Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December 2014, 12:47 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006 - Italy

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Publication Date 6 March 2007
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006 - Italy , 6 March 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f0568d20.html [accessed 25 December 2014]
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.

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 6, 2007

Italy is a multiparty parliamentary democracy with a population of approximately 58.4 million. The bicameral parliament consists of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. National parliamentary elections, which determine who will be president and prime minister, were held in April and were considered free and fair. A center-left coalition led by Prime Minister Romano Prodi replaced the center-right coalition led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The parliament elected Giorgio Napolitano as the new president. The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.

The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, although there were problems in some areas. Despite extensive delays, the law and judiciary otherwise provided effective means of addressing individual instances of abuse. Journalists and prosecutors increased their criticisms of police behavior and filed a greater number of cases against them for various crimes. Lengthy pretrial detention, excessively long court proceedings, violence against women, trafficking in persons, and abuse of Roma remained problems.

Parliament adopted a law reducing the prison sentences for minor crimes committed before May 2, a measure that resulted in the release of 17,400 prisoners and significantly reduced prison overcrowding.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

The government or its agents did not commit any politically motivated killings, and courts and investigators dealt with earlier killings by government agents and with politically motivated killings by nongovernmental actors.

In 2005 a police officer in Turin shot and killed a Senegalese immigrant who refused to exit his vehicle during a drug search. The incident was under investigation at year's end.

In March a court sentenced each of seven police officers in Naples to seven years in prison for the shooting death of a military parachutist in 2003.

In April the Court of Cassation, the country's highest appellate court, sentenced a policemen to 10 years in prison for the 2000 killing of a 16-year-old boy.

In March a court sentenced the leader of the New Red Brigades (Communist Combatant Party) to life in prison for the March 2003 murder of a police officer. In July and in 2005, in cases involving some of the same suspects, the Rome appeals court sentenced three Red Brigade members to life in prison and nine others to lesser sentences for the 1999 killing of Massimo D'Antona, an academic advisor to the labor ministry. In December the Bologna court sentenced four Red Brigade members to life in prison and one to 21 years for the 2002 murder of another labor ministry academic advisor, Marco Biagi. In March and June, the Rome court sentenced five Red Brigade members to life and one to 16 years' imprisonment for the 2002 killing of Marco Biagi.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The law prohibits such practices; however, there were reports that police occasionally used excessive force against persons detained in connection with common criminal offenses or in the course of identity checks. While this behavior affected both citizens and foreigners, Roma and immigrants were at particular risk (see section 5).

In 2004 authorities charged a prison guard in Lombardy with raping an Albanian immigrant in custody. The case remained under investigation at year's end.

The investigation of an off-duty police officer who shot and injured a 16-year-old boy in 2004 was still ongoing at year's end.

In 2003 a Nigerian immigrant accused two policemen in Rome of abusing him while he was in their custody; the alleged abuses included burns to his abdomen. The incident occurred after the immigrant had attempted to escape. The case was under investigation at the end of the year.

In March the court gave a seven-month sentence to a police officer convicted of using excessive force and causing personal injury to a number of individuals when police were trying to clear approximately 100 activists from a Milan emergency room waiting area in March 2003. During the year one of two other officers charged in the incident was acquitted, and a court sentenced two of four activists investigated for violence against police on the same occasion to 20 months in prison.

At year's end the trial continued of 27 police officers, including senior officers, charged with perjury, conspiracy, or assault during a 2001 police raid on a building used by protesters at the G-8 summit in Genoa in 2001. A separate trial continued of 45 police officers indicted for "inhuman or degrading treatment," including assault, during the subsequent detention of those protestors.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions generally met international standards, although some prisons remained overcrowded and antiquated. In July parliament approved a reduction in sentences for minor crimes that significantly reduced the number of prisoners (see section 1.d.). In November, after many prisoners were released, there were 39,200 inmates (down from 61,300 in June) in a prison system designed to hold 42,500; however, the uneven distribution of those released left a few institutions still overcrowded. Older facilities lacked outdoor or exercise space; some prisons lacked adequate medical care. Approximately 62 percent of the inmates were serving sentences; the other 38 percent consisted mainly of detainees awaiting trial or the outcome of an appeal.

During the year, according to an independent research center, 58 prisoners died while in custody, 35 of them by suicide.

The 20 temporary detention centers for illegal immigrants continued to be overcrowded. The newly elected government provided improved access to detention centers for representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs.)

The law does not require that pretrial detainees be held separately from convicted prisoners, and they are held together in some smaller prisons.

The government permitted visits by independent human rights organizations, parliamentarians, and the media. Amnesty International (AI), the UN Human Rights Commission, the Committee Against Torture of the Council of Europe (CPT), and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture regularly assessed the country's judicial and prison systems. Several municipalities appointed independent ombudsmen to promote the rights of detainees and facilitate access to health care and other services.

