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Malta responsible for journalist’s death, inquiry finds

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The Maltese state was responsible for the death of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, according to an independent inquiry.

The finding was part of a 437-page report published Thursday (29 July), prepared by a panel of judges.

  • The report highlighted a culture of impunity, enabled under the leadership of former prime minister Joseph Muscat (Photo: eu2017mt/Flickr)

It highlighted a culture of impunity, enabled under the leadership of former prime minister Joseph Muscat.

“The state should shoulder responsibility for the assassination,” said the report.

It detailed how the state had created “an atmosphere of impunity”, which then spread to other institutions leading to a collapse in the rule of law.

Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in October 2017, following years of hard-hitting reporting on corruption on her Running Commentary blog.

That included allegations linking Muscat to the Panama Papers, a media probe that exposed tax havens used by the wealthy.

At the time of her killing, she was investigating an Electrogas energy deal.

Her death sparked outrage in Malta and abroad and eventually led to Muscat’s resignation in early 2020, who once described her as “the only opposition in the country.”

Muscat, for his part, accepted but also cast doubt on the findings.

Although the report did not offer any proof of direct government involvement in her death, it did say it contributed by creating a “favourable climate” for her elimination.

“Whoever planned and carried out the assassination did so in the knowledge they would be protected by those who had an interest in silencing the journalist,” said the report.

It also said the state had created an “unwarranted closeness” between the government and big business.

It said the state had “failed to recognise the real and immediate risks” to her life and neglected to act for her protection.

The report and its findings are a separate process from the ongoing criminal case.

“It remains extremely important to closely monitor the ongoing criminal proceedings,” said the Paris-based NGO, Reporters without Borders (RSF), in a statement.

One of the three men accused of murdering Caruana Galizia was earlier this year sentenced to 15 years in jail.

Others have yet to go to trial, including Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech who was caught trying to flee Malta on a yacht.

Prosecutors says Fenech, who had close government ties, masterminded the murder plot. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Caruana Galizia’s family issued a statement, welcoming the findings of the report.

“Her assassination was a direct result of the collapse of the rule of law and the impunity that the state provided to the corrupt network she was reporting on,” they said.

Since Caruana Galizia’s assassination, Malta has fallen 34 places in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index. It currently ranks 81st out of 180 countries.

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[Ticker] US to lift Covid travel-ban on EU tourists

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Fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and the UK will be let back into the US from “early November” onward, the White House said on Monday, ending an 18-month ban and prompting airline firms’ shares to climb. “This new international travel system follows the science to keep Americans … safe,” a US spokesman said. The EU recently recommended increased restrictions on US visitors, amid anger at lack of US reciprocity.

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Ten women and girls killed every day in Mexico, Amnesty report says | Global development

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At least 10 women and girls are murdered every day in Mexico, according to a new report that says victims’ families are often left to carry out their own homicide investigations.

The scathing report, released on Monday by Amnesty International, documents both the scale of the violence and the disturbing lack of interest on the part of Mexican authorities to prevent or solve the murders.

“Mexico is continuing to fail to fulfil its duty to investigate and, therefore, its duty to guarantee the rights to life and personal integrity of the victims as well as to prevent violence against women,” says the report, Justice on Trial.

“Feminicidal violence and the failings in investigation and prevention in northern Mexico are not anecdotal, but rather form part of a broader reality in the country,” the report adds.

Femicide has been rife in Mexico for decades – most notoriously in an epidemic of murders which claimed the life of some 400 women in the border city Ciudad Juárez during the 1990s. In recent years, a growing feminist movement has held massive street protests against the violence, but authorities have proved unwilling to take action to stop the killing.

“It’s always a question of political will,” said Maricruz Ocampo, a women’s activist in the state of Querétaro.

Ocampo has been part of teams lobbying state governors to issue an alert when femicides reach scandalously high levels – a move to raise awareness and mobilise resources. But officials often resist such moves, she said, as governors worry about their states’ images and investment.

“They refuse to recognise there is a problem,” she said.

The president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has also downplayed the problem. He branded the women protesting on 8 March, International Women’s Day, as “conservatives” and alleged a dark hand manipulating the demonstrations.

When asked last year about rising violence against women, he responded, “Tell all the women of Mexico that they are protected and represented, that we’re doing everything possible to guarantee peace and quiet and that I understand that our adversaries are looking for ways to confront us.”

Mexico recorded the murders of 3,723 women in 2020. Some 940 of those murders were investigated as femicides.

The Amnesty report focused on Mexico state, a vast collection of gritty suburbs surrounding Mexico City on three sides. It has become notorious for femicides over the past decade – and for the way the former president, Enrique Peña Nieto, a former Mexico state governor, ignored the problem.

The report found cases of families carrying out their own detective work, which were ignored by investigators. In many cases, authorities contaminated crime scenes or mishandled evidence. They often did not even pursue leads such as geolocation information from victims’ mobile phones.

In the case of Julia Sosa, whose children believe she was killed by her partner, two daughters found her body buried on the suspect’s property – but had to wait hours for police to arrive and process the crime scene. One of her daughters recalled the subsequent interview process, in which “the police officer was falling asleep”.

Sosa’s partner hanged himself, prompting police to close the case, even though family members said there were more leads to pursue.

In states rife with drug cartel violence, activists say cases of femicides go uninvestigated as impunity is commonplace.

“The authorities say it’s organised crime and that’s it,” said Yolotzin Jaimes, a women’s rights campaigner in the southern state of Guerrero. “Many of these aggressors find protection under the excuse of organised crime.”

The persistence of femicides is a stark contrast to recent gains by the women’s movement in Mexico. The country’s supreme court decriminalised abortion earlier this month. A new congress recently sworn in has gender parity and seven female governors will be installed by the end of year – up from just two before last June’s election’s

The decriminalisation of abortion “let off some steam” from the pressure driving the protests “because part of the demands was over the right to choose,” Ocampo said. “But when it comes to violence, we still see it everywhere.”

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US official urges EU to speed up enlargement

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Gabriel Escobar, the US’ newly-appointed acting deputy secretary of state for South Central Europe, has urged Europe to speed up Western Balkans enlargement. “To return 20 years later and see that there hasn’t been much progress on that front was a little disappointing,” he told the RFE/RL news agency Friday, referring to his last post in Europe in 2001. “We would like to see a more rapid integration,” he said.

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