Last Updated: Thursday, 27 November 2014, 13:39 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2001 - Italy

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 4 March 2002
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2001 - Italy , 4 March 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3c84d98810.html [accessed 27 November 2014]
Comments The report entitled "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with sections 116(d) and 502(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended, and section 504 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended. The law provides that the Secretary of State shall transmit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, by February 25 "a full and complete report regarding the status of internationally recognized human rights, within the meaning of subsection (A) in countries that receive assistance under this part, and (B) in all other foreign countries which are members of the United Nations and which are not otherwise the subject of a human rights report under this Act." We have also included reports on several countries that do not fall into the categories established by these statutes and that thus are not covered by the congressional requirement.
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Italy is a longstanding, multiparty parliamentary democracy. Executive authority is vested in the Council of Ministers, headed by the president of the Council (the Prime Minister). The Head of State (President of the Republic) nominates the Prime Minister after consulting with the leaders of all political forces in Parliament. In May the Parliament was elected in elections that were considered free and democratic. The Government respects the constitutional provision for an independent judiciary; however, the judiciary's effort to provide citizens with a fair judicial process is complicated by long trial delays and the impact of organized crime on the criminal justice system.

The armed forces are under the control of the Ministry of Defense. The Ministry of Defense controls the Carabinieri, a military security force; however, the Ministry of Interior assumes control of the Carabinieri when they are called upon to assist police forces in maintaining public order. Four separate police forces report to different ministerial or local authorities. Under exceptional circumstances, the Government may call on the army to provide security in the form of police duty in certain local areas, thereby freeing the Carabinieri and local police to focus on other duties. During the last few years, the army intermittently has supported the police in Sicily and in the province of Naples, where there are high levels of organized crime. In September 2000, the Government sent an augmented force to Naples of 500 police and Carabinieri to combat criminal violence in the city; these elements were withdrawn gradually between February and June. However, military units were dispatched to protect sensitive sites after terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11. There were allegations that police committed human rights abuses.

The country has an advanced, industrialized market economy, and the standard of living is high for the country's population of approximately 57.8 million; in 2000 the per capita gross national product was $22,100. Small and midsized companies employ from 70 to 80 percent of the work force. Major products include machinery, textiles, apparel, transportation equipment, and food and agricultural products. The Government owns a substantial number of enterprises in finance, communications, industry, transportation, and services, but privatization continued to move forward at a measured pace.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, and the law and the judiciary provide effective means of dealing with instances of individual abuse; however, there were problems in some areas. There were some reports of police abuse of detainees, and use of excessive force against ethnic minorities and demonstrators. There were reports that police denied some detainees arrested after antiglobalization protests access to a lawyer. Accusations of police abuse are investigated by the judiciary. Prisons are overcrowded. The pace of justice is slow, and perpetrators of some serious crimes avoid punishment due to trials that exceed the statute of limitations. Lengthy pretrial detention is a serious problem. The Government has taken steps to combat violence against women and child abuse; however, they remained problems. Societal discrimination against women and discrimination and sporadic violence against immigrants and other foreigners continued to be problems. Child labor, mainly involving immigrant children, continued in the underground economy but authorities investigated such reports actively. Trafficking in persons into the country, particularly women and girls for prostitution, was a problem.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were no reports of political killings committed by the Government or its agents.

In July during the G-8 Conference in Genoa, a violent mob attacked an isolated jeep with three police officers inside. Members of the crowd smashed a pole through one window and injured an officer; the officer shot and killed one of the demonstrators who was preparing to throw a fire extinguisher at the jeep's occupants. The case remained under investigation by the judiciary at year's end.

There were a number of deaths in prison (see Section 1.c.)

In May 1999, Massimo D'Antona, a senior adviser to the Minister of Labor, was shot and killed outside his home in Rome. Red Brigades, a terrorist movement, claimed responsibility for the killing. Although police detained several persons in connection with the crime, prosecutors had not charged anyone with the crime by year's end.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits torture and cruel or degrading punishment; however, there were reports of incidents in which police abused detainees. According to reports published during the year by Amnesty International, there were numerous allegations of the deliberate use of excessive force against individuals detained in connection with common criminal offenses or in the course of identity checks. According to allegations, mistreatment, when it occurs, usually occurs at the time of arrest and during the first 24 hours in custody and affects both citizens and foreigners. A large number of alleged victims were women. A high proportion of the allegations received by Amnesty International concern foreign nationals (many of them from Africa), as well as Roma (see Section 5).

Amnesty International reported on incidents involving the deliberate use by police of excessive force in March and July during mass antiglobalization demonstrations in Naples. During the March Global Forum demonstrations, detainees alleged that they were forced to kneel on the floor of police stations for lengthy periods of time, and were subjected to random and deliberate beatings with truncheons, as well as slaps, kicks, punches, and other verbal insults frequently of an obscene, sexual nature. Many detainees also reported that they were subjected to invasive body searches.

