From the last 17 appointments to Malta’s judiciary, 16 were all relatives of party politicians, cronies of ministers or are somehow politically intertwined, former European Court of Human Rights Judge Giovanni Bonello said in a scathing interview with The Malta Independent.
Bonello, who was speaking about his latest book, The Constitution: How the Maltese judiciary undermines Human Rights, hit out at the historical trend of Government appointing “friends of friends”, pointing out how this will still be an issue 50 years down the line.
In perhaps his most damning critique, Bonello hits out at some members of the judiciary “who are just there to rubber stamp whatever government expects them to rubber-stamp”.
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici has said that under the upcoming judicial reform, the Prime Minister will no longer be appointing members to the bench, and a Judicial Appointments Committee will instead be doing so. This Committee is said to be made up of the Chief Justice, the Auditor General and the Ombudsmen, among others. Candidates applying for a judicial appointment will need to have been a practicing lawyer for 12 years or served as a magistrate for seven.
Bonello commented that despite these changes, there were such a high number of ‘friendly’ judicial appointments that the bench will need to contend with these issues for years to come.
“Some administrations choose their cronies but also good ones, others choose only their cronies. The judiciary is there to provide checks and balances, but then these checks and balances are left to persons chosen by the Prime Minister (under the current system)”, Bonello told The Malta Independent.
Currently, the Committee is responsible for drawing up a short list and vetting candidates, after which it is Government which takes the final decision.
Under this system, Bonello pointed towards the absurdity of having a system whereby every magistrate and judge owes his job to the Prime Minister, as well as any promotion.
Bonello was tasked, back in 2013 while serving as President of the Commission for Holistic Reform, to draft a report outlining areas for judicial reform.
The report he eventually penned became known as the ‘Bonello report’. When asked about the impression that a number of the reforms were not introduced, Bonello stresses that he is thankful for any reform which has been adopted, despite it being not “particularly large amount”.
Adrian Delia accuses Government of taking over ‘supposedly independent’ institutions
Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia took the opportunity to cite Bonello’s blunt review on the state of Malta’s judiciary to highlight how “supposedly independent” institutions have been hijacked by Government.
Delia quoted Bonello, while also pointing out how apart from the judiciary, the police force, the Malta Financial Services Authority, the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (anti-money laundering agency) and even the army have all been taken over by the Labour Party in government.
In the face of all this, Delia forcefully declared all those choosing not to vote in the May European Parliament elections and Local Council elections will be endorsing “Malta’s corrupt government”.
Delia made his address shortly before the PN held a day-long fundraising activity.