We express deep concern at the authoritarian and fascist public utterances made by Prime Minister Robert Abela. His remarks were echoed by senior government ministers, including Justice Minister Jonathan Attard and Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri, and several other exponents of the Labour Party targeting a member of the judiciary who has completed a criminal inquiry and directed the prosecution of former senior officials of the Labour Party including former prime minister Joseph Muscat, his then chief of staff Keith Schembri and former health minister Konrad Mizzi among several others. Implicitly, the targeting extends to any public official in the judiciary, the police, and the prosecution service who acts lawfully in line with the findings of that inquiry.

Even before news emerged of the inquiry’s conclusion, Prime Minister Robert Abela launched a coordinated and emphatic public campaign targeting the inquiring magistrate as a “member of the establishment” explicitly accusing her of inflicting partisan retribution on Joseph Muscat and the Labour Party. Several government officials have taken up these remarks to initiate an online and real-world campaign of victimisation of the inquiring magistrate. Labour Party media has also published photos of the inquiring magistrate, targeting her for hatred and intimidation and exposing her to a credible risk of violence.

Once again we see a coordinated effort conducted from the Office of the Prime Minister and led by the incumbent in that office, to undermine the credibility of anyone taking the evidence of bribery and corruption to their logical and legal conclusion, to threaten them, to intimidate them, and to ensure that people reasonably suspected of crime and corruption and any political associates with them continue to enjoy impunity. The Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry found this conduct to be the cause of her killing, for which the inquiry found the Maltese state responsible.

Prime Minister Robert Abela has also publicly claimed that as the executive branch leader, he serves as “a check and balance” over the judiciary. This is a power the constitution, in seeking basic separation of powers, is explicit in not wanting the executive to have, especially considering that this outrageous intervention by the government is intended to protect politically powerful individuals from facing criminal prosecution. The Prime Minister’s conduct amounts to a gross assault on judicial independence and the rule of law.

As civil society activists who campaign for democracy and the rule of law, we cannot stand idly by as the prime minister assaults judicial independence and undermines equality before the law in his interests and the interests of his party. We will resist this attack and we will stand by state officials of conscience.