Annual Report: Italy 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Italy 2013

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Republic of Italy

Head of state Giorgio Napolitano

Head of government Mario Monti

Roma continued to be discriminated against, ethnically segregated in camps, forcibly evicted and left homeless. The authorities regularly failed to protect the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants. Attempts to introduce the crime of torture and establish an independent national human rights institution failed again. No systemic measures were taken to prevent human rights violations by police and ensure accountability. Violence against women, including killings, remained widespread.

Discrimination

Roma

The government failed to address adequately the ongoing human rights violations of Roma, especially in access to adequate housing. Several hundred Roma were forcibly evicted with many being left homeless. Authorized or “tolerated” camps continued to be closed without adequate legal safeguards and procedures. The authorities failed to improve the very poor living conditions in most authorized camps. Conditions in informal camps were even harsher, with little access to water, sanitation and energy. Local authorities continued to exclude many Roma from social housing, preferring instead to perpetuate policies of ethnic segregation of Roma in camps.

The National Strategy for the Inclusion of Roma presented in February remained largely unimplemented. The UN CERD Committee in March and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights in September reiterated their criticisms of the authorities' failures to ensure the rights of Roma. The government failed to provide reparations to Roma whose rights were violated during the state of emergency declared in 2008 in relation to “nomad” settlements in five Italian regions, which remained in force until November 2011, when it was declared unlawful by the Council of State. Instead, the government appealed against the Council of State ruling in February, alleging that the court went beyond its powers of scrutiny. The case was pending before Italy's Supreme Court at the end of the year. In May, the Council of State declared that – pending the Court's decision – certain activities initiated during the emergency could be completed.

  • The Rome authorities continued to implement their “Nomad Plan”, which resulted in several forced evictions of informal, “tolerated” and authorized camps and the resettlement of many Roma in segregated authorized camps. The residents of Tor de' Cenci camp were forcibly evicted in two operations on 25 July and 28 September, without adequate prior consultation and despite the opposition of NGOs, the Catholic Church and the national government. In June, the municipal authorities opened a new segregated camp in an isolated location at La Barbuta, near Ciampino airport. NGOs started legal proceedings in March before Rome's civil tribunal, to have the housing of Roma at La Barbuta ruled as discriminatory. About 200 residents from Tor de' Cenci camp were transferred to La Barbuta.
  • Racist threats, intimidation and incitement to violence against Roma took place in May in the town of Pescara, following the killing of a football supporter reportedly by a Romani man. Romani families reported being afraid to go out and take children to school. Soon after the beginning of the unrest, the Mayor of Pescara made discriminatory remarks against Roma, mentioning the need to review their access to social housing.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual , transgender and intersex people

The Supreme Court confirmed that same-sex couples had a right to family life including, in certain circumstances, to treatment consistent with that of married opposite-sex couples. However, it also ruled that a marriage contracted abroad by same-sex couples had no standing in the Italian legal system.

Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants

Many refugees and asylum-seekers, including minors, continued to face economic hardship and destitution, prompting some courts in EU countries to halt their returns to Italy under the Dublin Regulation. The authorities frequently failed to address their needs and protect their rights.

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.

Genoa G8 trials

On 5 July, the Supreme Court confirmed all 25 convictions issued on appeal against high-ranking officials and police officers responsible for the torture and other ill-treatment of demonstrators on 21 July 2001. Senior officials were convicted for falsifying arrest documents, and sentences ranged from five years to three years and eight months of imprisonment. However, due to a law designed to cut inmate numbers, which allows for a three-year reduction in sentences, nobody was imprisoned, although all were suspended from duty for five years. Convictions issued on appeal for grievous bodily harm against nine officers lapsed, as the statute of limitation came into effect prior to the conclusion of the appeal to the Supreme Court, which also meant they would not be suspended from duty. All the convicted officers, including those whose crimes were covered by the statute of limitations, were due to undergo disciplinary proceedings.

Unlawful killings

Shortcomings in the investigations of a number of deaths in custody resulted in a lack of accountability for police and prison officers. There were concerns that municipal police forces were assigned firearms without adequate safeguards and were using them in a manner not consistent with international law.

  • On 13 February, Marcelo Valentino Gómez Cortés, a 28-year-old Chilean national, unarmed, was shot and killed by an officer of the Milan municipal police. In October, the officer was found guilty at first instance of homicide and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. The officer appealed against the verdict. He had been assigned to desk duties after the incident and his firearm licence was revoked.
  • In March, a prison officer was found guilty of failure to assist Aldo Bianzino, who died in Perugia prison in 2007 two days after his arrest, and of falsifying documents. The officer received a suspended 18-month custodial sentence. The trial revealed failures in the original investigation into the death. The family continued to campaign for the reopening of the case.
  • In April, a first-instance judge acquitted a doctor accused of manslaughter for prescribing the wrong medical treatment to Giuseppe Uva, who died shortly after being stopped by police in 2008 in Varese. The judge ordered a new investigation focusing on the period between when Giuseppe Uva was stopped by police and his arrival at the hospital. Forensic examinations carried out in December 2011 had revealed that the victim could have been raped and ill-treated.

Violence against women and girls

Violence against women remained widespread, with approximately 122 killings reported in 2012. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women noted in June that, notwithstanding improvements in legislation and policy, killings had not decreased. Her recommendations included: an independent national human rights institution with a section dedicated to women's rights; a law on violence against women; and the amendment of the crime of irregular migration to ensure access to justice for migrant women in irregular situations.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

In December parliament passed overdue legislation required to comply with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which Italy ratified in 1999. Measures were introduced to regulate judicial co-operation with the International Criminal Court.

Also in December, a parliamentary committee examining a bill aimed at creating a national human rights institution concluded that, due to imminent parliamentary elections, it was impossible to pass the bill in the current session. The bill had already been through a lengthy parliamentary debate in the higher chamber. International bodies, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, had criticized Italy on many occasions for its failure to establish a national human rights institution compliant with international standards.

Amnesty International visits/reports

  • Amnesty International delegates visited Italy in March, April, June, September, November and December.
  • S.O.S. Europe: Human rights and migration control (EUR 01/013/2012)
  • Italy: Briefing to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: 80th session (EUR 30/001/2012)
  • On the edge: Roma, forced evictions and segregation in Italy (EUR 30/010/2012)
  • Exploited labour: Migrant workers in Italy's agricultural sector (EUR 30/020/2012)