Three strikes and you're out, Malta!

by Jane Whyatt

Malta's government must hold a public inquiry into the killing of investigative reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia – or answer to the European Court of Human Rights. That's the expert opinion of lawyers who have investigated the local murder inquiry and found a number of failings

Three strikes and you're out, Malta! Third legal opinion from London legal team ( picture: ECPMF screenshot)

On 9th August 2018 Ms Caruana Galizia’s family called on the Prime Minister of Malta to establish a Public Inquiry into whether her assassination could have been avoided. 

In their third and final legal opinion, published on 30. November 2018, lawyers from London’s Doughty Street Chambers and Bhatt Murphy, instructed by the family, have scrutinised the process by which three men were arrested and charged in connection with the car bomb that assassinated Ms Caruana Galizia on 16. October 2017. They conclude:

"In the event that Malta does not agree to institute a Public Inquiry without delay, we advise that proceedings should be issued in Malta in order to compel the Prime Minister’s compliance with Article 2 and if necessary thereafter in the European Court of Human Rights."

This refers to Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, namely the right to life. According to family lawyers, “a grieving family should not be expected to engage in litigation in order to ensure the state’s compliance with the right to life.“

The Opinion was drafted by Caoilfhionn Gallagher of Doughty Street Chamber and Tony Murphy of the Bhatt Murphy firm of solicitors. Mr Murphy and Doughty Street’s Jonathan Price also presented the case at the Autumn Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 8. October 2018 ahead of the COE’s fact-finding mission to Maltaled by the Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt, the Special Rapporteur for the case.  

Commenting on the Legal Opinion, Paul Caruana Galizia, one of Daphne’s three sons tweeted: 

“My family has already been forced to go to the highest court in Malta in order to remove from the criminal investigation into my mother’s assassination a senior police officer who was the subject of her journalistic inquiry. A grieving family of an assassinated investigative journalist should not have to return to court to compel Malta to comply with its legal obligation to establish a Public Inquiry; however, if that proves necessary we shall do so without delay.”

Backing the family’s request, and unerlining the importance of a public inquiry, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)’s Legal Advisor Flutura Kusari said:

"Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Minister of Justice and Culture Owen Bonnici refused our request for a public inquiry into whether Daphne's life could have been saved "arguing" it would prejudice current investigations. It is clear from the third legal opinion that they are the ones who are prejudicing the public inquiry."

The ECPMF has joined forces with an international group of media freedom organisations to send an open letter requiring the Maltese government to act.