Bernice Cassar murder: Repubblika calls for resignation of Minister and Police Commissioner
Home Affairs Minister, Byron Camilleri, and Police Commissioner, Angelo Gafa, must resign following the murder of Bernice Cassar, since their actions and decisions had “direct consequences” that exposed Cassar to danger, the civil society group Repubblika said.
Bernice Cassar was shot dead on Tuesday morning as she was driving to work, with the main suspect being her husband, who was arrested on Wednesday early in the morning after a 17hour standoff. He is currently being held and questioned by the police.
The NGO called out Camilleri and Gafa for their decisions to centralise the processing of domestic violence reports on 30 November 2020. These measures ended up making it more difficult for victims to reach out to the authorities, as they did not have the resources or the time to support them.
Repubblika is saying that the decisions taken two years ago are the reasons why Camilleri and Gafa should resign, since this had exposed Cassar to clear danger and eventually her death.
Repubblika said that Cassar and all women who are victims of domestic abuse are also victims of the State’s failure to carry out its duty and to protect these women.
Repubblika also expressed its support for female activists in civil society who fight to bring about change.
Following the implementation of a domestic violence unit in the police, Repubblika said that after victims would make a report they would then be sent back home to where the violence was taking place. Also, at the police headquarters, there were long queues which discouraged victims from reporting, it said.
“Instead of, as promised, the government improved system when receiving reports of domestic violence, it created new prohibitive obstacles that scared victims”, Repubblika said.
It also condemned the decision to only have one magistrate listen to domestic violence cases, which meant that victims would not receive a hearing for at least a year and a half. This might discourage victims to report any follow-up cases of domestic violence, as until the court hearing, the NGO said.
“This is a message from the State to victims of domestic violence that it has no time for them and their sufferings”, Repubblika said.
Repubblika also said that even though the court had issued a protection order in favour of Cassar, the police did not change their approach for this order to have some form of effect. On the contrary, Repubblika is saying that the protection order made things worse because it gave the victim a false sense of security.
Repubblika said that although the government said that it was tackling domestic violence as a priority, in reality, the measures in place were increasing the danger to victims.
Just as Repubblika had said after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, for this murder case it is saying that if there is suspicion that the State has failed in its duty to protect the lives of its citizens, then an independent inquiry should be set up to highlight the problems so that something like this does not happen again.
This is why Repubblika hopes that the inquiry appointed to retired judge Geoffrey Valencia will serve this purpose, but it is doubtful.