Annual Report: Italy 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Italy 2013

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Conditions in detention centres for irregular migrants fell well below international standards. Legal safeguards for the return of irregular migrants to their countries of origin were reportedly breached on many occasions. Migrant workers were often exploited and vulnerable to abuses, while their access to justice remained inadequate. Italy's migration policies failed to respect the rights of migrants to work, to just and favourable working conditions and to justice. In September, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights criticized the treatment of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, including the lack of integration measures for refugees and their destitution, the degrading detention conditions of irregular migrants and the risk of human rights abuses arising from agreements with countries such as Libya, Egypt and Tunisia.

  • In February, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy had violated international human rights obligations to not return individuals to countries where they could be at risk of abuses, by pushing back African migrants and asylum-seekers on the high seas. In the case of Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy, the Court considered the plight of 24 people from Somalia and Eritrea, among more than 200 people intercepted at sea by Italian authorities in 2009 and forced to return to Libya. In September, the Council of Europe opened proceedings to examine how Italy had progressed in executing the judgement.

On 3 April, Italy signed a new agreement with Libya on migration control. The Italian authorities sought support from Libya to stem migration flows, but ignored the fact that migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers continued to risk serious human rights abuses there. Libya committed to strengthen its border controls to prevent departures of migrants from its territory, with Italy providing training and equipment to enhance border surveillance. Effective human rights safeguards were absent. The agreement gave no consideration to the needs of migrants for international protection.

Counter-terror and security

On 19 September, the Supreme Court confirmed the convictions on appeal of 22 CIA agents, a US military official, and two Italian secret services operatives for the kidnapping in Milan in February 2003 of Usama Mostafa Hassan Nasr (known as Abu Omar), who was subsequently transferred to Egypt by the CIA where he was allegedly tortured. The US nationals were all tried in their absence. The Supreme Court also ordered the retrial of two top-level officials of the Italian intelligence agency and of three other high-ranking officials for their involvement in the abduction. The charges against them had been dismissed by the Milan Court of Appeal in December 2010 due to government claims that key evidence should not be disclosed as a matter of “state secrecy”. The Milan Court of Appeal was asked to reconsider the scope and limits of “state secrecy”, and how this would apply in the retrial.

Also in September, the EU Parliament called on Italy and other EU member states to disclose all necessary information on all suspect planes associated with the CIA rendition and secret detention programmes; to effectively investigate governments' roles in the CIA operations; and to respect the right to freedom of information and respond appropriately to requests for access to information.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In October, Parliament approved the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, but failed to introduce the crime of torture into the criminal code, as the Convention requires. No systemic measures were taken to prevent human rights violations by police, or to ensure accountability for them. Conditions of detention and the treatment of detainees in many prisons and other detention centres were inhumane and violated detainees' rights, including to health. In April, the Senate published a report on the state of prisons and migrants' detention centres, documenting grave overcrowding and failures to uphold respect for human dignity and other international obligations.

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