Statement following the comments of the Prime Minister on the 13th of July 2023 during an interview with MaltaToday

Yesterday, on the 13th of July 2023, MaltaToday published an interview held with the Prime Minister, where it was indicated that GħSL had filed a complaint with the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. This complaint was filed on the 22nd of February 2023, and is currently under investigation by the Commissioner.

While we did not make this fact public at the time, following yesterday’s interview, where our complaint was mentioned by the Prime Minister, we feel the need to confirm and publish the complaint in full, in the interests of transparency. The reason for not publishing the complaint at the time is that GħSL’s interest is limited to the protection of the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary, and we did not wish to generate unneeded publicity and media attention. However, following the Prime Minister’s comments regarding our complaint, it is imperative to clarify and explain the nature of our complaint, which is currently under investigation by the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, and which is attached below.

Certain comments made in the media by the Prime Minister, quoted in our complaint below, in our view, prejudice the independence of the judiciary by publicly placing undue pressure on the judiciary to decide in a certain manner. It is a general principle of the rule of law that the executive and the judiciary should be completely independent of one another. This was the basis of our complaint. The possibility that such comments influence these sensitive and socially important cases, which must be decided properly and without interference, is of great concern.

Our concerns regarding the Prime Minister’s undue pressure on the judiciary were perpetuated in other cases following GħSL’s complaint to the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, namely in the Jean Paul Sofia case. In a statement released by GħSL on the 13th of April 2023, our concerns were directed towards the Prime Minister’s insistence with the Chief Justice asking him to call on the Magistrate handling the inquiry into the death of Jean Paul Sofia, to conclude the inquiry promptly, without regard to the quality of the inquiry.

As GħSL previously stated in the statement published on the 13th of April 2023:

‘GħSL reiterates once again that the executive government is in no position to dictate judicial proceedings. It is the judiciary which determines judicial proceedings, having regard to the quality of justice not the quantity. The Prime Minister’s comments attempt to prejudice the delicate and meticulous process of collection and preservation of evidence. Political convenience is no excuse to scapegoat and place undue pressure on the judiciary; the tenet of the separation of powers is greater than quick and cheap attempts to sway public attention.’

The Prime Minister, in the same 13th of July MaltaToday interview, admitted to sending a second such letter, which is similarly unacceptable and runs counter to the separation of powers and independence of the judiciary.

GħSL reiterates our call for the Executive to respect and protect the independence of the judiciary. While the executive has no authority to interfere in criminal proceedings, it has the right to open a public inquiry, which will examine the institutional shortcomings of the state in the construction sector, which is not the subject of the ongoing magisterial inquiry, which is concerned with the criminal responsibility for this particular case, and not the institutional shortcomings.