The family of Lassana Cisse, a 42-year-old man from Ivory Coast killed three years ago in what appears to be a racially-motivated murder, reiterated its call to the Maltese government on Wednesday to send their son’s body home.
Speaking at a protest outside Malta’s Law Courts, organised by NGO Movement Graffiti and backed by 35 civil society organisations, Ousmane Dicko, representing Cisse’s friends, passed on the message for the family.
“They have been waiting for the body of their son for a long time… we are sending emails everywhere to get authorisation, but till now we are not getting any answers except that we cannot get authorisation since it (Ivory Coast) is a dark red country,” he said.
Cisse died after being shot by two off-duty soldiers as he was walking home through Hal Far in April 2019. The soldiers Francesco Fenech and Lorin Scicluna, who were charged with the murder of Cisse and attempted murder of two others accompanying him, are currently on bail.
The government had said that it was committed to paying for Cisse’s body to be sent back to Ivory Coast. However, in 2022, this commitment has still not been fulfilled.
The call was repeated by Moviment Graffiti spokesperson Christine Cassar who said that the group is “disgusted” that three years later Cisse’s body has still not been sent back to his family for a proper burial.
“It is truly shocking that the authorities aggravate the trauma his family are experiencing by denying them the possiblity of laying Lassana’s body to rest and bidding him farewell. We strongly urge the authorities to return his body immediately and let the family get closure,” she said.
Regine Nguini Psaila from the African Media Association Malta also slammed the government for the prolonged delay.
“His body is still at the hospital’s mortuary and the two suspected murderers walk free – that’s how bad it is,” she said.
Nguini Psaila pointed out how Ukraine was also listed as a dark red country but in light of Russia’s invasion “restrictions were lifted as deserved”.
“Lassana’s family deserve to have their son’s body back,” she said, adding that “he was killed because the system failed him, and is failing him even after his death”.
In her speech, Nguini Psaila also gave insight into the crude reality of people of African descent living in Malta.
“Here in Malta, black people are banned from nightclubs, they are treated with negligence in hospitals, they have to seek help from white friends to rent an apartment or book a restaurant, their daily life is a misery and no one is held accountable,” she told those present.
Cassar also called on the Maltese government and Prime Minister Robert Abela to lead by example.
“Political discourse has fanned the flames of racial prejudice, while others have condoned discrimination by their silence. It is important for the Government to stress that racism and prejudice will not be tolerated… The urgency of the problem requires Prime Minister Robert Abela to be aware of the messages his Government is disseminating. It is his responsibility to use his authority to exert positive influence and lead by example,” she said.