Annual Report: Italy 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Italy 2010

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There were concerns that the new law might deter irregular migrants from accessing education, medical care and protection by law enforcement officials against crimes, for fear of being reported to the police, especially given existing provisions in the criminal code obliging civil servants (such as teachers or local authority employees, including those in charge of issuing identity cards) to report all criminal acts to the police or judicial authorities.

International obligations to refugees and migrants

The Italian and Maltese governments disagreed over their obligations to carry out rescue operations at sea, leaving migrants stranded for days without water and food and posing a serious risk to their lives.

The Italian authorities took the unprecedented decision to transfer migrants and asylum-seekers rescued at sea to Tripoli, Libya, without assessing their need for refuge and international protection. Libya is not a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention and does not have a functioning asylum procedure in place, which limits the possibility of receiving international protection in the country. According to Italian government figures, between May and September 834 people intercepted or rescued at sea were taken to Libya, violating the principle of nonrefoulement (prohibition on returning an individual to a country where they would risk serious human rights abuses).

  • On 6 May, three vessels with an estimated 227 people on board sent out a distress call while passing about 50 miles south of Lampedusa. The rescue operation was delayed by a dispute between Malta and Italy over who had responsibility for the boats. Eventually, the people were rescued by two Italian coastguard vessels. The coastguard took them to Tripoli, Libya, without stopping in an Italian port to assess their need for refuge and international protection.

Counter-terror and security

The authorities failed to fully co-operate with investigations into human rights abuses committed in the context of renditions and, in the name of security, continued a policy of forcibly returning third-country nationals to places where they were at risk of torture. The government accepted the return of two Guantánamo Bay detainees.


  • On 4 November, a Criminal Court in Milan convicted 22 US agents and officials of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and one US military officer in their absence. The prosecutors had issued arrest warrants for the US defendants in 2005 and in 2006, but successive Italian Justice Ministers refused to transmit them to the US government.

The accused were convicted for their involvement in the February 2003 abduction of Usama Mostafa Hassan Nasr (better known as Abu Omar). Abu Omar was kidnapped in Milan and flown via Germany to Egypt, where he was secretly detained for 14 months and allegedly tortured. Three other US nationals, including the then-CIA station chief in Rome, were granted diplomatic immunity and the cases against them were dismissed. Two Italian military agents were also convicted, and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. The cases against the former head of the Italian Military Security Service Agency and his deputy were dismissed under the "state secrets" privilege, as were the cases of three other Italians.

The Milan Court provisionally awarded Abu Omar 1 million euros and his wife, Nabila Ghali, 500,000 euros as compensation for the abuse and injustice they suffered.

Forcible returns

Despite international rulings against them, since the adoption in 2005 of legislation which provides for expedited expulsion procedures for terrorist suspects (Law 155/05, the so-called "Pisanu Law"), the authorities continued to expel several people to Tunisia, a country with a long and well-documented record of torturing and abusing prisoners.