In April the government authorized publication of a report of the CPT, whose representatives visited prisons, detention centers, and police stations in 2004. The report noted that some inmates suffered such abuses as incarceration in cramped conditions, lack of access to lawyers, poor medical treatment, and xenophobic and racist insults. In response to the report, the government indicated that it had built four new prisons, was upgrading another eight, and had hired additional prison staff, including psychologists and cultural mediators.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

Four separate police forces, which report to different ministerial or local authorities, effectively enforced law and order. The national police and the financial police are under the jurisdiction of the interior and finance ministries, respectively. The Ministry of Defense controls the carabinieri, a military security force; however, the Ministry of Interior assumes control of carabinieri and financial police units when they perform law enforcement functions. 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.

Allegations of police corruption by journalists and prosecutors increased. In January eight carabinieri officers in Milan were arrested on charges of graft and evidence tampering. The officers reportedly used false evidence to extort money from a number of previous offenders, three of whom were wrongfully convicted and returned to prison until an investigation raised questions about the evidence. The accused were released. The officers' trial had not begun by year's end.

In April 2005 authorities charged 12 police officers with corruption, abuse of authority, and perjury, because of their contacts with criminal organizations. The charges were based on wiretaps. The case remained under investigation at year's end.

Both the government and the judiciary investigated police abuses and prosecuted police who mistreated persons in custody. The trial of 29 police officers charged in 2003 with unlawful imprisonment and assault in Genoa in 2001 continued (see section 1.c.).

Arrest and Detention

To make arrests, police are required to have warrants issued by duly authorized officials, unless there is a specific and immediate danger to which they must respond. The examining magistrate must decide within 24 hours of a suspect's detention whether there is enough evidence to proceed with an arrest. The investigating judge then has 48 hours in which to confirm the arrest and recommend whether the case goes to trial. Authorities generally respected the right to a prompt judicial determination in practice. Under the law detainees are entitled to prompt and regular access to lawyers of their choosing and to family members. The state provides a lawyer to indigents. 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 five days to interrogate the accused before the accused is allowed to contact an attorney. There is no provision for bail; however, judges may grant provisional liberty to suspects awaiting trial. As a safeguard against unjustified detention, a detainee may request that a panel of judges (liberty tribunals) review his case on a regular basis and rule on whether continued detention is warranted.

In 2005 the president signed into law a new antiterrorism decree that: doubles to 24 hours the amount of time police can hold suspects without charge; makes arrests for crimes involving terrorism obligatory; allows police to take DNA samples from suspects for identification purposes; makes it easier for intelligence services to conduct wiretaps; requires identification to purchase telephone cards and a license to operate an Internet cafe; increases penalties for concealing one's identity in public places; allows the government to deport suspects under investigation without court approval (suspects may appeal only after the deportation occurs); and expands the legal grounds for deportation to include concern that an individual's presence might facilitate terrorist activities or organizations. In November the European Human Rights Committee blocked deportation orders against three individuals the authorities considered terrorists, citing the need to investigate whether they would be subject to persecution if they were returned to their home country, Tunisia.

Since adoption of the 2005 law, authorities have employed it to deport 32 immigrants suspected of links to terrorist networks.

Preventive detention may be imposed as a last resort if there is clear and convincing evidence of a serious offense. Serious offenses are defined as those that carry maximum prison sentences of four years or more, such as some crimes involving the Mafia or crimes related to terrorism, drugs, arms, and subversion. Authorities may also use preventive detention if there is a risk that an offense might be repeated or that evidence might be falsified. Except in extraordinary situations, preventive detention is prohibited for pregnant women, single parents of children under age three, persons over age 70, and those who are seriously ill.

Despite restrictions on pretrial detention, it remained a serious problem. During the first half of the year, 20 percent of all prisoners were in pretrial detention awaiting the beginning of their trials and 16 percent were awaiting a final sentence. The maximum term of pretrial incarceration is two years for a crime with a maximum penalty of six years in prison, four years for a crime with a maximum penalty of 20 years, and six years for a crime with a maximum penalty of more than 20 years.

According to some judicial experts, a few prosecutors used pretrial detention as pressure to obtain confessions.

In July parliament approved a law that granted a three-year reduction in prison sentences for minor crimes committed before May 2; it does not apply to sentences committed for the crimes of terrorism, trafficking in persons, mafia-related crime, pornography, rape, or drug trafficking. The effect of the law was to release 17,400 prisoners, greatly easing overcrowding of prisons.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected this provision in practice; however, most court cases involved long trial delays. Pressure on the judicial system, primarily through the intimidation of judges by organized crime groups, further complicated the judicial process. In February and March, a judge who was a member of a court of appeals that sentenced 39 mafia members to prison for life was the target of a series of episodes of intimidation (notes, graffiti, bullets were left in front of his apartment) in Catanzaro.

There are three levels of courts. Either a single judge or a court, which may consist of a panel of judges or include a jury, hears cases at the level of first instance. At the second level, civil and criminal appeals are heard by separate courts with juries. Both sides may appeal decisions of the court of appeals to the highest court, the Court of Cassation in Rome, but only for reasons related to law, not to the merits of the case. A separate Constitutional Court hears cases involving possible conflict between laws and the constitution or involving conflicts over the duties or powers of different units of government.

