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Irini Halambidou's contacts in Malta on anti-corruption issues

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    Επαφς Ειρorνης &Chi αλμοηγιαατα

    A series of contacts in Malta, focusing on anti-corruption issues, was carried out between 12 and 14 June by MP Irini Charalambidou, in her capacity as Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and its Special Representative Assembly for the Fight against Corruption.

    As stated in the announcement of the Parliament, in a meeting with the President and members of the Permanent Committee against Corruption, Mrs. Charalambidou referred to the crucial importance of such contacts for the exchange of experiences and good practices.

    He pointed out that Cyprus and Malta face common challenges in fighting corruption and strengthening the rule of law.

    The President of the aforementioned Commission, Lawrence Quintano, noted, among other things, that there is difficulty in proving cases of corruption. Although there are legal tools, as he mentioned, to protect whistleblowers, there is still the fear of any form of retaliation or revenge against those who report acts of corruption.

    As he pointed out, despite the fact that the Commission does not have investigative powers, however with a recently passed law, if the Commission has serious reasons and a well-founded opinion that a case that has been investigated and documented can be brought before a court, it has the ability to challenge/appeal a decision of the Attorney General for suspension of criminal prosecution (nolle prosequi).

    Ms. Charalambidou also met with the Director General of the Ministry of Justice Johan Galea, from whom she was informed about the progress of the constitutional reforms in the country.

    Mr. Galea, after welcoming the Vice-President of the OSCE CS and Special Representative of the Convention for Combating Corruption, noted that the reforms in question were made following the recommendations of the Venice Commission which were adopted because there was political will for reforms, such as the separation of role of the Attorney General in public prosecutor and legal advisor of the state.

    Special reference was made to the modification of the procedure for appointing members of the judiciary, with the assignment of the power to appoint judges to a committee instead of the Prime Minister of the country, who retained said power. At the same time, the act of appointment of the President of the Supreme Court must be ratified by 2/3 of the parliament, while the same ratification procedure is provided for the appointment of the Chief of Police.

    As mentioned, these reforms were an imperative demand of civil society especially after the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Calizia in November 2017, on the occasion of the institutional corruption scandal she exposed in the country in relation to the Panama Papers. In relation to the procedure for submitting a statement of assets (whereabouts) by state officials, Mr. Galea informed Ms. Charalambidou that judges, when submitting their interest in being appointed to the judiciary, are required to submit a complete statement of assets, so that if in the course of carrying out their duties, an issue may arise that could raise the issue of corruption.

    She and her colleagues, as she mentioned, proceeded to file a law proposal in the House of Representatives to revise the constitution with regard to its powers Attorney General and the need to separate his dual role of public prosecutor and legal advisor of the state which is expected to be examined soon in the Parliamentary Legal Committee.

    In the context of a meeting of the Parliament with representatives of the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) of Malta, Repubblika and Occupy Justice, Mrs. Charalambidou after praising their important action in the fight against corruption and the restoration of justice in Malta, which were intensified after murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, pointed out that the strengthening of the rule of law must continue, as there is a need for other constitutional reforms in the country. Special reference was made to the amendment of the procedure for the appointment of judges, and it was noted that the power to appoint members of the judiciary was removed from the powers of the country's prime minister and entrusted to a committee.

    A point of reference was the visit of Mrs. Charalambidou to the Daphne Caruana Calizia Foundation and the meeting with the son of the murdered journalist Mr. Matthew Caruana Calizia, who referred to the multidimensional work of the foundation and its contribution to solving the murder of his mother. He noted at the same time that his mother revealed the extent of corruption in the country and that now is the time for the competent authorities to take their role. In this regard, he expressed satisfaction over the fact that the case is before justice. Mrs. Charalambidou stated that he is one of the strongest weapons in strengthening the efforts to fight corruption. At the same time, he sent him an invitation to participate in sessions of the OSCE SC, in order to take part in a discussion about corruption and the consequences it has on the daily lives of citizens, but also how he himself experienced these efforts through his mother's fight against corruption .

    Mrs. Charalambidou also had a meeting with the Attorney General of Malta Victoria Buttigieg, who informed her about all the reforms and structural changes made in the office of the Attorney General, especially regarding the separation of the dual role that the Attorney General had, namely the legal advisor of the state and the public prosecutor of the country. It was found that there were difficulties in their implementation, but they are being dealt with, it is noted in the announcement.

    Finally, it is mentioned that Mrs. Charalambidou suggested that Malta host a conference which will be organized at the initiative of the OSCE CS, in the framework of its chairmanship of the OSCE for 2024, for the small countries member states of the OSCE which face common challenges in matters of fighting corruption and the rule of law, due to their small size, a proposal which was met positively.

    Source: cyprustimes.com

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