Press Release by Repubblika:
Repubblika is grateful for the decision of the First Hall of the Civil Court to accept the application we filed this morning asking for an urgent hearing of our application to stop the government appointing more Judges and Magistrates before the reforms expected by the Venice Commission are introduced.
In fact the Court this morning ordered the government to reply to Repubblika’s arguments by tomorrow evening so that the first hearing of the case can start Monday morning.
Repubblika is disappointed, but in no way surprised, that when the Government saw this within a few minutes it dragooned the President to swear in the six newly promoted or appointed members of the bench.
As far as we know today’s has been a ceremony with a record bulk appointment of Judges and Magistrates in a single event, organised hurriedly and as a result of a panicked reaction to the risk a Court might halt the Government’s explicit intention of stuffing the judiciary with members of its choice.
After today’s ceremony was announced Repubblika asked the Court to order a halt on the ceremony, but the Court found this was not necessary as nothing would happen today that cannot be revoked and reversed.
We are informed that in comments to the Press today Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Justice Minister Owen Bonnici suggested this Court decision signifies some form of victory for the Government. They implicitly confirmed they decided to hurriedly call today’s swearing in ceremony just in case some material Court decision stops them.
It is of course entirely untrue that the Government has won anything in Court today. The Court today abstained from ordering a halt on today’s ceremony since it would have the power to declare today’s appointments null and order their reversal if it finds at the ed of its urgent hearing of this case that they should never have occurred. The Court ruled that it would have only needed to interfere today if something irrevocable were to happen.
In practice, a reversal of today’s appointments would be a far worse outcome than if the Government allowed the urgent course of justice to run its course before making the appointments. The Government ought to first have filed its replies in Court by tomorrow and from Monday argued its point of view in Court.
As opposed to what the Prime Minister remarked today in his defence of the Government’s actions, today’s hurried appointments amount to effective contempt to the course of justice. The Government is determined to pay lip service to the Venice Commission recommendations on democratic reforms and to act in a way that continues to crush the independence of the judiciary and consequently democracy in Malta.
Monday morning Repubblika will be in Court to explain why Malta’s Constitutions that expects Malta to be a democracy, requires that Judges and Magistrates are no longer appointed on the choice of the Prime Minister.
Repubblika is under no illusion that its protests and initiatives are in any way a matter of concern for the Prime Minister. Up to now nothing has stopped Joseph Muscat from pushing his systematic program of taking partisan possession of the supposedly independent institution of the country. We are under no illusion that alone we can change this reality.
However this fact does not relieve us of our duty that even if alone we speak for, and use all legally permissible means we have to protect, democracy in Malta.
Our mission is not motivated by some guarantee of a final victory, but we are convinced that without the effort of civil society, a government that habitually crushes democracy will feel vindicated in thinking there is no one and nothing than can stop it riding roughshod over the law.