Legislation enacted in 2005 reformed the judicial system by altering the career track of professional magistrates (who previously functioned as both prosecutors and trial/appellate judges) to require them to become either prosecutors or judges. It also made the promotion of judges conditional upon passage of an examination and allows district prosecutors to determine the priority of cases. The legislation gives the Court of Cassation authority to discipline magistrates who participate in political activities, leak information, or otherwise violate judicial rules of procedure.

Trial Procedures

The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Trials are public. Defendants have access to an attorney in a timely manner to prepare a defense. Defendants may confront and question witnesses against them, and they may present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Prosecutors must make evidence available to defendants and their attorneys upon request. The law grants defendants the presumption of innocence. Defendants may appeal verdicts to the highest appellate court.

Domestic and European institutions continued to criticize the slow pace of justice in the country. In 2005 over 800 petitions were pending in the European Court of Human Rights seeking compensation from the government for excessively long proceedings. Observers cited several reasons for delays: the absence of effective limits on the length of pretrial investigations; the large number of minor offenses covered by the penal code; unclear and contradictory legal provisions; and insufficient resources, including an inadequate number of judges.

In January 2005 the chief prosecutor of the Court of Cassation estimated that 81 percent of reported crimes went unpunished. A year later he reported that on average it took 401 days to complete a criminal trial, 860 days to complete an appeal, an additional 918 days if a case was referred to the Court of Cassation.

The courts had significant leeway to determine when the statute of limitations should apply, and defendants often took advantage of the slow pace of justice to delay trials through extensive pleas and appeals (see section 3). In February parliament enacted a law that limits the power of prosecutors to appeal acquittals by eliminating the intermediary appellate level and requiring that appeals go directly to the Court of Cassation. For the first time the new law also allows appeals based on evidence presented during the trial; previously, the grounds for appeal were limited to interpretation or application of the law itself.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

The constitution provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. Administrative remedies are determined by law and arbitration is allowed and regulated by contracts. In most cases citizens turned to arbitration because of trial delays. In 2004 the average time required to complete a civil trial was 798 days; 636 days were required to complete an appeal, and another 317 days to appeal to the Court of Cassation.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice. Searches and electronic monitoring were generally permissible under judicial warrant and in carefully defined circumstances; however, the new antiterrorism decree made it easier for intelligence agencies to obtain permission to conduct wiretaps. The new antiterrorism decree also required the purchasers of telephone cards to provide identification.

The media published leaked transcripts of both legal and illegal wiretaps during the year. Prosecutors and magistrates called for new legislation making it a crime to publish transcripts of illegal wiretaps. Published wiretaps included information relating to the arrest of Prince Victor Emanuele on charges of corruption and running a brothel, charges of game-fixing against coaches and referees of major soccer teams, and charges of inappropriate interference in the sale of banks that led to the resignation of the governor of the Bank of Italy. There were also accounts of alleged industrial espionage and illegal wiretaps relating to the sale of a national telecommunications company (see section 1.f.).

2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice and did not restrict academic freedom. An independent press and judiciary and a functioning democratic political system combined to ensure freedom of speech and the press.

Individuals could criticize the government publicly or privately without reprisal, and the authorities did not impede such criticism. In January parliament enacted a law that replaces imprisonment with fines as punishment for desecrating the flag or insulting the president.

The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views.

There were approximately 80 newspapers in circulation, eight of them national. Former prime minister Berlusconi (leader of the opposition coalition, controlled two of the national newspapers. Critics charged that through his ownership share of the company Mediaset, Berlusconi also directly or indirectly controlled three of the country's seven national television broadcast channels. The three state-owned channels (Radiotelevisione Italiana or RAI) and other networks broadcast a wide range of opinion that reflected the full spectrum of political views in the country. Disputes over partisanship on the airwaves continued to prompt frequent political debate, and NGOs contended that media ownership was concentrated in too few hands.

On April 29, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a judge ordered journalist Mario Spezi released after 22 days in jail. Authorities detained Spezi in Perugia. His detention occurred days before the appearance of a book he coauthored that criticized the Perugia public prosecutor's investigation of a series of long-unresolved killings. News reports indicated that the journalist was under investigation for attempting to sidetrack an investigation and defaming Perugia prosecutors in the media.

The NGO Reporters Without Borders and the journalists' union criticized several judicial actions against journalists. In August prosecutors ordered police to search the premises of two national newspapers to ascertain the source of articles related to the investigation of an alleged rendition by foreign officials of an imam who was being investigated for terrorist activities by the Milan prosecutor. The case remained under investigation at year's end.

In September two journalists claimed they were the subject of illegal wiretaps and that the country's intelligence services followed them because of their reports on alleged illicit activities by the security services.

