During a meeting with Council of Europe rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt, Prime Minister Robert Abela said that Malta will leave no stone unturned in ensuring a better justice system and a more robust rule of law leading to strong governance.
Dr Abela explained how the government is adjourning the system of appointment of the judiciary. In 2014, Malta had already moved from a system where the Prime Minister had complete discretion to a system where an appointments committee, made up of the Ombudsman, Attorney General, Chief Justice, Auditor General and the President of Chamber of Advocates approve a number of candidates, and the Prime Minister can only appoint members from that pool.
“Following recommendations by the Venice Commission, the government is now looking at a system where members of the judiciary will form, at least, half of the composition of the appointments commission. The idea is to have more transparency, which is paramount to a stronger democracy,” said the Prime Minister.
Dr Abela remarked that Malta will not drag its feet in implementing the necessary changes. “I have been in office for one month and immediately started implementing such changes”.
The Prime Minister mentioned the new method of appointment of the Police Commissioner. Rather than the previous system, which had been in place for years, the new method will introduce a public call not only for serving police members, and candidates will be scrutinized by the Public Service Commission. The best two candidates will be referred to the Cabinet and the one nominated will be referred to Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee and subject to a public grilling.
Malta has also implemented a number of recommendations of rapporteur Omtzigt. First and foremost, the setting up a public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Such an inquiry, which is a first for Malta, is moving at a fast pace, and witnesses are being heard every week by three judges which have been agreed upon with the Caruana Galizia family.
Other important changes include the division in the functions of the Attorney General, whereby the State Advocate will be a chief consultant to the government and has been chosen through a public call supervised by Judge Michael Mallia, while the Attorney General will be the public prosecutor. The government is also in the process of splitting the functions of the Police Force, whereby the police will carry out investigate duties, and it will then be up to the Attorney General to lead the prosecution.
“We have started on a strong footing, but we are ambitious to do even more. In principle, we agree on most of the recommendations in the Venice Commission report and we are currently in dialogue on their method of implementation. I look forward to being scrutinized on the delivery of these changes. Malta is a good faith state which stands for democracy, rule of law and governance,” concluded the Prime Minister.