Malta still awaits truth and reconciliation

Paul Caruana Galizia

On October 16, 2017, my mother, Daphne Caruana Galizia, uploaded her last blog post, got in her car, and was assassinated as a bomb placed under her seat was detonated just outside our home in Malta. She had spent the previous five years reporting on corruption at the highest levels of the Maltese government. Two years later, there is still no justice for her, or her work. But there is hope.

In one of her last major stories, my mother wrote that she had uncovered a network of offshore companies, from Panama to Dubai, that the prime minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, his most senior cabinet minister, Konrad Mizzi, and casino owner Yorgen Fenech had set up to launder the proceeds of a corrupt energy deal with Azerbaijan.

In November, Fenech was finally arrested in connection with my mother’s assassination. He asked for immunity in return for dirt on alleged accomplices.

Schembri resigned shortly before he too was arrested and his home searched, while Mizzi—who had been campaigning to replace the prime minister when his term ends—also departed. It marked a stark change: the government, which controls the police and attorney general, had previously provided them with protection and had blocked every attempt at an investigation that would provide justice for my mother.

In the hours after her assassination, we had to ask the first investigating magistrate to recuse herself for her close links to government officials and the criminal libel suit she once filed against my mother. The government then kicked her replacement upstairs. Thereafter, the magisterial investigation was shrouded in secrecy.

In the weeks after her assassination, we filed a constitutional case to remove the police officer leading the investigation: he is married to a cabinet minister and was someone who my mother had investigated. We won, the government appealed, and we won on appeal.

When, in December 2017, three common criminals were arrested for her assassination, the government quickly concluded it had solved the case. The men have yet to stand trial.

With the help of NGOs, the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, we fought tooth and nail to keep the investigation open in order to find the masterminds.

My family has done little more for the past two years than fight to ensure that the investigation is conducted with integrity. After a year and half of calling on the prime minister to launch a public inquiry into my mother’s assassination, he announced one a few days before a September 2019 deadline set by the Council of Europe on pain of sanctions. Still, as announced, it failed to meet the legal obligations of independence and impartiality.

A few months ago, they might have got away with it. But people have been pushed too far for too long: there is revulsion at the government’s behaviour over the past two years. The government has suspended its plan and we fight on.

The public inquiry, if the government complies with the law, will be Malta’s truth and justice commission. By investigating the circumstances around my mother’s assassination, it will reveal what has happened to the country that Daphne Caruana Galizia held so dear, and that she refused to leave, even in the face of death.

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