In May 2005, on the orders of a prosecutor, financial police searched the office of a national newspaper and interrogated some journalists to ascertain the source of an article on arms trafficking. Neither the newspaper nor the prosecutor took further action on the case. Observers noted that there were contradictory statutes that maintained the sanctity of journalistic sources on the one hand and authorized magistrates to carry out investigations into journalistic sources on the other.

Unlike in previous years, politicians filed no defamation suits against journalists; however, action was pending or taken on several suits filed by politicians in earlier years. In July 2005 former prime minister Berlusconi filed a libel suit against a British journalist over a book in which the journalist alleged that Berlusconi was involved in criminal activity and political corruption; Berlusconi was seeking $1.27 million (one million euros) in compensation; no action was taken in the case by year's end. In March a judge dismissed charges filed by the former prime minister against another journalist who published a book about the alleged involvement of Berlusconi's companies in mafia-related crime. In April 2005 a trial of three journalists from the newspaper, Coriere della Sera, began; they were accused of defaming Umberto Bossi, the leader of the Northern League party in 2003; the trial was ongoing at year's end.

In 2005 the president of a Muslim association filed a defamation suit against the writer Oriana Fallaci for the publication of a book critical of Islam. The prosecutor first ordered the dismissal of the case, but a judge subsequently sent the case to trial in Bergamo. The book remains on sale, and Ms. Fallaci died in September, effectively ending the suit.

Internet Freedom

There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chatrooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by electronic mail; however, the government could block foreign-based Internet sites if they contravened national laws. The new antiterrorism decree requires that the operator of an Internet café obtain a license.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.

c. Freedom of Religion

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.

There is no state religion; however, an agreement between the Roman Catholic Church and the government provides the Catholic Church certain privileges. For example, it may select Catholic religion teachers, whose earnings are paid by the government. The law authorizes the government to enter into relations with organizations representing non-Catholic religions pursuant to an accord (intesa) that allows the government to provide support (including financial) to the organization; these accords are voluntary and initiated by the religious groups themselves. Several minority religious groups benefited from such accords. The government has also negotiated accords with several others, including the Buddhist Union and Jehovah's Witnesses organization; however, the parliament recessed in April without enacting the legislation necessary to put them into effect. Divisions between the country's Muslim organizations, as well as large number of Muslim immigrant groups, hindered that community's efforts to seek an intesa.

There were occasional reports that government officials or the public objected to women wearing a burqah (a garment that completely covers the face and body). The 2005 antiterrorism decree doubled existing penalties for persons convicted of wearing such attire as a burqah (or a crash helmet) in order to hide their identity. Penalties were increased to two years in jail and fines of approximately $1,310 (1,000 euros) to $2,620 (2,000 euros) (see section 1.d.).

In May an administrative tribunal ruled that the 2005 deportation of the imam of Turin on the grounds that he was preaching hate and violence was groundless. The courts did not review the use of similar grounds in 2005 to expel the vice president of the Como Muslim Cultural Center. There were no reports of such expulsions during the year.

The continuing presence of such Christian symbols as crucifixes in many government offices, courtrooms, and other public buildings drew criticism and continued to be the subject of lawsuits. In February an appeals court rejected a mother's efforts to remove crucifixes in her children's classroom in Albano Terme; the judge noted that the crucifix is not just a religious symbol but can express secular values as well. A poll conducted during the year indicated that 80 percent of the population supported having crucifixes in schools and public buildings.

Societal Abuses and Discrimination

The country's approximately 30,000 Jews maintain synagogues in 21 cities. There were no violent anti-Semitic attacks during the year, but societal anti-Semitic prejudices persisted, and small extremist fringe groups were responsible for anti-Semitic acts.

Swastika graffiti appeared in some cities and during some soccer matches. In January fans at a soccer match displayed anti-Semitic banners and Nazi symbols. On July 10, neo-Nazis celebrating the country's World Cup victory vandalized walls, doors, and vehicles in the Jewish quarter of Rome with swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti. The prime minister and other politicians strongly condemned the incident as an "ignoble gesture of hate and intolerance."

On May 16, unknown persons vandalized 40 graves in a large Jewish cemetery in Milan. Authorities started an investigation, but there were no reports of progress at year's end.

During the July-August conflict involving Israel and the terrorist organization Hizballah in Lebanon, Jewish citizens were sometimes held collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel. For example, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported that on July 28, in Livorno, graffiti translating roughly to "Israel is an evil state" was written on the walls of Jewish-owned businesses. The ADL also reported that on August 1, 20 shops in Rome were vandalized with swastikas and other damage. Fliers found at the shops were signed by the Armed Revolutionary Fascists, a neo-fascist group, and denounced "the Zionist economy" and included pro-Hezbollah statements.

Also in August the National Secretary of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII) placed an advertisement in local newspapers comparing the alleged massacres committed by the Israeli Army in Lebanon to the massacres committed by the Nazis. Politicians, government officials, and the minister of the interior's Muslim advisory board, the Islamic Consulta, (except for the UCOII member) condemned the statement.

