CoE probes murder investigation of Daphne Caruana Galizia

By Jane Whyatt

A Special Rapporteur appointed by the Council of Europe is travelling to Malta to scrutinise the investigation into how and why an investigative journalist was murdered. 

Pieter Omtzigt Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt (photo: Wiki Commons)

It’s been more than a year now since the car bomb exploded near Daphne Caruana Galizia’s home, killing her instantly. It was the first of three murders of journalists in EU Member States within the past twelve months and has attracted international outrage. 

For only the second time in history, the Council of Europe has given a Rapporteur permission to hear witnesses confidentially without revealing their identities.

Three men have been charged in connection with Daphne’s death. Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt believes the investigation must go further. He told ECPMF:

I am working under the assumptions that the murder was planned and premeditated long in advance; that the persons ultimately responsible for Caruana Galizia’s death were motivated by her investigative work; that the three arrested suspects were most likely acting under instructions

The last time such as secure confidential process was used, it was to investigate the secret “extraordinary rendition“ flights which the US Central Investigation Agency (CIA) used to smuggle terrorism suspects out of their home countries via European airports to face torture at the Guantanomo Bay American interrogation centre in Cuba.

Confidential hearings

By offering anonymity, security and confidentiality, Omtzigt may persuade people to come forward who have not yet told everything they know about the journalist’s work and her many enemies. In her blog Running Commentary, Daphne Caruana Galizia often implicated members of the Maltese government. Her family is still dealing with more than 30 defamation cases. Many of  them have been brought under the controversial SLAPP law (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). Supporters of the murdered journalist face constant hate speech in the social media  in an atmosphere that has been described as ’poisonous’.

During the investigation the committee will hear all sides of the argument. The Maltese government will put its part of the story in front of the Legal Affairs committee of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg in January (PACE). 

At its last meeting, lawyers from Bhatt Murphy and Doughty Street Chambers (UK law firms based in London), who are working for the family of Daphne, presented their legal opinion that a public inquiry is required. This request was also presented in person by ECPMF and an international delegation of media freedom organisations to Malta’s Prime Minister Jospeh Muscat. 

Rule of Law 

Questions were raised in the CoE meeting about the Rule of Law in Malta. So Omtzigt has requested – and been granted – to ask for an opinion by the Venice Commission. This will focus on the independence from political influence or interference of the Maltese judiciary and police force. A similar Venice Commission inquiry was established when the Polish government made wide-ranging changes to its judiciary in 2016, and led to Poland being censured under by the European Parliament under Article 7 of the Treaty of Rome.

The Maltese government, in a surprise move, announced a week later that they were also seeking a Venice Commission advice.

Pieter Omtzigt was also Rapporteur on the politically-sensitive case of the 2010 fatal Polish Air Force plane crash at Smolensk where Polish President Lech Kaczinsky was amongst the 96 people killed, amidst accusations of Russian involvement. His report was unanimously approved.

Omtzigt also led the Council of Europe’s scrutiny of the 2016 revelations of widespread surveillance of European citizens by foreign intelligence services, revealed by the whistle blower Edward Snowden.

A Member of the Dutch parliament, Omtzigt was elected on the ticket of the Christian Democrat Appeal party by almost 100,000 preference votes.

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Source information: This article was originally published by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom –