The Prime Minister’s former Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri, is the latest to be arrested in connection with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, following his resignation on 26 November. Minister for Tourism Konrad Mizzi has also resigned, and Minister for the Economy Christian Cardona has suspended himself. Businessman Yorgen Fenech - the owner of Dubai-registered company 17 Black - has been arrested, questioned, and released three times. He has not yet been charged, but remains guarded by police and has requested immunity from prosecution in exchange for information. Fenech’s personal doctor, Adrian Vella, has also been arrested in connection with the assassination.
Suspected middleman Melvin Theuma has been granted a presidential pardon in exchange for information, and is scheduled to testify before a magistrate on 29 November. Three accused hitmen – Alfred Degiorgio, George Degiorgio, and Vincent Muscat - also remain in detention following their arrest on 4 December 2017, but have not yet been brought to trial.
“After two long years of impunity, we welcome the significant developments that now appear to be taking place in the investigation into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. This is the result of sustained campaigning by Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family and Maltese and international civil society in the face of tremendous pressure, as well as the courageous investigative reporting that has continued. However, these are not sufficient steps towards justice. We call for all hitmen, all middlemen, and all masterminds to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.
In light of the clear deficiencies in the criminal investigation to date – as detailed in a recent report co-authored by RSF and The Shift News – RSF reiterates the need for an independent and impartial public inquiry to proceed without further delay, and welcomes the recently improved terms of reference and changes to the Board of Inquiry. This step remains crucial to determine whether the state knew or should have known about the threat to Caruana Galizia; whether the state could have acted to prevent her assassination; and what lessons can be drawn for the future.
“For the country to be able to turn a page and move on, all has to be known on the facts and those responsible for the murder, and all steps have to be taken to ensure full justice,” said the head of RSF’s EU desk, Pauline Adès-Mével.
RSF further calls for the Maltese government to implement all other recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) resolution of 26 June 2019 related to rule of law in Malta, which have so far gone unheeded, as highlighted by the PACE Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee in an information note published on 18 November.
Four mass demonstrations have been held in central Valletta since Yorgen Fenech’s initial arrest on 20 November. Protesters have called for Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s resignation, as well as justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Malta is ranked 77th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, having fallen 30 places over the past two years.