The government hosted meetings to increase educational awareness of the Holocaust and to combat anti-Semitism.

For a more detailed discussion, see the 2006 Report on International Religious Freedom.

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

The constitution provides for these rights, and the government generally respected them in practice.

The law prohibits forced exile, and the government did not employ it.

Protection of Refugees

The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. In practice the government provided protection against refoulement, the return of persons to a country where they feared persecution. In 2005 the government granted refugee status or asylum to 907 persons.

The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees under the 1951 convention and the 1967 protocol and provided it to 4,375 persons during the year.

The government cooperated with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees, and it provided temporary protection to refugees fleeing hostilities or natural disasters. Such refugees were granted temporary residence permits, which had to be renewed periodically but did not ensure future permanent residence.

In the first half of the year, authorities identified 62,000 individuals in the country illegally and deported 24,125. Those who were apprehended, usually attempting entry by sea, were sent to temporary detention centers for processing, and a magistrate determined whether an illegal immigrant would be deported (if their identity could be ascertained), issued an order to depart (if their identity could not be ascertained), or would be accepted for asylum processing. In February AI released a report on the rights of migrants and asylum-seeking minors which highlighted 890 allegations regarding the presence of unaccompanied children who were restricted in temporary detention centers in unhygienic and unsuitable conditions. AI stated that it possessed detailed information about 28 of these cases. The government had not responded to these allegations by year's end.

The 20 temporary detention centers for illegal immigrants continued to be overcrowded (see section 1.c.).

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 exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

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. National parliamentary elections (which determine who will be president and prime minister) were held in April and were considered free and fair. Authorities invited the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to observe the process for the first time and that organization reported that overall the elections were in keeping with the country's tradition of democratic elections. A center-left coalition led by Prime Minister Romano Prodi was elected, replacing a center-right coalition led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Under a law enacted in 2001, citizens living abroad were able to vote in national elections for the first time.

Parliament also elected a new president, Giorgio Napolitano.

There were numerous political parties, which functioned without government restrictions.

The elections resulted in a significant increase in the number of women who won elective office. There were 40 women in the 315-seat Senate (up from 25) and 108 women in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies (up from 63). The number of women in the cabinet increased from two to six of 25 cabinet positions.

The only legally defined minorities are linguistic – the French-speaking Valdostani and the German-speaking Altoatesini/Suditirolesi. In the new parliament there were four members of linguistic minorities in the 315-seat Senate and five in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies. In a largely monolithic society, immigrants represented approximately 4 percent of the population, and fewer than half of these qualified as ethnic/racial minorities. Two members of immigrant groups (of Moroccan and Palestinian origin) were elected to the Chamber of Deputies.

Government Corruption and Transparency

In December the High Commissioner of the independent Task Force on Corruption resigned, citing a lack of political support and budgetary pressure to eliminate the office. Established in 2004, the task force conducted over 50 investigations but had little real power to address corruption. There continued to be isolated reports of government corruption during the year, and the general public believed that politicians were corrupt. According to press reporting, between November 2003 and November 2005 a special court dealing with financial issues issued 201 summonses in response to complaints from private citizens and public officials regarding allegations of bribery or graft in public administration. It also issued 265 rulings on various cases. There was no information on the number of cases referred to a prosecutor for further action. In 2005 the NGO Transparency International rated perceptions of corruption in the country at 5.0 on a scale of one to 10 with 10 indicating the least corruption. The rating reflected the perceptions of business people and country analysts concerning the prevalence of overall corruption in the country. Its rating in 2003 was 4.8.

In July 2005 prosecutors charged 148 persons with involvement in a 1999 scheme to avoid military service by bribing officials. The trial had not concluded by year's end.

In November the Court of Cassation annulled the 2005 conviction of Ceasare Previti, previously former prime minister Berlusconi's lawyer and a former minister of defense. He had been convicted of corruption and sentenced to six years' imprisonment by an appeals court in a case that involved the possible corruption of a judge.

The law gives citizens the right to access government documents and to be informed of administrative processes. With some exceptions for security issues, the government and local authorities respected this right in practice for citizens, noncitizens, and the foreign press.

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

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.

5. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender (except with regard to hazardous work), ethnic background, and political opinion and provides some protection against discrimination based on disability, language, or social status. The government generally enforced these prohibitions. However, some societal discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, immigrants, and Roma persisted.

Women

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a problem. The NGO Telefono Rosa, which provided a hot line through which abused women could obtain legal, medical, and other assistance, reported that 13 percent of the calls it received involved sexual violence, 37 percent involved physical violence in the home, and more than 31 percent involved psychological violence. Telefono Rosa reported receiving an average of 600 calls a month.

Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, and the government enforced the law effectively. In 2004, 4,578 cases of rape were reported, 3,412 persons were charged, and 1,530 were convicted.

