In this Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018 file photo, people take part in a vigil to commemorate slain investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia outside the law courts in Valletta, Malta. (Photo: AP)
A Council of Europe report on Wednesday called for an independent public inquiry into the car bomb assassination of a leading Maltese investigative journalist, criticizing the “glacial” pace of the investigation into the case so far.
Three Maltese men are believed to have triggered the powerful car bomb that killed 53-year-old Daphne Caruana Galizia on a road close to her rural home on Oct. 16, 2017. They were ordered two months later to stand trial for murder but the trial has not yet begun and they could soon be released.
Nobody has been arrested for ordering the assassination of Caruana Galizia, who became one of Malta’s best-known journalists for her regular reporting on widespread allegations of corruption on the Mediterranean island that’s a member of the European Union and uses the shared euro currency.
In his report for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Dutch lawmaker Pieter Omtzigt listed a litany of corruption scandals in Malta, shortcomings in the nation’s legal and judicial system and holdups in the Caruana Galizia investigation.
“The police investigation was delayed by the authorities’ refusal to remove an officer with a conflict of interest. The police failed to obtain information from Ms. Caruana Galizia’s laptop when it was offered to them,” he wrote, adding that police also have failed to investigate the prominent public figures that Caruana Galizia wrote about.
“I can fully understand why the Caruana Galizia family has no confidence in the ability of the Maltese authorities to investigate the murder effectively,” Omtzigt wrote. “There is now a clear need for an independent inquiry.”
The Maltese government slammed the report as “riddled with inaccurate and gratuitous statements exposing a very biased agenda which is not based on the true picture of the matter.”
In a written statement, the government said Omtzigt’s report “represents the very biased views of a small fraction of Maltese Opposition politicians.”
The report was discussed Wednesday by the legal affairs and human rights committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Paris. They issued a draft resolution calling for an inquiry that will be sent to a full meeting of the assembly next month in Strasbourg.
That draft resolution is likely to be adopted. It is non-binding, but would pressure the Maltese government to address its concerns.
The 47-nation Council of Europe, which calls itself Europe’s leading human rights organization, has issued similar resolutions in the past aimed at protecting journalists, notably targeting the governments of Turkey and Russia.