Head of state: Giorgio Napolitano
Head of government: Silvio Berlusconi
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 60.1 million
Life expectancy: 81.4 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 5/4 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 98.8 per cent
Roma rights continued to be violated and forced evictions contributed to driving those affected deeper into poverty and marginalization. Derogatory and discriminatory remarks by politicians against Roma, migrants and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people promoted a climate of rising intolerance. Violent homophobic attacks continued. Asylum-seekers were unable to access effective procedures to seek international protection. Reports of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials continued. Concerns persisted about the thoroughness of investigations into deaths in custody and alleged ill-treatment. Italy refused to introduce the crime of torture into domestic legislation.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Italy for the first time in March. Among other things, she was concerned that Italian authorities were treating Roma and migrants as “security problems” rather than looking at ways to include them in society.
In April, the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture published reports on the periodic visits to Italy of September 2008 and July 2009, highlighting, among other things, the lack of a torture provision in the criminal code and the overcrowding of prison facilities. The 2009 report also condemned the policy of intercepting migrants at sea and forcing them to return to Libya or other non-European countries as a violation of the principle of non-refoulement (prohibition on returning individuals to countries where they would risk serious human rights violations).
On 25 June, the European Committee of Social Rights found that Italy discriminated against Roma and Sinti in the enjoyment of several rights, including their rights to housing and protection against poverty and social exclusion, and the right of migrant workers and their families to protection and assistance.
In February, Italy’s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review. In May, the government responded by rejecting 12 of the 92 recommendations received. Of particular concern was the refusal to introduce the crime of torture into domestic legislation and to abolish the crime of irregular migration.
Roma continued to face discrimination in the enjoyment of their rights to education, housing, health care and employment. Derogatory remarks by some politicians and representatives of various authorities helped foster a climate of intolerance towards Roma, migrants and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
In August, the Observatory for Security Against Discriminatory Acts set up by police authorities became operational; this mechanism aims to encourage and make it simpler for victims to submit complaints against discriminatory attacks.
Roma – forced evictions
Forced evictions of Roma continued throughout the country. Some families were subjected to repeated forced evictions, which disrupted their communities, their access to work and made it impossible for some children to attend school.
- In January, Rome local authorities started to implement the “Nomad Plan”, following the declaration in 2008 by the central government of the “Nomad emergency”, which authorizes prefects to derogate from a number of laws when dealing with people who are deemed to be “nomads”. The Plan proposed the eviction of thousands of Roma and their partial resettlement into refurbished or new camps. Its implementation perpetuated a policy of segregation and resulted in poorer living conditions for many, due to delays in the building of new camps or in the adaptation of existing ones. Despite some improvements, the level of consultation by the authorities with the affected families remained inadequate.
- In Milan, local authorities pursued forced evictions relentlessly and without a strategy in place to offer alternative accommodation to those affected. Some Romani families were assigned social housing pending their eviction. The allocation, initially withdrawn by local authorities due to political considerations, was confirmed by a court decision in December which also found the conduct of the authorities discriminatory. An appeal against it was pending at the end of the year.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
Violent homophobic attacks continued. Due to a gap in the law, victims of crimes motivated by discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity were not given the same protection as victims of crimes motivated by other sorts of discrimination.
Asylum-seekers’ and migrants’ rights
Asylum-seekers and migrants continued to be denied their rights, particularly regarding access to a fair and satisfactory asylum procedure. The authorities failed to adequately protect them from racially motivated violence and, by making unsubstantiated links between migrants and crime, some politicians and government representatives fostered a climate of intolerance and xenophobia.
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and NGOs continued to express concern that the agreements between Italy, Libya and other countries to control migration flows were leading to hundreds of asylum-seekers, including many children, being denied access to procedures to claim international protection. Asylum applications in Italy continued to fall dramatically.
- In October, 68 people rescued at sea were forcibly returned to Egypt within 48 hours, allegedly without having been given the opportunity to apply for international protection. The 68 people were on a boat carrying 131 people that was intercepted by the Italian authorities near the coast of Sicily. The total number included 44 minors, and 19 people who were arrested for abetting illegal migration.