The law criminalizes physical abuse of women, including by family members, allows for the prosecution of perpetrators of violence against women and helps women who have been victims of attack avoid publicity. Law enforcement and judicial authorities were not reluctant to prosecute perpetrators of violence against women, but victims frequently declined to press charges due to fear, shame, or ignorance of the law. According to a national survey, only 9 percent of rape victims reported the crime to police. In March the Ministry of Equal Opportunity established an additional hot line for victims of violence seeking immediate assistance and temporary shelter.

Individual acts of prostitution in private residences are legal. It is legal for adults to solicit or pay for acts of prostitution. It is illegal to operate a brothel, traffic in human beings, or engage in sex with a minor.

In August, in Brescia, the father of a 20-year-old Pakistani immigrant woman allegedly killed her because she refused an arranged marriage with her cousin and had adopted a western lifestyle. His trial was pending at year's end.

In September an immigrant Indian woman, aged 31, committed suicide, allegedly to avoid an arranged marriage.

Trafficking of women for sexual exploitation remained a problem (see section 5, Trafficking).

The law permits domestic courts to try citizens and permanent residents who engage in sex tourism, including outside the country, even if the offense is not a crime in the country in which it occurred. The country also has what is considered a model code of conduct for tourist agencies to help combat sex tourism. In January four persons accused of organizing tours to Brazil that included the sexual services of girls ages 12 to 17 were put on trial; the trials were ongoing at year's end. In September, in the first case applying the extra-territorial aspect of the law against sexual tourism, prosecutors charged an individual for his activities in Thailand in 2003-2005; the trial was ongoing at year's end.

In 2003 authorities charged two individuals with sex tourism; their trials had not concluded by year's end.

Sexual harassment is illegal, and the government effectively enforced the law. In 2005, in an effort to combat sexual harassment in the workplace, the government issued a decree that makes emotional abuse based on gender discrimination a crime.

The law provides women the same rights as men, including rights under family law, property law, and in the judicial system.

According to the well-respected research center Censis, the overall gap between salaries for men and women averaged 26 percent. Women were underrepresented in many fields, including management, entrepreneurial business, and the professions. According to the Superior Council of the Judiciary, 40 percent of magistrates were women, but only 5 percent of chief justices were women.

A number of government offices worked to ensure women's rights. A woman heads the Ministry for Equal Opportunity, 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. Many NGOs, most of them affiliated with labor unions or political parties, actively and effectively promoted women's rights.

Children

The government demonstrated a commitment to children's rights and welfare. Schooling is free and compulsory for children from age seven to 18; those unable or unwilling to follow the academic curriculum may shift to vocational training at age 15. In 2005 the Ministry of Education reported that 72.9 percent of children aged 15 to 18 attended secondary school. There was no difference in the treatment and attendance of girls and boys at the primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels. Completion of secondary school was the highest level achieved by most children.

The state provides free medical care for all citizens.

Child abuse was a problem; in 2005 the NGO Telefono Azzurro received approximately 380,000 calls related to child abuse. Approximately 5 percent involved sexual abuse, 11 percent physical violence, and 8 percent psychological exploitation. In 60 percent of the cases, the victims were female; 46 percent were 10 years old or younger. In the first six months of 2005, judicial authorities registered 748 allegations of sexual abuse of minors and accused 276 persons of abuse. Between 2001 and 2003, the government funded 144 projects carried out by NGOs to improve parent-child relations and combat child abuse.

NGOs estimated that eight to 10 percent of prostitutes were minors. An independent research center estimated that there were between 1,800 and 3,000 minors who worked as street prostitutes; of these, 1,500 to 2,300 were trafficked into the country and forced into prostitution (see section 5, Trafficking).

Illegal immigrant child laborers from northern Africa, the Philippines, Albania, and China continued to enter the country. In December the prosecutor of Agrigento alleged that criminal organizations were responsible for trafficking thousands of minors from outside the European Union through Sicily. He reported that the most organized gangs were Romanian, Albanian, Egyptian and Moroccan.

An interministerial committee chaired by the minister of equal opportunity coordinates the fight against pedophilia. A special unit of the police monitored 33,000 Web sites between January and November, investigated 337 persons for crimes involving child pornography online, and arrested 16 of them.

There were reports of child labor (see section 6.d.)

Trafficking in Persons

The law prohibits trafficking in persons; however, persons were trafficked to, from, and within the country. According to government and NGO sources, approximately 2,500 new victims were trafficked to and within the country in 2005, the latest year for which data was available. Eight to 10 percent were believed to be underage.

The country was a destination and transit point for trafficked persons. Immigrants, mostly from Nigeria, North Africa, and Eastern Europe, played a major role in trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, both as traffickers and victims, although citizens were also involved. Press reports estimated that over 85 percent of prostitutes in the country were immigrants, primarily from Nigeria and Eastern Europe.

Sexually exploited victims of trafficking faced health risks resulting from unsafe and unprotected sex. Trafficking victims in the Tuscany region who worked in sweatshops were possibly exposed to dangerous chemicals in the leather industry.

Organized criminal groups were responsible for most trafficking; prostitution rings routinely moved trafficked persons from city to city to avoid arrest.

