusting’ to see that the SLAPP cases against Caruana Galizia, which have now been inherited by her family, have not yet been dropped.

In’t Veld also raised a number of concerns over the golden passport scheme, where citizenships were being sold particularly to Russian oligarchs. She said that the government has tried to argue that the scheme is useful in its merits, however she said that in light of the Ukrainian war, this scheme must be discontinued immediately. Malta is the only country still implementing this scheme.

Several concerns were found on the functioning of the political systems as well as how the Maltese parliament functions. In’t Veld pointed out that Malta needs to urgently address the high amount of debts both the Labour and the Nationalist parties find themselves in, as well as the issue of non-transparent finances of both parties.

The delegation pointed out that the government and the opposition do not work harmoniously to fight corruption, but rather continue to blame one another for wrongdoings. In’t Veld said that there needs to be national unity, and for the parties to take political responsibility, to implement packages fighting corruption, such as the 12 legislative bills aimed at fighting corruption which the PN presented in the previous administration, but was voted out with a majority of the parliament. She added that all MPs must be equally equipped to scrutinize the government.

French MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield said that there seems to be a partial denial of the situation of corruption in Malta. She said that the death of Caruana Galizia remained ‘low key,’ and police stopped seeking Europol’s assistance following their investigation.

Italian MEP Franco Roberti said that his impression was that the reforms taken by the Maltese government were solely taken because of the pressure imposed on Malta by entities such as the Venice Commission and the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), and reforms, which at times were made half-heartedly, or felt incomplete, were not made in the interest of citizens, but rather due to external pressure. Roberti said that he was surprised that there is no Justice Commission in Parliament to present and demand reforms. He added that reforms on paper which are not enforced are a ‘non-reform,’ and a change in culture is needed.

Roberti also expressed disappointment over the quality of the justice system, which renders their independence from the state futile. He said that there is no specialization or training for judges and magistrates over mafia organizations, and investigating such cases related to mafia. Roberti said that the quality of the justice system must be improved with better training within the system.

Slovak MEP Vladimír Bilčík said that justice delayed is justice denied, referring to the case of Caruana Galizia, as well as the justice system in general. He said that in other countries, where similar cases have happened, the perpetrators have been brought to trial, and involved officials were charged. He said without justice served, trust and reconciliation in the system cannot be achieved.

The delegation pointed out that while there have been improvements, and a seeming will to implement reforms, such as the independence of magistrates from the state, this is not enough, and more needs to be done. It said that the continuous monitoring for the rule of law in Malta will continue.

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