Amnesty International also reported on police use of excessive force in July during the G-8 Conference in Genoa. The Government detailed experienced security forces to protect the heads of government who were meeting in a restricted area, while urban areas outside this area were left with reduced and less experienced police protection. Violent demonstrators destroyed property and attacked the police and police responded with force. Subsequent to this event, police raided the headquarters of the antiglobalization group, Genoa Social Forum, where a number of demonstrators were staying, and detained approximately 100 persons; approximately 60 of those detained sustained numerous and severe injuries. Other injuries allegedly were inflicted as detainees were transported to detention facilities; there also were reports that police mistreated some persons at the detention centers. Approximately 300 persons in total were detained during the Conference. These events gave rise to subsequent judicial and parliamentary investigations; the judicial investigation was ongoing at year's end. The parliamentary report noted that while violent demonstrations outside the G-8 meeting area required police intervention, there were coordination problems within and between security forces. Police unions, while strongly criticizing individual instances of unprofessional behavior, objected to blanket accusations and criticized policies that left their members without clear orders and unprepared to cope with massive and unruly street protests (see Section 1.d.).

Some government visa operations are under investigation for visa fraud in connection with trafficking (see Section 6.f.).

Overcrowded and antiquated prisons continued to be a problem. The prison system has a capacity of 42,775 but holds almost 58,000 detainees. Older facilities tend to lack outdoor or exercise space, compounding the difficulties of close quarters. Approximately 54 percent of detainees are serving sentences; the other 46 percent consist mainly of persons awaiting trial or the outcome of an appeal. One in four inmates is a foreigner, but in some prisons, foreigners outnumber Italian citizens. Nearly one in three prisoners has been jailed for a drug violation. Almost 10 percent of drug users are HIV positive. Over 100 prisoners died while in jail in 2000; 56 committed suicide, with an additional reported 839 unsuccessful suicide attempts and approximately 5,800 acts of self-mutilation.

Men are held separately from women, and juveniles are held separately from adults; however, pretrial detainees are not held separately from convicted prisoners.

The Government permits visits by independent human rights organizations, parliamentarians, and the media. Amnesty International, the U.N. Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), the U.N. Committee Against Torture, and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture regularly assess the country's judicial and prison system. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Antigone, which is composed mainly of lawyers, magistrates, and academics, promotes the rights of detainees, works closely with the European Commission for Prevention of Torture, and monitors the prison system.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, during the protests in March and July, there were reports that the authorities did not respect these rights in practice.

Warrants are required for arrests unless there is a specific and immediate danger to which the police must respond without waiting for a warrant. Arrests resulting from the July G-8 Conference in Genoa, particularly those made as a result of a police raid on the headquarters of the Genoa Social Forum, generated controversy. Most of the 300 persons arrested at the Conference were promptly freed without charges filed against them. However, a few detainees, particularly non-Italians, were held for longer periods of time. Most non-Italians were expelled from the country and prohibited from reentering for 5 years (see Section 1.c.).

Under the law, detainees are allowed prompt and regular access to lawyers of their choosing and to family members; however, during the Global Forum protest in March, there were allegations that authorities denied detainees access to a lawyer and did not allow detainees to have a family member or third person informed of their whereabouts (see Section 1.c.). The State provides a lawyer to indigents. Within 24 hours of being detained, the examining magistrate must decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed to an arrest. The investigating judge then has 48 hours in which to confirm the arrest and recommend whether the case goes to trial. In exceptional circumstances – usually in cases of organized crime figures – where there is danger that attorneys may attempt to tamper with evidence, the investigating judge may take up to 5 days to interrogate the accused before the accused is allowed to contact an attorney. The U.N. Human Rights Committee, the treaty monitoring body for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, recommended in 1998 that this 5-day period be reduced and that all detainees have access to legal advice immediately upon arrest.

There is no provision for bail, but judges may grant provisional liberty to suspects awaiting trial. As a safeguard against unjustified detention, panels of judges (liberty tribunals) review cases of persons awaiting trial on a regular basis per a detainee's request, and rule whether continued detention is warranted. Persons in detention include not only those awaiting trial, but also individuals awaiting the outcome of a first or second appeal (see Section 1.e.). Pretrial detention may last for a maximum of 24 months. The Constitution and the law provide for restitution in cases of unjust detention (see Section 1.e.).

Preventive detention can be imposed only as a last resort if there is clear and convincing evidence of a serious offense (such as crimes involving the Mafia or those related to drugs, arms, or subversion), or if there is a risk of an offense being repeated or of evidence being falsified. In these cases, a maximum of 2 years of preliminary investigation is permitted. Except in extraordinary situations, preventive custody is not permitted for pregnant women, single parents of children under 3 years of age, persons over 70 years of age, or those who are seriously ill. Preventive custody may be imposed only for crimes punishable by a maximum sentence of not less than 4 years. Prosecutors are required to include all evidence favorable to the accused in requests for preventive detention. The defense may present any favorable evidence directly to the court. Magistrates' interrogations of persons in custody must be recorded on audio tape or videotape to be admissible in judicial proceedings.

The law prohibits punishment by exile-either internal or abroad, and the Government does not use it.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respects this provision. However, the judiciary's effort to provide citizens with a fair judicial process is complicated by long trial delays and the impact of organized crime on the criminal justice system.

