Just over a month after two police complaints were filed against them, a 420-page inquiry published by the government earlier this afternoon has cleared Prime Minister Robert Abela, AFM Commander Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi and the 11-soldier crew of an AFM P52 patrol boat of homicide charges in the case of the death of at least five migrants at sea.
The long document detailing the inquiry – led by Magistrate Joe Mifsud – was reportedly finished and handed to the office of the Attorney General for examination last Wednesday, but has now been published in full.
Beyond clearing all three parties from the claims made against them due to “no documentary evidence or testimony” to back them up, the inquiry also concluded that “Malta performed its international obligations”, an accompanying government press statement read.
“Further investigations should uncover the identity of the human traffickers who are organising these voyages at sea for profit, or even to finance terrorist groups,” the statement continues.
This whole inquiry was triggered by civil society NGO Repubblika filing two police reports on two separate incidents at sea back in April.
The first was an incident over Easter weekend which saw the death of migrants at sea, to which Repubblika held the army and Prime Minister Abela accountable. Some days later, Abela had confirmed he was being investigated for the murder of the migrants, assuring the nation that his “conscience is clean”.
The second complaint had arrived as a result of claims that an AFM patrol boat had sabotaged a migrant boat carrying some 70 people in distress near Malta. “Malta military came and cut cable of motor,” NGO Alarm Phone had tweeted on the 9th April, allegedly quoting migrants on the boat. “Water is in the boat. Malta military said ‘I leave you to die in the water. Nobody will come to Malta’.”
Some days later, however, Repubblika withdrew its complaints against the AFM soldiers, saying they deserved to be cleared of suspicion of wrongdoing. At the same time, though, it “saw no reason to consider revising our position about our complaint against the prime minister and the army chief for their decision not to save people in distress at sea”.
In its statement on the inquiry, the government said the P52 crew wasn’t even on rescue duty on the days indicated by Repubblika in their complaint.