Italian victims of trafficking were usually lured to other countries in Western Europe with promises of a job, or sold by relatives, friends, or acquaintances. Traffickers then forced their victims to work as prostitutes, laborers in restaurants or sweatshops, or beggars in the street. The traffickers enforced compliance by taking the victims' documents, beating and raping them, or threatening to harm their families. There were no reports that traffickers killed trafficked women during the year.

The law provides sentences of eight to 20 years in prison for trafficking in persons and for enslavement. Sentences for persons convicted of trafficking in minors for sexual exploitation increase by one-third to one-half. The law mandates special prison conditions for traffickers designed to limit their ability to continue their operations from jail.

The number of persons investigated for trafficking increased from 1,861 in 2004 to 2,054 in 2005, but arrests decreased from 341 to 304; the number of prosecutions decreased from 120 to 102 and convictions from 77 to 50. The government cooperated with foreign governments, including those of Nigeria, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Moldova, to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases. For example, in May authorities arrested and charged 41 Bulgarian nationals with trafficking in minors; at year's end they continued to investigate another 75 persons for bringing children of Romani and poor families into the country to commit robberies in Trieste.

In June police in Rome arrested three Romanian nationals and charged them with smuggling persons with disabilities and forcing them to work as beggars; one victim was assisted and repatriated. The case was pending at year's end.

In July police arrested six Romanians in Rome and Milan on charges of trafficking at least 100 children whom they allegedly forced to beg on the streets and steal from private residences. The case was pending at year's end.

In July, in Puglia, Italian and Polish police arrested 25 individuals, including Poles, Ukrainians, Algerians, and an Italian, for trafficking up to 1,000 Poles over several years for forced agricultural labor. The traffickers hired the workers out to local farmers. Reportedly, the victims responded to an advertisement for migrant workers, paid a travel fee, received $4 per hour and were kept in penury by the traffickers, who charged them for food, water, and squalid sleeping quarters. Police freed 113 workers and were investigating reports of at least two suspicious suicide deaths in the work camps as well as reports of beatings and rape. The interior ministry was investigating the abuses at year's end.

In April police unveiled a criminal ring and arrested twelve Italians and six Romanians charged with forced prostitution and exploitation since 2004 of hundreds of Romani minors who were persuaded to have sexual intercourse with adults in exchange for small gifts. Pedophiles allegedly lured children at intersections where they used to beg or sell merchandise.

There were no reported developments in the case involving 25 Italians and Bulgarians arrested in 2005 and charged with trafficking in persons, criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, and sexual assault.

The following reported 2004 trafficking investigations remained ongoing at year's end: a Romanian father who was selling his 10-year-old child for sex in the outskirts of Milan; two Albanians, one Egyptian, one Pakistani, and one Italian involved in trafficking women from Eastern Europe for prostitution; six Bulgarian men who accompanied Bulgarian women into the country who gave birth and then sold the babies to Italian families for $13,100 (10,000 euros) each; 12 persons, including two police officers, who were arrested in Sassari and charged with trafficking for prostitution and falsification of documents; and four persons who were accused of organizing tours to Brazil that included the sexual services of girls ages 12 to 17.

Government officials generally did not participate in, facilitate, or condone trafficking.

The law provides temporary residence or work permits to persons who seek to escape their exploiters. Authorities and NGOs encouraged victims to file complaints, and there were no legal impediments for them to do so. Unlike most other illegal immigrants, who face deportation if caught, persons who qualify as official trafficking victims under law receive numerous benefits, including legal residence, whether or not they filed a complaint. To date, only prostitutes have received assistance under the law. However, NGOs alleged that the government did not always allow enough time between apprehension and deportation of illegal immigrants to screen them for trafficking victims.

The government provided legal and medical assistance once authorities identified a person as having been trafficked. There were shelters and programs for job training. There also were assistance and incentive programs for those willing to return to their home country; in 2005, 78 victims who chose to go home were repatriated. The domestic NGO Social Service International assisted in repatriating unaccompanied immigrant minors.

The law empowers magistrates to seize convicted traffickers' assets to finance legal assistance, vocational training, and other social integration assistance for trafficking victims.

The government worked with other governments and NGOs to orchestrate awareness campaigns. The law directs the foreign ministry, together with the equal opportunity ministry, to conclude additional antitrafficking agreements with trafficking source countries.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of other state services; and the government effectively enforced these provisions; however, there was some societal discrimination. Although the law mandates access to government buildings for persons with disabilities, mechanical barriers, particularly in public transport, left such persons at a disadvantage. The Ministry of Labor and Welfare was responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

In January parliament enacted legislation to broaden the definition of discrimination against persons with disabilities by public and private entities and, for the first time, allowed NGOs to file complaints on behalf of persons with disabilities.

In August 2005 carabinieri closed a private health facility for the mentally ill in Reggio Calabria for structural, health, and safety violations.

In June 2005 the national airline Alitalia refused to board a disabled person, claiming it would cause delays for other passengers. There were no reports of follow-up by authorities.