There are three levels of courts. A single judge hears cases at the level of courts of first instance. At the second level, separate courts hear appeals for civil and penal cases. Decisions of the Court of Appeals can be appealed to the highest court, the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court) in Rome, but only for reasons related to correct application of the law, not to a case's merit.

Judges can either act as prosecuting attorneys or preside at trials. It is not unusual for judges to switch between these two functions over the course of their careers. When acting as prosecutors, judges can appeal verdicts, including sentences they deem too lenient. The Constitution imposes the obligation on judges to investigate reports of crimes. Nevertheless of almost 1.5 million crimes denounced in the first 6 months of the year, the responsible criminals were identified in only 300,000 cases.

The law provides for the right to fair and public trials, and the judiciary generally enforces this right. The law grants defendants the presumption of innocence. Defendants have access to an attorney sufficiently in advance to prepare a defense and can confront witnesses. All evidence held by prosecutors may be made available to defendants and their attorneys. Defendants may appeal verdicts to the highest appellate court. Trials were slow throughout the country.

Although some observers noted improvement, both domestic and European institutions continued to criticize the slow pace of justice in the country, which was due in part to cumbersome and frequently changing procedures, unclear or contradictory legal provisions, and an inadequate number of judges. As a result, perpetrators of some serious crimes avoid punishment due to trials that exceed the statute of limitations. In January the national newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that the average wait for a definitive verdict in a criminal case increased during 2000 to 1,792 days (approximately 5 years). In November 2000, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) handed down 233 adverse judgments against the country; this was more than half of the 421 verdicts issued during the year by the Courts. During the year, the number of ECHR findings against the Government rose to 350. Several of the cases cited had been pending for more than 25 years. In 2000 the Court levied approximately $10 million (20 billion lire) in fines citing unreasonable time periods for adjudicating cases.

In December the second appeal of a 1999 conviction for the May 1997 shooting death of a student at Rome's La Sapienza University reached the Court of Cassation. However, before a further appeal could be heard in the Court, the prosecutor called the Appeals Court decision, which resulted in a second guilty verdict and more severe penalties, "illogical and contradictory." The prosecutor criticized his prosecutorial colleagues' reliance on coerced and changed testimony by the key witness and noted that forensic evidence did not tie the defendants to the crime. The Court of Cassation sent the case back to the Appeals Court to be retried.

In July at the end of an almost 6-year trial, a Palermo court acquitted a former government minister of charges of associating with the Mafia; he had served 23 months in preventive detention. In June a Milan court imposed life sentences on 3 persons convicted of the "Piazza Fontana" bomb attack in 1969 that killed 16 persons and injured 88 persons. These 3 defendants, as commonly happens in high-profile cases, previously had been both absolved and convicted of the crimes.

In February the Parliament approved a package of measures to reform the judicial system. The reform package contained provisions addressing problems raised in society by the continuing danger of organized crime. To avoid abuses by "pentiti" (Mafia turncoats), testimony they give to investigators must be repeated, and thereby open to challenge by defense attorneys, in court. Stricter standards limit what constitutes significant testimony by pentiti who, to be accorded that status, must confess fully, not in installments. The February measures distinguish between testimony offered by innocent witnesses and by pentiti, and accord greater benefits for testimony by the former. In addition to limit the risk that convicted criminals would commit other offenses while their cases are appealed, judges may order the immediate detention of potentially dangerous individuals. Such detention also is intended to reduce the threat of witness intimidation by Mafiosi who remain at large.

Excessive trial delays and Mafia influence on the judicial system marked the cases of several high-profile public figures. In June a Palermo appeals court convicted Supreme Court Judge Corrado Carnevale of collaborating with the Mafia and sentenced him to 6 years' imprisonment. Prosecutors alleged that beginning in 1986 he illicitly overturned more than 400 organized crime-related convictions. Carnevale's conviction depended in part upon testimony by pentiti who also testified against former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti in two separate trials. The courts absolved Andreotti in both cases, stating that prosecutors failed to produce concrete evidence backing up vague and contradictory testimony by the pentiti, but they also asserted that Andreotti had lied at the trials. Andreotti's trials ended with court criticisms of both the prosecution and defendants.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi continued to face trials associated with business activities that he had pursued before taking office in 1994; some of these cases were ongoing from previous years and some were new. Both Berlusconi and the prosecuting judges appealed the lower court verdicts with which they were dissatisfied, while other cases were dismissed because they had remained in the judicial process beyond the statute of limitations for the alleged crimes. Berlusconi attributed these cases to the leftist political agendas of some judges whose purpose allegedly was to reverse the results of the May elections. These judges and the political opposition, on the other hand, accused the Prime Minister of using his position to protect his legal and business interests. These same groups oppose Berlusconi's specific proposals for judicial reforms to separate the career paths of judges and prosecutors and to focus prosecutions on the most serious crimes.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law prohibits such actions, and the Government generally respects these prohibitions in practice. Searches and electronic monitoring may be carried out only under judicial warrant and in carefully defined circumstances; violations are subject to legal sanctions. However, following the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, Parliament expanded anti-terrorist laws to apply to suspects responsible for directing violent acts outside the country's borders and authorized prosecutors to order wiretaps in connection with ongoing investigations. Parliament imposed safeguards to prevent the release of information intercepted without prior judicial authorization to unauthorized persons and forbade its use in criminal proceedings.

