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Maltese state official verbally abuses human rights advocate at the UN in part of a growing trend of harassment of human rights defenders

Tuesday 11 December 2018 - 4:20pm

Daphne Caruana Galizia

Update - 26 November 2022

'The behaviour of the Maltese authorities is utterly disgraceful. This threatening behaviour towards PEN’s delegate is not an isolated incident, but the latest in a string of abuse and threats against female human rights defenders and journalists by the Maltese authorities. Malta must ensure its officials act responsibly and consistent with standards expected of senior officials. They must immediately break this cycle of impunity and create an environment in which human rights defenders can effectively pursue their work without threats or fear of reprisals,' said Salil Tripathi, chair of PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee.

Representatives of the Maltese government failed to save the life of Daphne Caruana Galizia, they are blocking a public inquiry into her assassination and keep intimidating her family. Now they are verbally abusing international civil society representatives.

The undersigned organisations demand an immediate investigation into the verbal abuse of Sarah Clarke, Advocacy Manager of PEN International at the UN Global Compact on Migration, in Marrakesh, Morocco, by Alessandro Mangion, private secretary to Malta’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion, Carmelo Abela.

The incident occurred at the high level event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, following interventions made by UN Secretary General, António Guterres who was joined by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet and Louise Arbour, Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration. Mr Abela’s intervention on behalf of the Government of Malta focused on the right to freedom of expression, noting, 'not only do we believe freedom of thought and expression is a universal right, but its defence is the sustainment of an intangible right which should be enjoyed by all humanity.'

Given the failure of the representative to mention the assassination of leading Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, and the ongoing repression of freedom of expression and assembly in Malta, Sarah Clarke urged the foreign minister to substantiate the content of his speech by immediately instituting a public inquiry into the assassination, a call backed by a wide coalition of free expression organisations.

Clarke said, ‘I stressed that should the Government of Malta seek legitimacy and credibility in relation to freedom of expression they should immediately conduct a public inquiry into the assassination of Malta's foremost journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, as per the longstanding advice of the coalition of the world's leading freedom of expression organisations. This follows the advice given by international lawyers at Doughty Street Chambers in London.’

Abela’s private secretary, Alessandro Mangion, then told Clarke, she was a ‘biased shithole.’ This followed accusations from the Foreign Affairs Minister himself who said that Clarke was biased, ignorant of the facts of the case and had not spoken to the authorities. These comments were repeated despite the fact that she had stressed she had recently visited Malta as part of an international mission of NGOs on the occasion of the anniversary of Daphne Caruana Galizia's assassination. Clarke added: ‘I repeated the fact that the individuals that our delegation had met were, in fact, the Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, the Minister of Justice, Owen Bonnici, and the Attorney General of Malta, Peter Grech. Our coalition was comprised of PEN International, CPJ, RFJ, EFJ, IPI and ECPMF, the world's leading experts on freedom of expression.’

We condemn this behaviour as part of what we observe as a growing trend of Maltese public officials harassing female activists advocating for justice for the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Sarah Clarke, along with international and national Human rights activists, has worked tirelessly in seeking justice for the murdered investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Mr Mangion’s behaviour is unacceptable and the Maltese Government must hold him to account. We demand an immediate apology and we ask the UN to include this incident in the UNSG annual report on reprisals.

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

Aditus Foundation

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

International Press Institute (IPI)

PEN America

PEN International

Platform of the Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM)

SOS Malta