aditus foundation has presented its feedback on Malta’s Proposed Legislative Changes to the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) further to its Report on Malta published in 2018. aditus also had the opportunity to discuss its views on the proposed changes, together with other local civil society actors, with the rapporteurs of the Venice Commission.
As we have repeatedly underlined in all our advocacy efforts over the past years and in our communications with the Venice Commission and the European Parliament’s ad-hoc Delegation to Malta, our concerns are centred on a rights-based understanding of good governance, requiring a healthy and functioning rule of law to ensure the respect, protection and fulfillment of the fundamental rights of all persons living in Malta.
In our document we highlighted the importance of rolling out the much-needed reform, whilst also highlighting that any changes need to be part of a broader reform which takes into account the context of Malta’s political, media and civil society landscape that has shaped the reality that we live in today.
This is our Director’s opinion piece for Times of Malta, published on 13 February 2020.
Despite the radical developments in Malta over the past months, it cannot be said that normality has been restored. After weeks of taking to the streets, we at Aditus Foundation welcomed Joseph Muscat’s resignation and Prime Minister Robert Abela’s statements on governance reform.
Yet, it would be foolish to believe or act as if Malta’s institutional shortcomings have miraculously disappeared.
Our democracy is still extremely vulnerable and we are concerned that the gravest threats come from within.
Notwithstanding their shameful activities, Muscat and Konrad Mizzi
remain members of Parliament. There, they are able to exercise authority
and influence laws that govern every aspect of all our lives and that
of our nation.
This is clearly unacceptable and no argument on their political right to those two seats will make us think otherwise.
The current climate in Malta risks being pushed towards a scenario that disregards a series of fundamental freedoms. Over the past days we have witnessed Government behaviour that has progressively eaten away at those freedoms that are fundamental to the healthy functioning of a democratic society. We are therefore seriously concerned that, if continued unchecked, such behaviour will cross the dividing line between permissible Government interventions to maintain public law and order, and actions amounting to human rights violations.
We appreciate that in fulfilling its duty to protect all persons in Malta, the Government is empowered to take actions it deems necessary. We also fully acknowledge the challenges presented to the Government by large demonstrations of the kind that have been occurring on an almost daily basis outside key institutions: the Prime Minister’s office, Parliament House and the Law Courts.
Yet we feel it is necessary to remind the Government that demonstrations and public expressions of opinions, aligned or opposed to Government’s own views, are an integral part of functioning and strong democracies. That any action taken by the Government to curtail, limit or deprive anyone from exercising their fundamental human rights must occur within the very strict limits imposed by law. That the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly are solidly enshrined in Malta’s Constitution. That they are also present in internal human rights instruments creating binding legal obligations on Malta, such as the European Convention on Human rights, the European Unions’ Fundamental Right Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
We therefore express full solidarity with members of media organisations who were locked in the Prime Minister’s Office by unidentified men. We strongly denounce the verbal and physical attacks on journalists by Government employees. We flag, as an act of direct provocation, the relentless shrinking of public demonstration space in Freedom Square where Parliament House is located. We unequivocally condemn as false and inflammatory public statements by Government officials that demonstrators are intent on causing bloodshed. We stress that statements made by Government officials, describing civil society organisations as political party tools, are unfounded and made with an intent to stir up hatred and further unrest.
We finally stress that the on-going peaceful demonstrations, in which we are actively and proudly participating, are a national call of justice and accountability. Until the nation and its institutions embark on a path of truth and justice, the people will insist on exercising their fundamental rights of free expression and free peaceful assembly.
We therefore urge Government to refrain from any act that could unduly interfere with the exercise of these rights. We alert the Government to the possibility that any acts or words of provocation on their part could result in serious consequences and civil unrest.
Recent developments in investigations related
to the brutal assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia have shocked
the nation and the international community. The alleged involvement of members
of Government in this awful plot and in the criminal activities that led to its
realisation calls into question a series of important decisions taken by the
Prime Minister. They are decisions shedding doubt on what he knew, could have
or ought to have known about the people he chose to lead the country with him.
These doubts damage the integrity of the Office
of the Prime Minister and the only way for the Office and, consequently, the
nation, to be protected from further damage is for Joseph Muscat to resign with
We strongly reiterate comments made in our statement of 19 May 2017, The nation deserves better, and more, from Government and Parliament, we commented that “Malta’s governance institutions are largely failing to fulfil their roles of preventing and addressing abuses of political and administrative power. It is shameful that the entities entrusted by the nation to ensure justice, fairness, efficiency and democratic process – the public service, the judiciary, administrative tribunals, the police and armed forces, and state agencies – are consistently used as extensions of political party clubs or recruitment agencies.”
We noted a “severe lowering of democratic expectations, where glittering and at times irresponsible electoral promises replace long-term commitments that aim to better the entire nation for the common good.”
The statement of more than two years ago
reverberates loudly today, following a long string of institutional failures
directly connected to the Prime Minister.
It is time for the entire nation to reclaim Malta’s
democratic values. To insist that fundamental human rights, rule of law and
good governance are repositioned at the heart of Government. To embark on a
healing process that will require a revision of our Constitution, a challenging
of the omnipotence of political parties and a strengthening of those
institutions mandated to respect, protect and fulfil our fundamental human
The nation can only start healing with the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.