In January, two days of violent clashes between migrant workers, local residents and the police in the town of Rosarno led to over 1,000 migrants (most of whom had permits) fleeing or being removed from the area by law enforcement agencies. The clashes started after a migrant worker was injured by gunshots from a moving car, as he and others were walking home after working in the fields. In April, a judicial inquiry into the causes of the riots led to over 30 people – Italian and foreign nationals – being arrested for the exploitation and enslavement of the migrant workers employed in the agricultural sector in the area. The inquiry was still ongoing at the end of the year.
Counter-terror and security
In December, the 2009 convictions of 25 US and Italian officials involved in the abduction of Abu Omar from a Milan street in 2003 were upheld by the Milan Court of Appeal. The 23 convicted US officials were tried in their absence. The Court sentenced the accused to up to nine years’ imprisonment. After his kidnapping, Abu Omar was unlawfully transferred by the CIA from Italy to Egypt where he was held in secret detention and allegedly tortured. The Court confirmed the dismissal of charges against five high-level officials of the Italian intelligence agency, based on reasons of state secrecy.
The criminal proceedings concerning terrorism-related charges against Adel Ben Mabrouk and Rihad Nasseri, two Tunisian nationals transferred from detention in Guantánamo Bay to Italy in 2009, were ongoing. There were concerns that the accused would be deported to Tunisia in violation of the principle of non-refoulement.
Deaths in custody
There were continued reports of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials. Concerns persisted about the independence and impartiality of investigations and about the thoroughness of the collection and preservation of evidence in cases of deaths in custody and alleged ill-treatment, which may have led to impunity. Repeated petitions to the authorities from the victims and their families remained essential to ensure thorough investigations and bring the perpetrators to justice.
- The appeals against their convictions by four police officers, who in July 2009 had been sentenced to three years and six months in prison for the unlawful killing of 18-year-old Federico Aldrovandi, remained pending at the end of the year. Federico Aldrovandi died in 2005 after being stopped by police officers in Ferrara. In March, three police officers, accused of helping their colleagues to hide and forge evidence of the case, were sentenced to prison terms of eight, 10 and 12 months respectively. In October, Federico Aldrovandi’s parents accepted the sum of 2 million euros in reparation for their son’s death, on condition they renounced the suit for damages in the pending proceedings.
- Proceedings against a prison guard for failing to assist Aldo Bianzino were pending. Aldo Bianzino died in prison in Perugia in 2007 two days after his arrest. Proceedings for homicide against unidentified perpetrators were closed in 2009.
- Attempts to clarify circumstances and determine any responsibilities in the death of Stefano Cucchi were ongoing. Stefano Cucchi died in October 2009 in a hospital’s prison wing in Rome several days after his arrest. His relatives believed that his death had been caused by the ill-treatment he allegedly suffered before reaching the hospital.
- In December, a doctor was charged with the manslaughter of Giuseppe Uva who died in June 2008 in a hospital in Varese, allegedly due to the wrong medical treatment. Investigations into the ill-treatment allegedly suffered by Giuseppe Uva while in police custody hours before his death were ongoing.
Torture and other ill-treatment
In March and May, the Genoa Court of Appeal issued second instance verdicts in the trials on the torture and other ill-treatment perpetrated by law enforcement officials against G8 protesters in 2001. The opportunity to file appeals with the Court of Cassation was still open at the end of the year.
In March, the Court recognized that most of the crimes that had taken place at the temporary detention centre of Bolzaneto, including grievous bodily harm and arbitrary inspections and searches, had expired due to the statute of limitations, but still ordered all of the 42 accused to pay civil damages to the victims. The Court also imposed prison sentences of up to three years and two months on eight of the accused.
In May, the same Court found 25 of the 28 people accused of similar abuses at the Armando Diaz School guilty, including all high-ranking police officers present at the time of the events, and imposed prison sentences of up to five years. Many of the charges were dropped due to the statute of limitations.
If Italy had introduced torture as a specific crime in its criminal code, however, the statute of limitations would not have applied.