Of the 587,000 workers with disabilities registered at public employment centers during the year, only 5.2 percent found work, even though 101,000 positions that are reserved by law for persons with disabilities remained vacant.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Police continued to mistreat Roma. The NGO Opera Nomadi reported cases of discrimination, especially with regard to housing and evictions, deportations, and efforts by the government to remove children for their protection from Romani parents. Government officials at the national and local levels, including those from the Ministries of Interior and Equal Opportunity, met periodically with Roma and their representatives. Opera Nomandi held conferences, applied for tax exempt status, and lobbied the government throughout the year.

In April the European Committee of Social Rights ruled that the country systematically violates the right to adequate housing for Roma by not providing sufficient camping sites, not providing permanent housing, and evicting Roma from housing.

Public opinion surveys indicated that negative societal attitudes toward immigrants continued to increase, especially among young persons and in the North. Immigrants continued to assert that that they were discriminated against in employment.

There were no accurate statistics on the number of Roma in the country. NGOs estimated that a population of 120,000, up to 80 percent of whom could be citizens, was concentrated on the fringes of urban areas in the central and southern parts of the country, living in camps characterized by poor housing, unhygienic sanitary conditions, limited employment prospects, inadequate educational facilities, and the absence of a consistent police presence. Faced with limited income and job opportunities, and suffering from harassment, some Roma begged or engaged in petty crime, which led to repressive measures by police and some judicial authorities.

The government's Office to Combat Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in the Ministry of Equal Opportunity provided assistance to victims of discrimination. In 2005 it received 3,400 calls on its national hot line, of which it considered 282 to be genuine cases of discrimination against racial or ethnic minorities. The majority of complaints related to wage and overtime issues and discrimination in public. The office provided legal assistance and help in mediating disputes.

Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination

In June 2005 the Administrative Court of Catania condemned the Ministry of Transport for having requested the revocation of a driver's license of a homosexual based on his sexual orientation. A civil trial seeking restitution was underway at year's end.

6. Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The law provides for the right to establish, join, and carry out union activities in the workplace without previous authorization or excessive requirements, and workers exercised these rights in practice. Unions claimed to represent between 35 and 40 percent of the workforce.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, and the government protected this right in practice. The law provides for the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively, and workers exercised this right. Approximately 35 percent of the workforce works under a collective bargaining agreement, but nonunion members working alongside union employees also benefited from the same agreements. The law provides for the right to strike, and workers exercised this right by conducting legal strikes. The law restricts strikes affecting essential public services (such as transport, sanitation, and health), requiring longer advance notification and precluding multiple strikes within days of each other.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children; however, there were reports that such practices occurred (see section 5, Trafficking).

d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The government implemented laws and policies designed to protect children from exploitation in the workplace; however, there were reports of child labor. The law prohibits employment of children under age 15 (with some limited exceptions), and there are specific restrictions on employment in hazardous or unhealthy occupations for boys under age 18 and girls under age 21.

Enforcement of these laws was generally effective in the above-ground economy; however, the enforcement of minimum age or other child protection laws was difficult in the extensive informal economy. In 2005 an independent research center estimated that approximately 460,000 children under age 15 worked at least occasionally, while 70,000 worked for at least four hours per day. Many of these children were helping in family-owned farms and businesses, work which is illegal if it interferes with education.)

Illegal immigrant child laborers from northern Africa, the Philippines, Albania, and China continued to enter the country (see section 5, Children).

Trafficking in children was a problem (see section 5).

The government, employers' associations, and unions continued their tripartite cooperation on child labor. The Ministry of Labor, working with police and carabinieri, is responsible for enforcement of child labor laws, but their efforts generally were ineffective. In the first half of the year, the Ministry of Welfare conducted inspections of 2,311 companies, which had a total workforce of 12,830. Of these, the Ministry found 2,276 citizens aged 14-18 and 259 immigrants, legal and illegal. They fined companies for violations related to lack of periodic medical check-ups (600), work hours and leave (158), and minimum age (84 cases of children under 15 being employed.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

While the law does not set minimum wages, it provides for them to be set through collective bargaining agreements on a sector-by-sector basis. The minimum wage in most industries provided a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Courts effectively enforced the wages set through collective bargaining agreements, but workers in the informal sector often worked for less.

The legal workweek is 40 hours. Overtime work may not exceed two hours per day or an average of 12 hours per week. Unless limited by a collective bargaining agreement, the law sets maximum overtime in industrial sector firms at no more than 80 hours per quarter and 250 hours annually. The law required rest periods of one day per week and 11 hours per day. Premium pay is required for overtime. These standards were effectively enforced.

The law sets basic health and safety standards and guidelines for compensation for on-the-job injuries. There were labor inspectors in both the public health service and the Ministry of Labor, but their numbers were insufficient to ensure adequate enforcement of health and safety standards. The standards were not enforced in the significant unofficial economy. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardizing their continued employment, and the government effectively enforced this right.

Search Refworld

Countries