A draft report to be discussed next week by the Council of Europe’s Legal Affairs Committee finds that the rushed appointment of three new Magistrates and three promoted Judges just days before Repubblika’s case against the government was due to be heard “shows contempt for the courts and is entirely at odds with the Prime Minister’s promise to implement the Venice Commission’s recommendations”.
The draft Council of Europe reports notes that Repubblika asked the courts to order the government to freeze appointments to and promotions within the judiciary “until measures to ensure judicial independence are properly introduced.” Repubblika noted that “since the government has had to acknowledge that a reform is necessary after the Venice Commission report, it should roll out the process of that reform first and allow judicial appointments to be made under a new, fair, democratic and independent system.”
The draft Council of Europe report then notes that “just days before Republikka’s case was due to be heard, the Prime Minister went ahead and appointed three new magistrates and three new judges. This shows contempt for the courts and is entirely at odds with the Prime Minister’s promise to implement the Venice Commission’s recommendations.”
The report also points out that President George Vella, who was constitutionally obliged to give effect to these appointments, used his speech on the occasion to call for implementation of the Venice Commission reforms “as soon as possible”.
The Council of Europe draft report observes that “the new judges include one of the former Labour candidates who was made a magistrate by Prime Minister Muscat. Another was the magistrate who rejected a separate inquiry into the secret offshore company 17 Black. The third was the magistrate, also appointed by Prime Minister Muscat, who conducted the ‘Egrant inquiry’ that the Prime Minister claims exonerates himself and his wife of corruption and money laundering.”
The draft report concludes that “this state of affairs is fundamentally incompatible with the idea of judicial independence.”
A draft resolution to be discussed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe “encourages the Prime Minister to refrain from making further judicial appointments until the procedure has been reformed in line with the Venice Commission’s recommendations.”