Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July 2014, 16:05 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2005 - Italy

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 8 March 2006
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2005 - Italy , 8 March 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4418219a29.html [accessed 11 July 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 8, 2006

Italy is a multiparty parliamentary democracy with a population of approximately 57.8 million. National parliamentary elections (which determine who will be president and prime minister), last held in 2001, were considered free and fair. 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, the law and judiciary provide effective means of addressing individual instances of abuse. The following human rights problems were reported:

  • overcrowded prisons
  • lengthy pretrial detention
  • excessively long court proceedings
  • violence against women
  • child abuse
  • trafficking in persons
  • child labor

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; however, in May a police officer in Turin shot to death a Senegalese immigrant who refused to exit his vehicle during a drug search. The incident was under investigation at year's end.

In January an appeals court sentenced a police officer to 10 years' imprisonment for the shooting death of a teenager who did not stop when directed to do so in 2000. This ruling re-imposed an earlier penalty that the court of cassation annulled in 2004.

In January the appeals court of Naples sentenced a police officer to 10 years imprisonment for killing a 17-year-old boy who tried to escape police custody in 2000.

In December 2003 the leader of the New Red Brigades (Communist Combatant Party) was charged with the March 2003 murder of a police officer. The trial had not begun by the end of the year. However, in July, in a case involving some of the same suspects, the Rome appeals court sentenced three Red Brigade members to life imprisonment and nine others to lesser sentences for the 1999 killing of an academic advisor (D'Antona) to the labor ministry. In March and June, the Rome court sentenced 5 Red Brigade members to life and one to 16 years' imprisonment for the 2002 murder of another labor ministry academic advisor (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 2003 a Nigerian immigrant accused two policemen in Rome of abuse involving burns to his abdomen while in custody; the incident occurred after the immigrant had attempted to escape. The case was still under investigation at the end of the year. In 2004 a prison guard in Lombardy was charged with raping an Albanian immigrant while in custody. The case remained under investigation at the end of the year.

In April the trial began for 29 police officers, including a number of senior officers, charged with perjury, conspiracy, or assault in connection with a 2001 police raid on a building used by protesters at the G-8 summit in Genoa. In July the courts acquitted two police officers accused of conspiring to manufacture evidence during the raid. In October the trial began for 45 police officers who were indicted for "inhuman or degrading treatment," including assault, during the subsequent detention of those protesters. The case remained under investigation at year's end.

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

In June a trial began for three police officers who were indicted for using excessive force and causing personal injury to a number of individuals while trying to clear approximately 100 activists from a Milan emergency room waiting area in March 2003. It remained ongoing at year's end. Four of the activists were being investigated for violence against police.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Although prison conditions generally met international standards, overcrowded and antiquated prisons continued to be problems. In June there were 59,100 detainees incarcerated in a prison system designed to hold 42,500. 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 91 prisoners died while in custody; 51 of those committed suicide.

The 20 temporary detention centers for illegal immigrants continued to be overcrowded. The government sometimes restricted nongovernmental organization (NGO) access to detention centers. For example, in March almost 1,200 illegal immigrants arrived by boat in Lampedusa within 2 days and were initially sent to a detention center equipped to hold 190 persons. The government moved the detainees to other facilities within a few days and then provided NGO access.

Pretrial detainees were not held separately from convicted prisoners.

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

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 fall 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 were rare. In April 12 police officers were charged with corruption, abuse of authority and perjury for their contacts with criminal associations based on information received from wiretaps. The case remained under investigation at year's end.

Both the government and the judiciary investigated abuses and prosecuted police who mistreated persons in custody. In March a trial began for 29 of 31 police officers charged in 2003 with unlawful imprisonment and assault based on evidence of their conduct during protests in Naples in 2001 (see section 1.c.).

