Head of state Giorgio Napolitano
Head of government Silvio Berlusconi
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 59.9 million
Life expectancy 81.1 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 5/3 per 1,000
Adult literacy 98.9 per cent
Unlawful forced evictions of Roma community continued throughout the year. Efforts by the authorities to control migration jeopardized the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers. Italy continued to deport people to places where they were at risk of human rights abuses. US and Italian agents were convicted for their part in the US-led programme of renditions (unlawful transfers of terrorist suspects between countries). Deaths in custody were reported and allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials continued to be made.
Roma continued to be denied equal access to education, housing, health care and employment. The authorities introduced new legislation which could result in discriminatory activities.
Unlawful forced evictions of Roma drove them further into poverty. Both Roma with Italian citizenship and those of EU or another nationality suffered the adverse effects.
In August, new legislation (Law 94/2009), part of the so-called "security package", enabled local authorities to authorize associations of unarmed civilians not belonging to state or local police forces to patrol the territory of a municipality. In recent years there have been documented attacks by self-organized groups against Roma and migrants. The implementation of such provision may result in discrimination and vigilantism.
In January, Italy was criticized by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for the way migrants and asylum-seekers, including minors, were routinely detained without any individual consideration of whether their detention was necessary, and frequently without any basis in domestic law. Asylum-seekers were prohibited from leaving the reception centres where they were detained until they received a formal confirmation of the submission of their asylum claim; completing registration formalities could take up to a month. Forced expulsions, without consideration of individual protection needs and circumstances, persisted.
New legislation adopted as part of the so-called "security package" (see above) established the criminal offence of "irregular migration". Criminal proceedings against asylum-seekers for entering the country illegally would only be suspended once a claim for international protection was lodged, and dismissed if international protection was granted.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
On 30 November, Adel Ben Mabrouk and Riadh Nasseri, two Tunisian nationals formerly detained without charge by the USA at Guantánamo Bay, were transferred to Italy. Both men were detained upon arrival and faced prosecution in Italy, reportedly on charges for terrorism-related offences. At the end of the year, they remained in prison in Milan under a special security regime.
There were widespread allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials as well as reports of deaths in custody in disputed circumstances. Italy failed to introduce an independent police complaints body and to introduce the crime of torture in its ordinary criminal legislation.
Law enforcement officials and the Public Prosecutor continued different appeals against the 2008 verdicts and sentences of abuse of protesters at Armando Diaz School and Bolzaneto prison during the G8 summit in 2001.
Amnesty International delegates visited Italy in March, July and October.
Italy: Forcible return/fear of torture or other ill-treatment (5 February 2009)
Italy: Obligation to safeguard lives and safety of migrants and asylum-seekers (7 May 2009)
Homophobic attacks on the rise in Italy (3 September 2009)
Italy: The Abu Omar case (4 November 2009)
Italy: Roma community forcibly evicted (11 November 2009)