In July the Chairman of the Privacy Authority warned that the advent of software, capable of sending millions of emails a day, raised new questions about the nature of privacy rights, and that there was a risk to citizens privacy by new technology, which could expose citizens' personal data to access by unauthorized persons. He also criticized the careless handling of official records such as judicial notices and health documents that contain personal information.

2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government generally respects these rights. Courts are sensitive to criticism and impose fines for defamation. In May the country's highest appeals court ruled that journalists who quote insulting remarks about third parties made by persons they interview, as well as the editors of newspapers in which such remarks are published, may be included in defamation suits. At the time of this ruling, defamation suits pending against journalists and newspapers amounted to more than $1.5 billion (3 trillion lira). The costs to major publications resulting from legal fees and the settlement of lawsuits by successful plaintiffs amounts to an estimated several million dollars annually. Many defamation lawsuits are filed by politicians.

There are dozens of newspapers; six have nationwide readership and one newspaper is controlled by a member of the Berlusconi family. There are seven national broadcast channels, three of which are state-supported, and several dozen local and satellite channels. Prime Minister Berlusconi is the major shareholder in the group that owns three of the national channels.

There are three state-supported radio channels and dozens of privately owned radio channels. A broad spectrum of political opinions, including those sharply critical of Prime Minister Berlusconi and his policies, is represented in the overwhelming majority of influential, national media.

In January the country's highest appeals court ruled that the Government may shut down foreign-based Internet sites if they contravene national laws. In April Parliament approved a law requiring registration of online information sites and acceptance of liability by site sponsors.

Academic freedom is respected.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, and the Government generally respects this right in practice; however, there were reports of the use of excessive police force during violent antiglobalization demonstrations in March and July (see Section 1.c. and 1.d.). The Government does not restrict the right of peaceful assembly, including protests against government policies, except in cases where national security or public safety is at risk. Permits are not required for meetings, but organizers of public demonstrations must notify the police in advance.

The Constitution provides for freedom of association; however, the Constitution and the law prohibit clandestine associations, those that pursue political aims through force, those that incite racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination, or those that advocate fascism. In July the Constitutional Court ruled to remove from the Penal Code the crime of associating to destroy "national sentiment." The Court held that because the Constitution provides for the right of association for all activities to individuals, inciting national sentiment through group activity cannot be illegal. Professional associations organize and operate freely.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right.

The Constitution authorizes the State to enter into relations with non-Catholic religious confessions pursuant to an accord ("intese"), on the basis of which the Government can provide support (including financial support) to the confession; these intese do not infringe on the practice of religion. A 1929 agreement between the Catholic Church and the Government, which was revised in 1984, accords the Church certain privileges. For example, the Church can select Catholic religion teachers, whose earnings are paid by the State. The Government has signed intese with the Baptists, Lutherans, and the Adventists. In March 2000, the Government signed accords with the Buddhist Union and Jehovah's Witnesses; however, the parliamentary committee to which these accords were referred failed to approve implementing legislation, and questions raised in committee suggested hostility on the part of some of its members toward Jehovah's Witnesses.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution and the law provide for these rights, and the Government generally respects them in practice. The Constitution forbids the deprivation of citizenship for political reasons. Citizens who leave are ensured the right to return. However, Parliament has not yet repealed the XIII transitory provision of the 1947 Constitution, which forbids male heirs of the former king, Umberto I of Savoy, from entering the country.

The Constitution provides for the granting of refugee and asylum status in accordance with the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees, and provides first asylum to refugees fleeing hostilities or natural disasters. Such refugees are granted temporary residence permits, which must be renewed periodically and do not ensure future permanent residence.

In 2000 the Ministry of Interior approved 1,640 asylum requests and denied approximately 22,700 others. Of requests that were approved, approximately 55 percent involved nationals of the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Turkey.

An immigration law passed in February 1998 levies high fines and penalties for land, air, and sea carriers that board passengers without documentation; however, large numbers of illegal immigrants from Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, China, and West Africa continued to arrive, primarily by sea. Many of these immigrants enter the country with the intent to transit to other European Union (EU) countries. Most illegal migrants paid fees to smugglers and some risked death because smugglers at times unload their human cargo at sea to avoid capture by patrol boats. Others were forced to engage in illegal activities, were paid substandard wages, or forced to work as prostitutes to pay off debts incurred for their passage (see Section 6.f.). According to the Ministry of Interior, authorities repatriated 66,000 illegal immigrants in 2000; during the first 6 months of the year, authorities repatriated 32,000 illegal immigrants. Bilateral accords with Albania, Morocco, and Tunisia helped promote annual migration by reducing numbers of documented workers from those countries.

There were no reports of the forced return of persons to a country where they feared persecution.

3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage. In May the Parliament was elected in elections that were considered free and democratic. There are numerous political parties that function without government restrictions.

The percentage of women in government and politics does not correspond to their percentage of the population; however, there are no restrictions on women's participation in government and politics. Women hold 2 of 25 cabinet positions, 25 of 315 Senate seats, and 64 of 630 seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

In October 2000, the Senate gave final approval to a constitutional change allowing an estimated 3.9 million Italians abroad to vote, and setting aside 12 seats in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies and 6 in the 315-seat Senate to represent them. In June the newly elected Minister for Italians Abroad pledged that such citizens would be allowed to vote within 6 months; in December Parliament completed the implementing legislation to this effect.

4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups in general operate without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases (see Section 1.c.). Government officials are cooperative and responsive to their views.

There are government human rights organizations that operate within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister's Office, and the Privacy Authority, as well as a Senate committee on human rights.

5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex (except with regard to hazardous work), religion, ethnic background, or political opinion, and provides some protection against discrimination based on disability, language, or social status; however, some societal discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, and Roma persisted.

Women

Violence against women remained a problem. A 1998 ISTAT survey reported that at least 9.4 million women between the ages of 14 and 59 had experienced some form of sexual violence during their lives. The NGO Telefono Rosa, which provides a hot line through which abused women may obtain legal, medical, and other assistance, reported that nearly half of all complaints it receives nationally involve physical violence, much of it within the home. In 55 percent of these cases, husbands are the responsible parties, and in 10 percent of the cases, ex-husbands are responsible.

Legislation protects women from physical abuse, including by family members, allows for the prosecution of perpetrators of violence against women, and shields women who have been objects of attack from publicity. The law treats spousal rape in the same manner as any other rape. Law enforcement and judicial authorities are not reluctant to prosecute perpetrators of violence against women, but victims sometimes do not press charges due to fear, shame, or ignorance of the law. According to Telephono Rosa, approximately 3 out of 4 women who experience violence decline to report it to the authorities. However, Telefono Rosa also notes that the entry of more women into the police force has contributed greatly to a willingness of female victims of violence to cooperate with police. Acting on behalf of local government administrations, 66 local women's associations maintain and run shelters for battered women.

In 1999 the Labor Ministry and major trade union confederations agreed on a code of conduct regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. The code, which follows an EU recommendation, is attached to national sectoral labor contracts as they are negotiated. Telefono Rosa reports that previous ad hoc sexual harassment provisions in labor contracts have worked as a deterrent to workplace harassment both in the public and private sectors.

Trafficking of women into the country for prostitution was a growing problem (see Section 6.f.).

Women enjoy legal equality with men in marriage, property, and inheritance rights. Males and females enjoy equal access and treatment with regard to education, health, and other government services. A number of government offices work to ensure women's rights. The Ministry for Equal Opportunity is headed by a woman, and there is an equal opportunity commission in the office of the Prime Minister. The Labor Ministry has a similar commission that focuses on women's rights and discrimination in the workplace, as well as equal opportunity counselors who deal with this problem at the national, regional, and provincial government levels. However, many counselors have limited resources with which to work. Many NGO's, most of which are affiliated with labor unions or political parties, actively and effectively promote women's rights.

In 1999 the EU directive regulating night work for women was incorporated into the law; with some exceptions, women may work at night. These exceptions include pregnant women who are mothers of one or more children below the age of 3, or women with disabilities. As a result of liberal maternity leave laws introduced to benefit women, some employers have found it advantageous to hire men instead. A March 2000 law on parental leave grants mothers and fathers an equal right to take leave when a child is sick. A decree approved in May 2000 requires civil service recruiters to explain in writing their motives for hiring or promoting a man rather than a woman as a manager. The rule was designed to promote women's access to the higher echelons of public administration and is to apply in offices where women managers number less than a third of the total.

Nevertheless, according to research conducted in 1999 by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Commission, women's salaries are 23.5 percent lower than men's for comparable work. They are underrepresented in many fields, such as management and the professions. According to a study by the Marisa Bellisario Foundation, a Rome-based foundation that focuses on women managers, women hold only 2 percent of top managerial positions in private businesses and banks. This rises to 10 percent in the public administration sector; of 943 state railway managers, 68 are women; of 160 managers at state run Alitalia, 10 are women. In 2000 ISTAT reported that employed women are more likely to have a high school diploma (34.7 percent) than employed men (28.5 percent). Employed women do better in higher education; the comparable figures for a university degree are 13.8 percent for women and 9.4 percent for men. During the year, 14.5 percent of females were unemployed, compared to 7.3 percent of males. During the year, youth unemployment (ages 15 to 24) was 25 percent for men and 32.2 percent for women.

Children

The Government demonstrates a strong commitment to children's rights and welfare. Schooling is free and compulsory for children from age 7 to age 18; those unable (or unwilling) to follow the academic curriculum are allowed to shift to vocational training at age 15. This reform was intended to reverse the middle and secondary school dropout rate, which historically has been high. The dropout rate for the academic year 2000-01 was 4.6 percent.

The abuse of children is a problem; from July 2000 to June 2001, the NGO Telefono Azzurro received 480,000 calls related to child abuse. It is estimated that 60 percent of violence against minors is committed within the home. According to a survey by Telefono Azzuro, nearly 2 out of 3 cases involve sexual violence, for which fathers are responsible 32 percent of the time; mothers are responsible 4.3 percent, relatives 21.1 percent, and friends 21.2 percent. Both public and private social workers counsel abused children and are authorized to take action to protect them. Telefono Azzurro maintains two toll-free hot lines for reporting incidents of child abuse. Research conducted in 2000 on behalf of the Government by a private institute estimated that the number of minors involved in cases of violence (including prostitution) to be between 10,000 and 12,000. There are between 1,880 and 2,500 minors who work as street prostitutes, of whom 1,500 to 2,300 were trafficked into the country and forced into prostitution (see Section 6.f.). The domestic NGO Social Service International assists in repatriating unaccompanied immigrant minors. In August the NGO Telefono Arcobaleno discovered 2 pedophile websites with photos of 23 children between the ages of 9 months and 2 years being raped or otherwise abused. Since June 1997 Telefono Arcobaleno has reported the existence of some 30,000 pedophile websites. Since 1999, 592 persons have been prosecuted under the law.

The law provides for the protection of children and there are several government programs to enhance the protection available for minors. The law prohibits pedophilia, child pornography, the possession of pornographic material involving children, sex tourism involving minors, and trafficking in children (see Section 6.f.). The law provides for an information gathering network to collect data on the condition of minors, and there is a legally mandated office in the Ministry of Labor and Welfare that protects the rights of unaccompanied immigrant minors. There are minors offices staffed by trained police (often women) in police stations around the country to offer emergency help for minors and families in distress, as well as advise in dealing with other government social and judicial entities. The law established a special police unit to monitor and prosecute Internet sites devoted to promoting pedophilia.

Persons With Disabilities

There is no discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, or in the provision of other state services, although there is some societal discrimination. A January 2000 law replaced previous legislation that prohibited discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, or the provision of state services. The 2000 law requires companies having 15 or more employees to hire one or more disabled workers: Those with 15 to 35 employees must hire 1 disabled worker, those with 35 to 50 must hire 2, and in larger companies 7 percent of the work force must consist of persons with disabilities. Companies hiring persons with disabilities are granted certain benefits, including lower social security contributions, while the Government pays the cost of worker training. The 2000 law also provides for more severe sanctions against violators.

The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, and the Government generally enforces these provisions in practice; however, persons with disabilities occasionally encounter situations, particularly in public transport, in which mechanical barriers leave them at a disadvantage.

Religious Minorities

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom. There is some anti-immigrant prejudice, including against Muslim immigrants. Some Catholic prelates have spoken about a perceived threat posed by immigrants to the country's "national identity" and have publicly favored immigration by those of culturally similar backgrounds such as Catholics "or at least Christians." Other leaders have urged religious harmony.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Some traditional minorities, including French and German speaking Alpine communities in the north and a mixture of German and Slovene speakers in the northeast, enjoy special autonomous status. The special rights of these areas – respectively the Valle d'Aosta, Trentino Alto Adige, and Friuli Venezia Giulia – include the use of non-Italian languages in government offices and, in Trentino Alto Adige and Valle d'Aosta, in public schools. In February Parliament passed a law protecting the rights of Slovene speakers, including mandating the use of Slovene in government offices and schools.

Roma are another traditional minority, but without a specific geographic base. There are no accurate statistics on the number of Roma in the country: NGO's estimate that there are approximately 90,000 to 115,000 Roma in the country, of whom approximately 60,000 to 90,000 are citizens – most of whom can trace their ancestry in the country to the late fourteenth century. Most of these Roma live in the center and south, in conditions indistinguishable from those of other Italians. Roma communities complained that their language does not enjoy the same privileged status as that granted to minority languages in the autonomous regions. Immigrant conditions tend to differ significantly from those of Italian Roma. Although many municipalities are building permanent settlements, poor housing, limited employment prospects, and inadequate educational facilities remained problems in Roma communities. With limited income and job opportunities available, some Roma turn to begging or petty crime, which has reinforced negative social attitudes and had generated repressive countermeasures by police and some judicial authorities. In March a male Rom was convicted for the November 1998 killing of an 11-year-old boy. Press accounts of the police investigation reported that a principal witness offered conflicting versions of the killing; societal prejudice against Roma may have been a factor in the conviction.

Increasing immigration, much of it from China, South Asia, North and West Africa, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Turkey, and the Middle East, has led to some anti-immigrant sentiment.

6. Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The law provides for the right to establish trade unions, join unions, and carry out union activities in the workplace, and workers exercise this right. The unions state that they represent between 35 and 40 percent of the work force. Trade unions are free of government controls and have no formal ties with political parties. All trade unions are professional trade union organizations that defend trade union interests. Individual trade unionists are free to identify with and support political parties of their choosing.

The Constitution provides for the right to strike, and this right is exercised frequently. In April 2000, following a period of multiple land, sea, and air transport sector strikes, Parliament passed a law amending provisions of a 1990 measure that restricted strikes affecting essential public services (e.g., transport, sanitation, and health). The new law defined minimum service to be maintained during a strike as 50 percent of normal service, with staffing by at least one-third the normal work force. The law established compulsory cooling off periods and more severe sanctions for violations. The law covers transport worker unions, lawyers, and self-employed taxi drivers. In May 2000, a Transport Ministry regulation required all national labor contracts involving employment sectors covered by the law to adjust contract provisions to the new rules. These changes were supported by the three major national trade union confederations, which sought to avoid inconvenience to tourists and the traveling public during the Catholic Church's Jubilee Year. The law has been effective in preventing complete work stoppages in essential public service sectors on the frequent occasions during the year on which such strikes have occurred. However, there were numerous, repeated strikes, in many sectors throughout the year.

Unions associate freely with national and international trade union organizations. The Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL) is the largest national trade union confederation; there are three other confederations, the Confederazione Italiana Sindacati dei Lavoratori (CISL), the Unione Italiana del Lavoro (UIL), and the Unione Generale del Lavoro (UGL). CGIL, CISL, and UIL are affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions; UGL is affiliated with the World Confederation of Labor.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution provides for the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively, and workers exercise this right. By custom, although not by law, national collective bargaining agreements apply to all workers, regardless of union affiliation.

The law prohibits discrimination by employers against union members and organizers. Dismissals of workers must be justified in writing. If a judge deems the grounds spurious, he can order the employer to reinstate or compensate the worker; in firms employing more than 15 workers, workers have the option to choose between reinstatement and compensation, whereas in firms with fewer than 15 workers, the employer makes the choice.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor; however, trafficking in women was a problem (see Section 6.f.).

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor by children; however, trafficking in children was a problem (see Section 6.f.).

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The law forbids the employment of children under age 15 (with some limited exceptions), and there are specific restrictions on employment in hazardous or unhealthful occupations for men under age 18, and women under age 21; however, these laws were not respected fully in practice. The enforcement of minimum age or other child protection laws is difficult in the extensive underground economy. Estimates of the number of child laborers differ, ranging from 30,000 to 350,000 children. Most of these cases involve immigrants, but instances involving Italian children also have been reported. Illegal immigrant child laborers from Northern Africa, the Philippines, Albania, and particularly China continued to enter the country in large numbers, and the influx from China continued to rise. According to the Carabinieri, an estimated 30,000 illegal Chinese work in sweatshop conditions near Florence, with many minor children working alongside the rest of their families to produce scarves, purses, and imitations of various brand name products. Many of these factories, which face threats of infiltration or coercion by Chinese organized crime, are equipped with escape tunnels to thwart labor inspections. Carabinieri officers who work on child labor developed a videocassette program to educate schoolchildren on child labor laws, their rights as specially protected workers, and workplace hazards. Labor Ministry inspections in 2000 of 1,776 firms revealed that the employment of approximately one out of three minors entailed some irregularity of age, occupation, prescribed medical evaluation, or required rest or vacation period.

The Government, employers associations, and unions continued their tripartite cooperation on child labor. Their periodic consultations, begun in 1997, cover such matters as better enforcement of school attendance regulations and programs to reduce the number of school dropouts (see Section 5); faster assistance for families in financial difficulty; and canceling economic or administrative incentives for companies found to make use of child labor, whether domestically or abroad. The Prime Minister's office provides a toll-free telephone number to report incidents of child labor. The footwear and textile industries and the goldsmith associations have codes of conduct that prohibit the use of child labor in their national and international activities; codes are applicable to subcontractors as well. In 1999 a child labor clause was attached to the national labor contract in the health sector, whereby the parties committed themselves not to use surgical tools produced by child labor.

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor by children; however, trafficking of children into the country was a problem (see Section 6.f.).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Minimum wages are not set by law, but by collective bargaining agreements on a sector by sector basis, which specify minimum standards to which individual employment contracts must conform. When an employer and a union fail to reach an agreement, courts may step in to determine fair wages on the basis of practice in comparable activities, although this rarely happens in practice. These wages provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family.

The legal workweek is 40 hours; most collective agreements provide for a 36- to 38-hour workweek. The average contractual workweek is 39 hours but is actually less in many industries. Overtime work may not exceed 2 hours per day or an average of 12 hours per week. Unless otherwise limited by a collective bargaining agreement, the law sets maximum permissible overtime hours in industrial sector firms at no more than 80 hours per quarter and 250 hours annually.

The law sets basic health and safety standards and guidelines for compensation for on-the-job injuries. For most practical purposes, EU directives on health and safety also have been incorporated into the law. Labor inspectors are from the public health service or from the Ministry of Labor, but they are few in number in view of the scope of their responsibilities. Courts impose fines and sometimes prison terms for violation of health and safety laws. In 2000 the Workmen's Compensation Institute reported an increase of accidents by 0.4 percent over the 1999 figures; however, there was a 3.8 percent decrease in the number of accidents resulting in death. Accidents occur with the greatest frequency in the underground economy, which employs between 3.5 and 5 million workers. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardizing their continued employment.

f. Trafficking in Persons

The law does not specifically address trafficking in persons, although trafficking may be prosecuted under other laws and articles of the Penal Code; trafficking in persons for prostitution and forced labor is a growing problem. Some government visa operations are under investigation for visa fraud in connection with trafficking.

Italy is primarily a destination country for trafficked persons, primarily women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation, but also some men and boys trafficked for forced labor. Persons are trafficked primarily from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, particularly from Albania, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav republics, Ukraine, and Moldova; Nigeria; South America, particularly Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia; and to a lesser extent Asia, particularly China. There were unconfirmed reports that an estimated 3,500 trafficked women were in Italy and that approximately 2000 persons are trafficked each year. Italy also is a transit point for traffickers, who arrive primarily by boat or airplane, with ultimate destinations in other Western or Northern European countries.

Organized criminal groups, both large and small, are behind most trafficking in the country, particularly from Albania. Victims of trafficking often are forced into prostitution, into working in restaurants, or begging on the streets (see Section 5). Traffickers enforce compliance by taking their victims' documents, beating and raping them, threatening their families, and frightening them with voodoo rites. Some trafficked women have been killed. Women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation are monitored closely and often kept under guard in apartments when not working. Some of those who end up in servitude, particularly Chinese persons headed for the Florence area, come to Italy willingly, believing they will be receiving a certain salary or working under decent conditions; however, they are exploited by those who loaned them money for the trip, and they end up working 18-hour shifts, sometimes living and working in the same place. Leather, fur, and textile industries attract many of the illegal workers.

Trafficking in children for sweatshop labor is a particular problem in Tuscany's expanding Chinese immigrant community, where children are considered to be part of the family "production unit" (see Section 6.d.).

There have been press reports that Italian government officials working in several countries in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America (particularly Ethiopia and Cuba) were being investigated for visa fraud in connection with bribery, abuse of authority, and trafficking; the investigation continued at year's end.

While there is no law that specifically prohibits trafficking in persons, other laws used to prosecute traffickers include laws prohibiting the exploitation of prostitution (the so-called Merlin law), slavery, sexual violence, kidnapping, and assisting the entry of illegal migrants. Cases prosecuted for reduction into slavery can bring penalties of up to 20 years, but such cases usually are used only for minors because of the difficulty under the law of proving slavery for adults. Penalties for infractions of the Merlin law include 6 years' imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000 (approximately 20 million lire). The law contains provisions on the exploitation of prostitution, pornography, and sexual tourism to the detriment of minors with penalties of up to 20 years' imprisonment.

The Government has investigated and prosecuted many cases against traffickers using these laws, primarily the Merlin law. Some prosecutions resulted in convictions. The Government also has cooperated with foreign governments investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases. In May the Government signed a bilateral agreement with China to combat alien smuggling, including trafficking in persons.

The Government devotes significant law enforcement and other resources to combat trafficking. The Minister of Equal Opportunity leads an intergovernmental committee charged with monitoring trafficking and coordinating government activity to combat it. Other members include the Ministries of Labor and Welfare, Justice, Interior, and Foreign Affairs, as well as a special anti-Mafia prosecutorial unit. The Ministry of the Interior has begun special training programs to sensitize police to the problem of trafficking, the differences between trafficking and illegal immigration, the need to treat victims like victims, and the special skills needed to investigate cases. There are more than 85 police officers who specialize in handling trafficking cases.

The Government has sponsored awareness campaigns on trafficking in the country, including a 3-month television campaign focused on showing victims ways to escape traffickers. The television spots depicted the violence directed towards victims and explained the options available to them in Italy. The Government also sponsored an information campaign conducted by the International Organization for Migration in Albania that includes brochures, television, and radio spots aimed at potential victims. It has also provided funding for information campaigns conducted by the EU in Poland and Ukraine. In May 2000, the NGO End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking (ECPAT) and components of the tourism industry (tour companies, travel agents, computer reservation system personnel, airline companies, airport authorities, and trade unions) initiated a voluntary code of conduct designed to impede sex tourism.

While most prostitution involves women fleeing economic destitution in their home countries, those who are trafficked forcibly often are unable or reluctant to contact the police for help. The immigration law provides temporary residence and work permits to victims who seek to escape their traffickers. The legislation permits a temporary stay for victims, even if the victims refuse to file charges against their traffickers. During this time, victims are provided with shelter, benefits, and services such as counseling and medical assistance, in cooperation with NGO's. They also may be permitted to work or study. If the victim agrees to cooperate with law enforcement and judicial authorities, the residence permit and services are extended for the length of the criminal proceedings. However, some victims still are deported, particularly Nigerian prostitutes, although such deportations have decreased. In July 2000, the Government set up a toll-free telephone number to help victims take advantage of this program. As a result of these and related policies, there reportedly has been a significant increase in witness testimony and the successful prosecution of traffickers was reported.

The Government works closely with NGO's and other organizations in fighting trafficking. Major secular and Catholic NGO's concerned with trafficking, among which Parsec – a social research institute – and Caritas are the most active, cooperate closely with the Government. In conjunction with other concerned NGO's ECPAT has worked to ensure that police treat juvenile prostitutes as victims of trafficking, not criminals.

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