Less than a month remains before a Council of Europe deadline expires, but the government says it is still discussing the setting up of a public inquiry to ensure that it does not jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations.
Calls for a public inquiry have been ongoing since Caruana Galizia’s assassination on 16 October 2017, from activists as well as the victim’s family.
On 27 June, the Council of Europe imposed a three-month deadline within which the inquiry was to be established. That window closes on 27 September.
In July, Foreign Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela had said the government would honour said recommendation. Speaking in the UK, Abela had said, “In that Council of Europe report there is that within three months, we need to have a public inquiry. My Prime Minister has made it very clear that a public inquiry will be set up, and the public inquiry will be set up within the three months that the Council of Europe stated.”
This was the first time a government minister had confirmed the government will establish a public inquiry into the journalist’s murder since it was demanded by the Council of Europe.
But the government later seemed to backtrack, saying that it would need to consult legal experts and engage with the CoE to ensure that the public inquiry would not jeopardize the ongoing investigations.
Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne referred to a recent statement by the Prime Minister, who had said that internal discussions were ongoing and that the government was seeking legal advice on the matter.
Pressed to say whether the deadline will be met, he reiterated that discussions are ongoing.
Asked whether Carmelo Abela could have made his statement without first discussing the matter with the PM, Fearne said he is not present for all discussions between the PM and cabinet members, so he cannot answer that question. “But Carmelo Abela had, more or less, said the same thing the government is saying now,” he told journalists.
Speaking at another event, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici also said that the government was still engaging with the Council of Europe and lawyers to make sure the public inquiry does not jeopardize ongoing investigations.