Appeal to establish a public inquiry into the assassination of Ms. Daphne Caruana Galizia

Dear Prime Minister Joseph Muscat,

I write to you on behalf of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom and 22 organisations (listed below) representing thousands of journalists and human rights activists concerning Malta’s response to the assassination of journalist Ms Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Following her murder on 16 October 2017, the Maltese authorities initiated criminal proceedings against the men who allegedly detonated the bomb that killed Ms Caruana Galizia and a parallel magisterial inquiry into whether others should be charged with criminal offences for commissioning the alleged assassins. Both the criminal proceedings and magisterial inquiry focus solely on criminal culpability.

Neither process is investigating the wider and even more serious question as to whether the Maltese state is responsible for the circumstances that led to Ms Caruana Galizia’s death.

Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires Malta – as a Member State of the Council of Europe – to comply with its protective obligation by examining (a) whether Malta knew, or ought to have known, of a real and immediate risk to Ms Caruana Galizia’s life; (b) the adequacy of any steps taken by Malta to guard against that risk; and (c) any steps that Malta needs to take to prevent future deaths of journalists and/or anti-corruption campaigners.

On 9 August 2018, a team of international lawyers from Doughty Street Chambers and Bhatt Murphy Solicitors in London issued a legal opinion finding that Malta has failed to institute any inquiry into whether the Maltese state bears any responsibility for the loss of Ms Caruana Galizia’s life. Following the legal opinion, the family has submitted the following request to your government:

To establish a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act that is completely independent of the Maltese police, Government and politicians, and that is conducted by a panel of respected international judges, retired judges and/or suitably qualified individuals with no political or government links.

We fully support the request and urge you to reconsider your position and to respond immediately and positively to the request of the family of Ms Caruana Galizia.

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.

Seeking justice for Ms Caruana Galizia and protection for those who continue her legacy remains our top priority.

We would appreciate your written response to our appeal.

Flutura Kusari, Legal Advisor, The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.

List of Organisations

Access Info

Active Watch

aditus foundation

Article 21

Blueprint for Free Speech

Committee to Protect Journalists

European Federation of Journalists

Global Editors Network

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

IFEX (the global network of over 100 freedom of expression organizations)

Index on Censorship

Integra Foundation

International Press Institute

OBC Transeuropa/ Centro per la Cooperazione Internazionale

Ossigeno per l’Informazione

PEN International

PEN America

Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM)

Press Emblem Campaign

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

South East Europe Media Organisation

Transparency International

The Critical Institute

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)

Put people first – Joint NGO Statement on the occasion of World Refugee Day 2018

On World Refugee Day 2018, in the run-up to the European Council Meeting on June 28, we urge the government to prioritise the protection of people rather than just the protection of Europe’s borders.

The events of the past weeks are a stark reminder, if any were needed, that Europe’s borders are still dangerous and inhospitable places for people in need of protection. They highlight the fact that the most vulnerable are often the first casualty in disputes between states on responsibility for those rescued at sea.  Seen in the light of discussions at European level, they underscore the fact that Europe is still far from achieving a unified and consistent response to the needs of people arriving here in search of protection.

Instead of focusing on real responsibility-sharing within the European Union, Member States’ discussions focus almost exclusively on stopping spontaneous refugee arrivals or making arrangements with non-European States for refugees to remain there, even where these States might not be able or willing to offer true refugee protection.

This lack of a unified approach and the emphasis on protection of borders and perceived national interests – rather than protection of people – is problematic for everyone. Individual EU Member States are disadvantaged by the application of the Dublin Regulation, insofar as this requires the EU’s border Member States to become the continent’s reception or detention centres.

Yet is it particularly problematic for refugees and asylum-seekers who continue to die in ever greater numbers as they attempt to reach a place of safety.

According to UNHCR, although sea arrivals to Italy have drastically reduced since July 2017, the journey claims an increasing number of lives. In 2018, the death rate amongst those crossing from Libya increased to 1 for every 14 people, compared to 1 for every 29 people in the same period in 2017.

‘Forgotten at the Gates of Europe’, a report published yesterday by JRS Europe, highlights the impact of this reality on the lives of men, women and children fleeing in search of protection. It calls upon the EU to create a Common European Asylum System that lives up to its name and that truly affords protection to those who need it.

On World Refugee Day, aditus foundation, Integra Foundation, JRS Malta and the Malta Emigrants’ Commission join our voice to that of JRS Europe in calling for a fundamental policy shift at EU level – to create a system that prioritises protection of people and creates safe and legal pathways for people seeking protection.

We encourage Malta to lead by example, as it did with the intra-EU relocation exercise, and to introduce safe and legal pathways for refugees to reach a place of safety, in particular by broadening the rules on family reunification for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and resettling refugees from transit countries.

Our human rights mission calls upon us to always stand up for our beliefs: we will not falter.

“In summary, gathering and disseminating information, advocacy and the mobilization of public opinion are often the most common tools used by human rights defenders in their work.

They work at democratic transformation in order to increase the participation of people in the decision-making that shapes their lives and to strengthen good governance.

They also contribute to the improvement of social, political and economic conditions, the reduction of social and political tensions, the building of peace, domestically and internationally, and the nurturing of national and international awareness of human rights.”

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2004

In commemoration of International Human Rights Day, aditus foundation notes the precarious situation of Malta’s human rights defenders and calls for a broader respect for their central role in promoting and contributing towards Malta’s overall well-being.

Malta’s human rights defenders are those individuals and organisations that tirelessly seek to ensure that all persons are able to enjoy their fundamental human rights. They are active in a broad range of sectors, addressing various groups of persons and themes including: survivors of domestic violence, persons with disabilities, migrants and refugees, children, survivors of crime, the environment, LGBTIQ+ persons, inmates, women involved in prostitution, good governance and so many others.

