Within days of Daphne’s murder, four United Nations experts issued a statement, calling on the Government of Malta to “honour its commitment to a prompt, thorough and independent public inquiry and investigation.”
No public inquiry was started during the first two years following the assassination, and grave concerns were raised by numerous international bodies, including the Council of Europe and the European Parliament.
Following a lengthy campaign from the journalist’s family, and strong international pressure, a public inquiry into the circumstances of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder was initiated in December 2019.
What is the purpose of a public inquiry?
Following Daphne’s murder, the Maltese authorities initiated a magisterial inquiry and parallel criminal proceedings against three men who allegedly detonated the bomb that killed her, and Yorgen Fenech, who is accused of conspiring to commission and finance her assassination. Both the criminal proceedings and magisterial inquiry focus solely on criminal culpability.
The public inquiry addresses the wider and even more serious question as to whether and how far the Maltese state is responsible for the circumstances that led to Daphne’s death.
Malta is legally obliged, under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to ensure that the investigation into Daphne's death is independent and effective. This is especially so if there is a possibility of state culpability for the death or system failure in preventing it. Malta's authorities must answer questions about whether there were any known risks to her life, and if the state therefore failed in its positive obligation to protect her from harm.
How does the Public Inquiry work?
To comply with Article 2 of the ECHR, the public inquiry is being conducted independently of state authorities - including the Maltese police, government and politicians - and has comprehensive, transparent and accessible terms of reference.
Under the terms of the public inquiry, civil society was allowed to monitor the proceedings. All major Maltese news outlets are reporting on the public inquiry hearings, with many outlets conducting live reporting in English, given that the hearings are mostly conducted in Maltese.
The board of inquiry has closed its evidence collection phase and will present its report to the Prime Minister and the Attorney General in mid-July 2021. In line with the Public Inquiry’s Terms of Reference, the report should be published within eight working days of being presented to the Prime Minister, who is obliged to table the report in parliament within five days of receiving it. The board is empowered to restrict publication of parts of the report under conditions outlined in its terms of reference.
Key moments in the public inquiry:
Since the first hearing in December 2019, the inquiry has heard many testimonies detailing Ms Caruana Galizia’s life, her work, and most importantly, the circumstances that led to her death. The following are key dates in the public inquiry and the campaign that preceded it.
19 October 2017 — Four UN experts call for a “prompt, thorough and independent public inquiry” immediately after Daphne's assassination: Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and human rights; and David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
8 December 2017 — Doughty Street Chambers issues urgent advice concerning the investigative obligation under Article 2 of the ECHR.
9 August 2018 — Doughty Street Chambers and Bhatt Murphy Solicitors issues a second advice piece, reinforcing their previous call for a public inquiry, whilst also raising concerns regarding developments of the case that occurred in the prior seven months.
30 November 2018 — Doughty Street Chambers and Bhatt Murphy Solicitors issues a third opinion calling for the creation of a public inquiry, adding that “in the event that the Prime Minister refuses to institute a Public Inquiry, which is compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’), the family will have no option but to commence legal proceedings in Malta, and ultimately if necessary in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.”
26 June 2019 — The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issues a resolution calling for the government of Malta to establish “at the earliest opportunity, within three months, an independent public inquiry in order to ensure fulfilment of its obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
21 September 2019 — Following two years of campaigning, the government of Malta announces the decision to set up a public inquiry commission late in the evening on a Friday, five days before the deadline set by the Council of Europe. The government appoints Michael Mallia, a former judge, to chair the board of inquiry and former Dean of the Faculty of Law and constitutional expert Professor Ian Refalo and forensic expert Dr Anthony Abela Medici, as members of the Commission.
22 September 2019 — Daphne's family raise concerns over the choice of two members of the commission, Anthony Abela Medici and Ian Refalo. Objections to the conflicts of interest of these individuals, as well as serious problems with the terms of reference, were raised formally with the government. Council of Europe Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt says that the public inquiry announced by the government of Malta does not meet the human rights body's expectations.
2 October 2019 — After calling for the meeting, Daphne's family meets the Prime Minister, Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
12 February 2020 — Journalists testify in the public inquiry about the attempts to “dehumanise” Ms. Caruana Galizia. Founder of The Shift News, Caroline Muscat, recounted her relationship with Daphne and the ongoing threats she faced throughout her career.
24 June 2020 — Inspector Kurt Zahra tells the public inquiry that murder suspect Yorgen Fenech said under interrogation that he knew of the plan to call a snap general election in 2017 election in December 2016.
14 September 2020 — Nine international press freedom NGOs issue a letter to Maltese Prime Minister, Robert Abela, to express “grave concern” about the “Government’s apparent interference with the activities of the independent public inquiry … in relation to the timeframe for the fulfilment of its terms of reference.”
18 September 2020 — Council of Europe rapporteur, Pieter Omtzigt, issues a letter saying that the Maltese government cannot ‘unilaterally’ decide when the Caruana Galizia inquiry will end and urges exponents to stop trying to undermine the inquiry's credibility and integrity.
30 September 2020 — Matthew Caruana Galizia presents evidence to the public inquiry regarding Henley and Partners plan to “cripple” the journalist with libel cases. The email exchanges feature both former Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff, Keith Schembri.
27 November 2020 — Former Energy minister, Konrad Mizzi,refuses to answer over 100 questions in the public inquiry. He made two statements during the hearing, the first claiming that he never taken any kickbacks during his political career, and the second to express his sympathies to the family of the journalist, while inisting that he had no involvement in her murder.
4 December 2020 — Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat testifies for five hours into the public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Muscat began his testimony by reading out a statement in which he claimed that the inquiry had “deteriorated into a political exercise.” Throughout the five hours Muscat made numerous claims, including the statement calling Ms Caruana Galizia “irrelevant” and a previously undisclosed claim that he had previously met the middleman, Melvin Theuma, at a Christmas photo-event.
7 December 2020 - On the first anniversary of the Public Inquiry, the Foundation issued a statement, co-signed by twelve press freedom organizations, noting that witnesses representing government and state entities had to be summoned to testify, that many withheld information relevant to the public inquiry’s mission, and noting Prime Minister Robert Abela’s ongoing attempts to end the public inquiry’s mandate prematurely. The statement reiterated the call on the Prime Minister of Malta and those in political office, to respect the public inquiry’s autonomy and to commit to implementing the final report in full once it is concluded.
14 December 2020 — The former Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri, testifies in the inquiry. Throughout his testimony Schembri defended his role in creating off-shore networks, and claiming that he and Konrad Mizzi had not discussed setting up offshore structures. In defending allegations of corruption between the Electrogas deal and 17 Black, Schembri claimed that there was no link between the two companies, however he did admit to informing Joseph Muscat that Yorgen Fenech owned 17 Black, but cannot remember when. With regards to the murder of Ms Caruana Galizia, Schembri claimed that he knew Fenech was a person of interest in the murder around one year before Fenech's arrest.
Following push from the Prime Minister to conclude the inquiry, the board of inquiry said that it would continue with its work beyond the deadline set by the government. In a decree, the board stated: “The search for truth can never be subjected to arbitrary and unilateral terms that could condition those called to judge, especially when the terms of reference of the board of inquiry were agreed upon with the family of slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.” Retired judge Michael Mallia and Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino, who are both receiving honoraria for their work, announced that they are willing to renounce payment for the extension in order for the inquiry to continue.
4 June 2021 — The board of inquiry declared that the collection of evidence stage is now closed and that the board will move onto finalising its report. The Foundation will work to ensure the recommendations of the final report are fully implemented.
Which organisations have advocated for a public inquiry?
Four UN experts called for a “prompt, thorough and independent public inquiry” immediately after Daphne's assassination. They are: Agnes Callamard, Michel Forst, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, and David Kaye.
The European Parliament passed resolution 2018/2965 in March, which, “Calls on the EU institutions and the Member States to initiate an independent international public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the alleged cases of corruption, financial crimes, money laundering, fraud and tax evasion reported by her, which involve high-ranking current and former public officials of Malta.”
In October 2018, 25 international press freedom and freedom of expression organisations wrote to the Prime Minister of Malta urging him to fulfil Malta's legal obligation to set up a public inquiry. They said, “Protecting the lives and voices of journalists in Malta and across Europe depends upon this public inquiry. There is nothing to fear from this inquiry but the truth.”
The International Federation of Journalists voted unanimously to join the call for public inquiry at its congress in June 2019.
What is the legal basis for a public inquiry in Malta?
Under Maltese domestic law an inquiry under the Inquiries Act, grants the legal authority to the Prime Minister to create a public inquiry.
As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Malta has a positive obligation to protect all the rights granted in the Convention. Article 2 of the ECHR protects the fundamental right to life, which in the case of Daphne Caruana Galizia, was violated.
As is presented in the advice issued by the family's lawyers, there is substantial legal precedent that grants the basis of the creation of a public inquiry. Past cases tried at the European Court of Human Rights have set precedent that under an Article 2 obligation, an independent investigation must occur. The advice also referred to similar cases within Council of Europe States where a “suspicious or violent death” has resulted in an investigation by an independant, external body.
Who is representing the family?
His work on the call for a public inquiry, and that of the barristers he has instructed, is financially supported by a grant from Free Press Unlimited (FPU), which is in turn supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. The grant is independently administered by the European Centre for Press & Media Freedom (ECPMF), whose legal expert monitors the work that it funds and reports to FPU.
The family is represented in the public inquiry by Dr Comodini Cachia, Dr Jason Azzopardi MP and Dr Eve Borg Costanzi.
What legal advice has been issued to the family?
The full legal advice is publicly available from the links below:
- Urgent advice concerning the investigative obligation under Article 2 ECHR
- Legal opinion concerning Malta's response to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia
- Public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia: Third opinion
How can I help support the ongoing campaigns for justice?
The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation is grateful for all of the public support with the ongoing campaigns to secure Justice for Daphne. It is important that we continue to raise awareness of our campaigns, therefore sharing news updates with friends, and supporting our message on various social media platforms are two small ways that you can help.
If you are in the position to financially help, you can donate to the Foundation. All donations, of any size, allow us to continue in our campaign for justice and support the everyday running of the Foundation. We are grateful for any contributions.