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Inquiry into detainee’s death still under wraps

‘We want to know the truth’

A magisterial inquiry into the murder of 32-year-old Mamadou Kamara last June has been concluded but the Government will not publish the findings while a criminal trial is in progress.

Mr Kamara, a Malian, died after allegedly receiving multiple blows to the groin while handcuffed, following his recapture by Armed Forces of Malta personnel after he escaped from the Safi detention centre. He had already fled the centre once before, in 2009, a year after arriving in Malta.

Two soldiers have been charged with his murder and his death prompted Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi to order an inquiry.

Mr Justice Jeffrey Valenzia, who conducted the inquiry, has submitted his report but a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s office said that, since the soldiers allegedly involved in Mr Kamara’s death were still being tried, “it would not be prudent” to publish the findings at this stage.

This has upset NGOs who met with the Prime Minister shortly after Mr Kamara’s death.

“One wonders when the Government would consider it prudent to publish these findings, seeing as we’re talking about a man who was killed while in detention,” Aditus director and human rights lawyer Neil Falzon said.

His comments were echoed by Migrants’ Network for Equality spokesman Ali Konate, who said that keeping the inquiry findings out of sight would also keep the matter out of mind.

“When things take too long, people tend to forget,” Mr Konate cautioned. “There were things about the initial autopsy report that didn’t convince me and many others. We want to know the truth,” he said.

After Mr Kamara’s death, the Prime Minister also pledged to review detention services and improve living conditions for detained asylum seekers.

Although that review is still underway, a spokesman for the Prime Minister revealed some of its more substantive points.

Mobile units previously used to house detained asylum seekers will be replaced with more habitable, permanent structures.

Greater distinction will be made between vulnerable groups of asylum seekers, while the review also suggests housing those unlikely to be granted asylum in separate premises.

The Government plans to bolster its repatriation efforts in an attempt to encourage many of those refused asylum to return to their home countries.

An Ambassador for Immigration issues will take charge of these efforts, which will include increased development aid to countries willing to facilitate repatriation efforts.

The review also suggests creating an umbrella agency to coordinate all detention services. Currently, open centres are coordinated by the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers, while detention centres form part of the AFM’s remit.

Dr Falzon said that while material improvements were always welcome, Malta’s mandatory detention policy remained an issue.

The policy, which has come in for strident criticism by international human rights organisations, is backed by both major political parties, with only Alternattiva Demokratika opposing it.

Mr Konate was also wary about raising his hopes. “These problems are all the result of detention policy. Zoto (Mr Kamara) would not have died had it not been for detention. Of course, improving conditions is positive but these things take time.”

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