Arrest and Detention

Warrants,issued by a duly authorized official, are required for arrests unless there is a specific and immediate danger to which the police must respond without waiting for a warrant. Within 24 hours of a suspect's detention, the examining magistrate must decide 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, and this right to a prompt judicial determination was respected in practice. Under the law detainees are allowed 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, at a detainee's request, panels of judges (liberty tribunals) review cases of persons awaiting trial on a regular basis and rule whether continued detention is warranted.

In July 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 obligatory arrests for crimes involving terrorism; makes it easier to deport persons suspected of terrorist activities without the involvement of magistrates; allows police to take DNA samples from suspects for identification purposes; makes it easier for intelligence services to conduct wiretaps; requires identification to purchase phone cards and a license to operate an Internet cafe; increases penalties for hiding one's identity in public places, and allows the government to deport suspects under investigation without the involvement of the judiciary (suspects can appeal only after the deportation occurs), and expands the reasons for deportation to include whether a person's presence can in any way facilitate terrorist activities or organizations.

There were no reports of political detainees.

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 terrorism, drugs, arms, or subversion) with a maximum sentence of not less than four years or if there is a risk of an offense being repeated or of evidence being falsified. In these cases, a maximum of two years of preliminary investigation is permitted. Except in extraordinary situations, preventive custody is not permitted for pregnant women, single parents of children under age 3, persons over age 70, or those who are seriously ill.

Lengthy pretrial detention was a serious problem. No prisoner can be incarcerated for a longer term than the maximum sentence that could be imposed. The maximum term of pretrial incarceration is 2 years for a crime with a maximum penalty of 6 years, 4 years for a crime with a maximum penalty of 20 years, and 6 years for a crime with a maximum penalty of more than 20 years. During the first half of the year, 36 percent of pretrial detainees were awaiting a final sentence; trials had not begun for another 27 percent of them.

In May the court of cassation increased the amount of financial reimbursement awarded by the appeals court in Genoa to an entrepreneur who was charged in 1993 and spent seven and one-half years in prison before being acquitted by an appeals court in 2001. According to some judicial experts, a few prosecutors used pretrial detention as pressure to obtain confessions.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected this provision in practice; however, most cases involved long trial delays, and the impact of organized crime on the criminal justice system complicated the judicial process.

There are three levels of courts. Either a single judge or a court hears cases at the level of first instance. At the second level, separate courts with juries hear appeals of civil and criminal 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 law, not to a case's merit. 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.

In July the parliament enacted judicial reform after amending an earlier bill that was rejected by the president for being unconstitutional. The reform: changed the career track of professional magistrates (who previously functioned as both prosecutors and trial/appellate judges) to require that they become either prosecutors or judges and conditioned promotion upon examination; allows district prosecutors to determine the priority of cases; and entitles the court of cassation to discipline magistrates who participate in political activities, leak information to the press and others, or otherwise violate judicial rules of procedure. Magistrates went on strike several times during the year to protest these reforms.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Trials are public and juries are used. Defendants have access to an attorney in a timely manner to prepare a defense. Defendants can confront and question witnesses against them, and they can present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Evidence held by prosecutors may be made available to defendants and their attorneys. 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. During the year over 800 petitions were pending in the European Court of Human Rights seeking compensation against 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 included in the penal code; unclear and contradictory legal provisions; and insufficient resources, including an inadequate number of judges. In January the chief prosecutor of the cassation court announced that 81 percent of reported crimes went unpunished. In 2004 he reported that the average time to complete a civil trial was eight years and a criminal trial five years.

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 or appeals (see section 3). In December the parliament approved legislation that reduced the discretionary power of judges to determine the statute of limitations. The new terms are equal to the maximum sentence provided for each crime and cannot be lower than six years; the law does not apply to crimes punished with life sentences and does not affect ongoing judicial cases. The law also increases penalties for Mafia-related crimes, increased sentences by up to one-half for repeat offenders, and allows drug addicts, people aged 70 and over or pregnant women to serve sentences at home. While the legislation will clarify problems related to the statute of limitations, it is not yet clear how it will affect prison overcrowding.

