World Report 2010 - Italy
|Publisher||Human Rights Watch|
|Publication Date||20 January 2010|
|Cite as||Human Rights Watch, World Report 2010 - Italy, 20 January 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b586ced3c.html [accessed 13 July 2014]|
Events of 2009
In May Italy began intercepting boat migrants at sea and returning them to Libya, prompting widespread international criticism. No screening was conducted to identify refugees or vulnerable people in need of protection, in violation of Italy's international obligations. There were credible reports that Italian officials used undue force during the interdiction operations, and confiscated property and documents. All the migrants were detained upon arrival in Libya. Italy and Libya announced the beginning of joint naval patrols in Libyan territorial waters, under the terms of a "Treaty of Friendship" that entered into force in March 2009.
A Sicilian court acquitted in October three members of the German humanitarian organization Cap Anamur of abetting illegal immigration for rescuing boat migrants in 2004. In November seven Tunisian fishermen were acquitted of similar charges arising from a 2007 rescue. Two of the seven were convicted of resisting a public official and of violence against a military vessel.
Italy continued to deport terrorism suspects to Tunisia despite the risk of ill-treatment and 10 rulings in 2009 by the European Court of Human Rights that such returns put individuals at risk. In February the Court condemned Italy for the June 2008 expulsion of Essid Sami Ben Khemais in breach of interim measures issued by the Court requesting a suspension of the expulsion pending its examination of the case. In August Italy expelled Ali Ben Sassi Toumi also in breach of interim measures, prompting criticism from the Council of Europe.
Racism and xenophobia, characterized by violence as well as hostile political discourse, continued to be a serious problem. Attacks included the beating and setting on fire of an Indian immigrant, and assault by a large group of club-wielding men on four Romanians, leaving two in hospital. Emergency measures adopted since 2008 were made permanent in July 2009 when parliament passed the so-called Security Package: Irregular entry and stay in Italy were made crimes punishable by a fine of up to €10,000, and a national framework for officially-approved "citizens' groups" was created, arousing fears of violence by state-sponsored vigilantes (some existing groups have close ties to the far-right). Elected officials have used inflammatory rhetoric, prompting President Giorgio Napolitano in May and the Roman Catholic Church to express concern about growing xenophobic discourse in Italy. Racism and xenophobia, discrimination and unacceptable housing conditions for Roma and Sinti, and anti-immigrant legislation were highlighted in a damning report by Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg in April.
In October a Milan court convicted 23 US citizens, including the former Milan CIA station chief, and two Italian military intelligence officers for the 2003 abduction and rendition to Egypt of Hassan Mustafa Ossan Nasr (known as Abu Omar). Three of the 26 US citizens tried in absentia, including the Rome CIA station chief, were determined to enjoy diplomatic immunity. The judge said he could not pronounce a verdict against the other five Italian defendants because the evidence against them was covered by state secrecy, following a March Constitutional Court ruling.