He was killed in cold-blooded because he was black. One sentence that might remind the dark years of segregation in the United States. But actually, this atrocious event has happened in Malta. On April 6. 2019, Lassana Cissé Souleymane, Ivorian migrant, was murdered by two Maltese soldiers, while walking by the side of the road towards Hal Far centre.
This murder is part of the category of Hate Crime. According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), a Hate Crime is "violence and offences motivated by racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, or bias against a person's disability, sexual orientation or gender identity". In the case of Lassana Cissé Souleymane, it is indeed a Hate Crime, because he was killed for no other reason than his skin color.
The Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia revealed that 21 racist hate crimes have been identified in Malta since the beginning of the year. Until last year, Malta was one of five EU countries that did not collect any data on hate crimes, an attitude which has been criticized by the authorities of the EU.
Moreover, the rise of nationalist movements all over Europe the last few years has caused de facto the increase of Hate Speech. It suffices to observe social media to see many hateful or racist comments. These words, surely influenced by Hate Speech publicly pronounced and without shame by politicians in various countries, are the causes of the increase of Hate Crimes. From words to action there is only one step. For example, In Italy between 2012 and 2016, the racist Hate Crimes have been multiplied by 11 from 71 to 803. (FR)
Maybe that’s why the racist comments rampant on social media pushed the Maltese Government to be more concerned about this problem. In fact, on October 2019, a Hate Crime and Speech Unit has been inaugurated at City Gate in Valletta.
The aim is not to "carry out social media witch hunts" announced Michael Farrugia, but to be able to help the victims of hate crimes and speech. A necessary assistance because the victims often find themselves alone. It is important to facilitate access to assistance, to protection as well as an access to a medical and psycho-social help.
In Malta, People For Change foundation (PFC), is a partner in a project called "Support and Advice Through Health System for Hate Crimes Victims" whose aim is to improve the protection for victims of hate crimes and their access to health services.
Another objective of this Unit is to educate the general public on hate speech and hate crimes. Teach them that nothing justifies such speeches, which are also punishable by the Maltese law. After the riots in Hal Far Tent Village last month and the racist reactions that followed on social media, a strong stand in favour of the education of social media users is needed.
It is urgent to continue to fight against these crimes and remind some people that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood".
Photo Credits: CC BY-NC 2.0 m.grifford