Political Prisoners

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 respected these prohibitions in practice. Searches and electronic monitoring generally could be carried out only 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.

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 respected these rights in practice and did not restrict academic freedom. However, the autonomous judiciary was sensitive to investigative leaks and press criticism and imposed fines for defamation.

During the year the president of a Muslim association filed a defamation suit against the writer Oriana Fallaci for the initially ordered the dismissal of the case, but subsequently a judge sent the case to trial in Bergamo. A hearing was scheduled for June 2006. The book was on sale throughout the country.

There were approximately 80 newspapers, of which 8 had national readership; the Prime Minister Berlusconi's family controlled 2 of them.

Critics charged that Prime Minister Berlusconi directly or indirectly controlled six of the country's seven national broadcast channels. Although Prime Minister Berlusconi through his Finivest company sold 17 percent of his shares during the year, he continued to hold a major interest in Mediaset, which owned three channels, and the state-owned network RAI controlled the other three. RAI's three channels and other networks broadcast a wide range of opinion that reflected the full spectrum of political views in the country, but disputes over partisanship on the airwaves continued to prompt frequent political debate.

The NGO Reporters without Borders and the journalists' union criticized several judicial actions directed against journalists.In May a prosecutor ordered financial police to conduct a search in the office of a national newspaper and interrogate some journalists to ascertain the source of an article on arms trafficking. Neither the newspaper nor the prosecutor took further action on the case. Critics noted the contradiction between separate laws maintaining the sanctity of journalistic sources and another law authorizing magistrates to carry out investigations into journalistic sources.

Politicians and their supporters filed several defamation suits during the year. In February President Ciampi granted a pardon to a 77-year old journalist and senator who had been sentenced to 29 months' imprisonment for defamation. In April a trial began for three journalists from a national newspaper who were accused of defaming the leader of a political party in 2003. In March a judge dismissed charges filed by five magistrates against a journalist who wrote an article about the alleged political use of turncoat witnesses in connection with legal proceedings against former Prime Minister Andreotti. In July Prime Minister Berlusconi filed a libel suit against a British journalist over allegations in a book of criminal activity and political corruption; Berlusconi is seeking $1.17 million(one million euros) in compensation.

The government generally did not restrict access to the Internet; however, the government could block foreign-based Internet sites if they contravened national laws. The new antiterrorism decree required a license to operate an Internet cafe.

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

There is no state religion; however, an historic agreement between the Roman Catholic Church and the government, revised in 1984, provides the Church certain privileges. For example, the Church may select Catholic religion teachers, whose earnings are paid by the government. The law authorizes the government to enter into relations with non-Catholic religious groups pursuant to an accord (intese), on the basis of which the government can provide support (including financial) to the religion; these accords are voluntary, initiated by religious groups, and do not infringe on the practice of religion. The government has signed accords with several minority religious groups. At year's end the Buddhist Union and Jehovah's Witnesses awaited parliamentary ratification of government accords.

Muslim women are free to wear the veil in public offices and schools; however, there were occasional reports of objections by the government or the public to women wearing a burqah (a garment that completely covers the face and body). The new antiterrorism decree (see section 1.d.) doubled existing penalties, from 6 months' imprisonment and a $600 to $1,200 (500 to 1000 euros) fine to 1 to 2 years' imprisonment and a $1,200 to $2,400 (1,000 to 2,000 euros) fine) for violating an updated 1931 law that prohibits individuals from hiding their identity (by wearing a crash helmet or other garb such as a burqah).

In September the government used the new antiterrorism decree to expel the imam of Turin and the vice president of the Como Muslim Cultural Center from their positions on the grounds that they were preaching hate and violence and recruiting terrorists.

The continuing presence of Catholic symbols, such as crucifixes, in many government offices, courtrooms, and other public buildings has drawn criticism and has been the subject of lawsuits.