They are present where State interventions are either absent or insufficient, where the risk of human rights violations is high.

Without human rights defenders, Malta would probably not be able to boast today’s levels of social wellbeing. As activists dedicated to ensuring human rights enjoyment for all persons, most of us push for stronger legal and policy standards, support the training of public officials, provide public information, support victims of violations and strive to hold the State accountable and responsible for its failures.

In return, many of us are bullied, harassed, insulted, threatened and stigmatised. Many of us are denied access to important dialogue with State entities, or exploited by the State as we provide those public services the State refuses or is unable to provide.

As the community of Malta’s human rights defenders is still mourning the brutal assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, we are uncertain of the security of our working environment and are concerned for the physical and psychological safety of our staff and volunteers.

We are not satisfied that our concerns are being taken seriously by the competent authorities, especially in view of the fact that we are often victims of hatred perpetuated by those entities responsible for our protection.

Understanding the importance of human rights defenders is fundamental for the fostering of a society that is geared towards respecting, protecting and fulfilling everyone’s human rights.

By tolerating this on-going abuse of its human rights defenders, Malta is not only offending the principles human rights embody – equality, non-discrimination, individual and social empowerment – but it is also further marginalising those communities and themes human rights defenders so vehemently stand up for.

On International Human Rights Day, we therefore urge Malta to rethink its relationship with human rights defenders. This means to not merely refrain from activities that instil fear and insecurity, but to take steps towards actively supporting human rights defenders.

Living together: refugee integration is so much more than refugee survival

Over recent years Malta has become home to men, women and children who, having fled their homes, found shelter here. Living together we have become friends, neighbours and partners. We share day-to-day experiences including grocery shopping, studying, religious celebrations, work and so many more.

By offering them safety and security, Malta has committed to guaranteeing their well-being. By settling here, they have committed to integrating into Maltese society.

Today, to commemorate World Refugee Day 2017, we jointly urge Malta to ensure that its protection of refugees also includes their integration. A truly unified nation is one that succeeds in bringing together all the members of its various communities. By doing so, Malta will benefit from new synergies and social cohesion, where all may be encouraged to play more active and meaningful roles in their local communities, and vulnerable persons would be supported and empowered.

We appreciate the challenges this presents to all persons and entities involved. On the one hand, refugee integration requires Malta to be more understanding and respectful of new ways of life, and to design programmes that ensure specific needs are met and human dignity guaranteed. On the other hand, refugees must cope with the social, cultural, and legal demands of wholly new environments whilst simultaneously dealing with the loss of their loved ones and of their homes.

Our experience, and that of many other nations, shows us that a divisive approach based on exclusion, hatred and prejudice only fosters inequality, poverty and instability. A long-term integration vision that is based on respect for fundamental human rights, the protection of vulnerable persons and inclusive dialogue is the only way to ensure a viable and sustainable future for refugees and all members of Maltese society.

We therefore urge the government to continue its work on formulating a national integration strategy.

In particular, we think it is essential that the strategy goes beyond mere survival but instead explores permanent solutions that lead to true belonging: long-term residence, family reunification, citizenship.

We reiterate our willingness to be involved in discussing this strategy, including through consultations with refugees, to ensure its effectiveness and impact.

We also invite everyone to work towards a united Malta that includes those men, women and children who left everything behind and are making Malta home.

This statement is made jointly by the following organisations:

 aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Eritrean Community, Ethiopian Community, Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Integra Foundation, International Association for Refugees, JRS Malta, KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Malta Microfinance, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, Migrant Women Association Malta, Migrants’ Network for Equality, People for Change Foundation, Solidarity with Migrants Network, Somali Community in Malta, SOS Malta, Spark15, Sudanese Community.

Women’s absence from highest democratic institutions is extremely worrying

The presence of women in Malta’s highest democratic institutions is alarmingly low: only 16% of electoral candidates in 2013 were women, one female Cabinet Minister out of 14, nine female Members of Parliament, and six female judges out of 23. The fact that Malta’s President is a woman is nothing more than a convenient statistic for some, but no real consolation for most. These figures are in sharp contrast to those showing female graduates outnumbering male ones, the proportion of female electoral candidates who get elected is far higher that it is for male colleagues, and girls’ overall exam performance exceeds that of boys.

aditus foundation has just released Burning Bikinis, a documentary exploring Malta’s feminist movement from the 1960’s till the present day. The film engages with leading figures of this movement, honouring their invaluable contribution to human rights in Malta. It draws the path from the legal and political invisibility of women to 2017, when the nation is still struggling to attribute to a woman’s mind and body the equal value, respect and freedom to those of a man.

Burning Bikinis invites Malta to consider those pressing issues that remain in the way of true equality between the sexes, and to mobilise itself against the forces that accept, encourage or perpetuate inequality.

aditus foundation actively promotes a society where all its members are able to access and enjoy their fundamental human rights freely and with dignity. For International Women’s Day, therefore, we are urging the political parties that will contest the next general elections to set for themselves the goal of increasing their number of female candidates. To this end, we recommend them to introduce quotas to ensure women candidates contesting general and Local Council elections, with the longer-term view of such quotas being incorporated in Malta’s electoral legislation.

Burning Bikinis takes a look at Malta’s feminist movement and praises it for its achievements, bravery and commitment. Today, we yearn for that spirit to be awakened in order for it to tackle contemporary challenges.

Burning Bikinis is a film co-produced by aditus foundation and Subway Lab, with the support of Arts Council Malta, the US Embassy in Malta and the German Embassy in Malta. It was directed by Emmanuel Tut-Rah Farah ans Alessandro Tesei.

News regarding future public screenings will be made available through our website and social media pages.

The trailer can be viewed here: