AFM appoints high-ranking officers to investigate xenophobia in the army

The army extends condolences to the family of Lassana Cisse Souleymane as it ‘unreservedly condemns’ all discriminatory conduct

Lorin Scicluna (left) and Francesco Fenech (right) were charged with the murder of Lassana Cisse Souleymane
Lorin Scicluna (left) and Francesco Fenech (right) were charged with the murder of Lassana Cisse Souleymane

  • Two soldiers accused with murder joined army 18 months ago
  • Both men were suspended immediately after AFM commander sought presidential order
  • One of the soldiers who had a conditional discharge committed minor crime when still a minor
  • Inquiry board tasked to determine whether xenophobia was a group phenomenon in the army

An internal army inquiry has been tasked to investigate whether there are xenophobic concerns within the Armed Forces of Malta, the force said.

The inquiry board is composed of high ranking officers and they have been given the remit to determine whether the behaviour of two soldiers charged with racial murder was an isolated event by individuals or whether this was symptomatic of other groups in the army.

The information was disseminated to the media on Monday afternoon, 48 hours after news emerged that two soldiers were going to be charged with the murder of Lassana Cisse Souleymane.

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The names of the officers conducting the inquiry were not divulged. The board is also tasked with making additional recommendations on the basis of what results during the course of their inquiry.

The statement expressed “distress and grief” over the murder and “unreservedly condemned” all discriminatory conduct, including that based on racial or ethnic considerations.

“Such actions are particularly condemned, even more so, when these are attributed to members of the Force. The AFM takes the opportunity to extend its condolences to the family of the victim, as well as to the whole community of immigrants in Malta,” the AFM said.

It continued that the event was shocking for the force, “especially considering the sacrifices, commitment and dedication of its members who work incessantly, day and night, to save lives at sea, and not end them”.

The army said the sense of shock was evident in all members of the force because the alleged actions perpetrated by the two soldiers did not reflect the values of the AFM.

“Besides their grief for such loss of life, all members of the force are also feeling their own hard work being tarnished by such actions of a condemnable nature. Certainly, this occurrence does not reflect the beliefs and values of the members of the force.”

The AFM also said that the individuals charged in court had joined the AFM with a clean criminal record.

Accused joined army 18 months ago

Lorin Scicluna and Francesco Fenech, the accused, joined the army around 18 months ago and had been working in separate sections of the force. The army said both men had no connection to any work directly related to immigrants.

“Whilst serving in the force, both individuals had a clean military discipline record,” the statement read.

Reacting to the information that emerged in court that Scicluna had been given a conditional discharge in a separate criminal case, the AFM said this case was decided sometime after the individual joined the army.

READ ALSO: Young soldiers accused of Souleymane murder plead not guilty

“The offence had occurred prior to his enlistment in the AFM. The case was not considered of a sufficiently serious nature which merited discharge from the service and as a matter of fact, the court had awarded him a conditional discharge, having taken also into account that he was a minor when he committed the offence,” the army said.

The AFM said that in the case involving the two accused it deviated from normal procedure to immediately suspend the men when it was notified of the individuals’ arrests and arraignment.

“Given the gravity and severity of this case, the AFM deviated from its policy and upon being notified of the individuals’ arrest and arraignment, the Commander of the AFM took immediate steps to seek an order of the President, through the National Security Minister, which order suspended the accused with immediate effect. This was done pursuant to applicable provisions in the Malta Armed Forces Act. Contemporaneously, the Commander of the AFM also took all necessary steps to launch an internal inquiry which, amongst other things, is also tasked to ascertain whether this was an isolated event by two individuals or whether there may be others groups or xenophobic concerns within the AFM,” the statement read.

READ ALSO: Malta must embark on a 'soul-searching' exercise after racial murder, says equality commission

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