Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has replaced two members of a public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia following concerns about their impartiality raised by the the late journalist’s family.
Former Chief Justice and Ombudsman Joseph Said Pullicino and incumbent judge Abigail Lofaro have replaced constitutional lawyer Ian Refalo and forensic expert Anthony Abela Medici on the three-person inquiry board.
They will join retired judge Michael Mallia, who has retained his post as chairperson of the inquiry board.
Caruana Galizia’s family have been calling for a public inquiry for several months, but the government only set it up last September following pressure by the Council of Europe.
However, Caruana Galizia’s family and the Council of Europe argued that Refalo and Abela Medici shouldn’t have been appointed members. This was because Refalo had worked as lawyer for the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, a body Caruana Galizia had often criticised and because Abela Medici works as NGO Commissioner and is under a government contract.
The inquiry will investigate whether any wrongful action or omission by or within any state entity facilitated the assassination of Caruana Galizia or failed to prevent it.
It will also establish whether the Maltese state has laws and measures to avoid the development of a de facto state of impunity and whether the state is fulfilling its obligation to protect people, particularly journalists, whose lives are under threat.
It will have access to all information held by state entities and will be entitled to appoint experts in particular fields to assist them.
The inquiry will be held in public but the board will have the right to conduct particular hearings privately so as to protect the confidentiality of investigations and information received in confidence.
The board will have to conclude its work within nine months, after which it will draft a report and present it to the Prime Minister and the Attorney General. It will have to publish the report within eight working days from the date on which it delivers these copies.
The board will have the power to black out parts of the reports to safeguard data protection, public safety, national security, ongoing or future criminal investigation and where the publication of such information may endanger a person’s physical safety, and it shall clearly indicate the parts that should not be published.
However, should it do so, it will be bound to provide Caruana Galizia’s family with the opportunity to read the full unredacted report without however being granted copies of the text underlying any redactions and being bound with keeping it secret.