Societal Abuses and Discrimination

The country's approximately 30 thousand Jews maintained synagogues in 21 cities. There were no violent anti-Semitic attacks, but societal prejudices against Judaism continued and swastika graffiti appeared in some cities. The government hosted meetings to increase educational awareness of the Holocaust and to combat anti-Semitism in Europe.

For a more detailed discussion, see the 2005 International Religious Report.

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

The law 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. The government granted refugee status or asylum.

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 2,352 persons during the year.

The government cooperated with the office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees, and provided temporary protection to refugees fleeing hostilities or natural disasters. Such refugees were granted temporary residence permits, which must be renewed periodically but did not ensure future permanent residence.

The majority of illegal immigrants were denied entry at the border. Those who did enter, usually via the sea, were sent to temporary detention centers for processing, and a magistrate determined if an illegal immigrant would be deported (for those whose identity can be determined), issued an order to depart (for those whose identity has not been determined), or accepted for asylum processing. Some NGOs were at times denied entry to the detention facilities to check on asylum processing.

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

The law 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) last held in 2001 were considered free and fair.

There were numerous political parties that functioned without government restrictions.

There were 25 women in the 315-seat senate and 63 women in the 630-seat chamber of deputies, and women held 2 of 25 cabinet positions. For the first time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs promoted two women to the rank of senior ambassador (of 20 actively serving at this rank).

The only legally defined minorities are linguistic – the French-speaking Valdostani and the German-speaking Altoatesini/Suditirolesi. During the year there were 6 members of linguistic minorities in the 315-seat senate and 5 in the 630-seat chamber of deputies. In a largely monolithic society, immigrants represented approximately 4 percent of the population, and less than half of these qualified as ethnic/racial minorities. There were no members of the new immigrant groups in the senate, chamber of deputies, or the cabinet.

Government Corruption and Transparency

There were 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 2004 a special court dealing with financial issues issued 154 summonses in response to complaints from private citizens and public officials regarding allegations of bribery or graft in public administration. There was no information on the number of cases referred to a prosecutor for further action.

In July prosecutors sent 148 people to trial for involvement in a 1999 scheme to avoid military service by bribing officials. The trial had not concluded by the end of the year.

The Independent Task Force on Corruption began work in October 2004. It had collected 50 citizen complaints on various corruption charges and began an investigation into the way professors are hired at state universities at year's end.

Defendants often took advantage of the slow pace of justice to delay trials through extensive pleas or appeals. In one high-level case in May, the courts dropped a bribery charged filed against Prime Minister Berlusconi which related to events in the early 1990s surrounding the purchase of a large publishing house; the court ruled the statute of limitations had expired. In October a court in Milan acquitted Prime Minister Berlusconi of charges that one of his companies (Finivest) engaged in falsified accounting between 1989 and 1995; the court ruled that the case exceeded the statute of limitations. In December Prime Minister Berlusconi's former lawyer and ex-Minister of Defense was convicted of corruption and sentenced to five years' imprisonment by an appeals court in a case that involved a judge and the holding company of the prime minister; he is appealing the decision to the court of cassation. In 2001 the Berlusconi government passed a law shortening the statute of limitations for this kind of crime.

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

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, or political opinion, and provides some protection against discrimination based on disability, language, or social status, and the government generally enforced these prohibitions. However, societal discrimination and violence against women, persons with disabilities, minorities, and Roma persisted.

Women

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a problem. The NGO Telefono Rosa, which provides a hotline through which abused women may 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 of the calls involved psychological violence. Telefono Rosa reported receiving an average of six hundred calls per month. In 2004 the chief prosecutor of the cassation court reported that complaints of sexual violence and exploitation of women increased by 48 percent compared to 2003. Some of this increase was credited to the success of new public awareness campaigns that encouraged greater reporting of these crimes.

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 victims of attack from publicity. Law enforcement and judicial authorities were not reluctant to prosecute perpetrators of violence against women, but victims sometimes did not press charges due to fear, shame, or ignorance of the law. According to Telefono Rosa, approximately three out of four women who experienced violence declined to report it to the authorities, and one in five who did report it later withdrew their complaint.

Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, and the government enforced the law effectively. In 2003 4,526 cases of rape were reported, 3,522 persons were charged, and 1,478 were convicted.

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

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

Under the law citizens and noncitizen permanent residents who engaged in sex tourism, even abroad, could be tried and convicted in domestic courts, 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 tourism agencies to help combat sex tourism. In 2003 two individuals were sent to trial for sex tourism; the trials had not concluded by the year's end. Four persons who were accused of organizing tours to Brazil that included the sexual services of girls ages 12 to 17.

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

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

According to the European Commission, the gap between salaries for men and women averaged 6 percent. Women were underrepresented in many fields, such as management, entrepreneurial business, and the professions. According to the superior council of the judiciary, 40 percent of magistrates are women, but only 3 percent of chief justices are 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 which were 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 7 to age 18; those unable (or unwilling) to follow the academic curriculum may shift to vocational training at age 15. In 2004 the Ministry of Education reported that 83.2 percent of children age 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 country provides free state-provided medical care for all citizens.

Child abuse was a problem; in 2004 the NGO Telefono Azzurro received approximately 376 thousand calls related to child abuse. Approximately 5 percent of cases involved sexual abuse, 14 percent physical violence, and 13 percent psychological exploitation. In 59 percent of the cases, the victims were female; 46 percent were ages 10 or younger. In 2004 the chief prosecutor of the cassation court reported that complaints of sexual violence and exploitation of children increased by 28 percent compared to 2003. In the first 6 months of 2004, judicial authorities registered 349 allegations of sexual abuse against minors and accused 392 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 8 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 whom 1,500 to 2,300 were trafficked into the country and forced into prostitution (see section 5, Trafficking).

In 2002 the government created an inter-ministerial committee to coordinate the fight against pedophilia, which is chaired by the Minister of Equal Opportunity. A special unit of the police monitored 27,200 websites in the first half of the year, investigated 769 people for crimes involving child pornography online and arrested 21 of them.

Child labor was a problem (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 two thousand new victims were trafficked to and within the country in 2004. The law provides for sentences of 8 to 20 years' imprisonment for trafficking in persons and for enslavement. For convictions in which the victims were minors destined for prostitution, sentences are increased by one-third to one-half. The law applies special prison conditions to traffickers that are designed to limit criminals' ability to continue their operations from jail. The number of persons investigated for trafficking decreased from 2,231 in 2003 to 1,861 in 2004, but arrests increased from 328 to 341; the number of prosecutions increased from 59 to 120 and convictions from 32 to 77 respectively. The government also cooperated with foreign governments, including Nigeria, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Moldova, to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases.

In March police broke up three trafficking rings in the northern part of the country and arrested 12 Albanians and a Bulgarian for entrapping Romanian students and using violent coercion to sell them to Albanian gangs for prostitution. The case remained under investigation at year's end.

In June police in Calabria, in cooperation with Bulgarian authorities, arrested 25 Italian and Bulgarian individuals and charged them with trafficking in persons, criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, and sexual assault. The traffickers reportedly trafficked up to 70 persons a week into the country, and then forced them into jobs such as shepherding, factory work, and prostitution. The case remained under investigation at year's end.

In December police arrested a Romanian and accused him of exploiting 9 Romani children, ages 6 to 14, by picking them up in a camp every morning and forcing them to beg on the streets.

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 European countries for prostitution; six Bulgarian men who accompanied Bulgarian women into the country who gave birth to children and then sold the babies to Italian families for $13,500 (10 thousand euros) each; 12 persons, including 2 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.

According to the government and an NGO, approximately 2 thousand persons were trafficked in 2003; 8 to 10 percent were believed to be underage.

The country was a destination and transit point for trafficked persons. Trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation involved immigrants, mostly from Nigeria, North Africa, Eastern Europe, China, and South America. Press reports estimated that more than 85 percent of prostitutes in the country were immigrants, primarily from Nigeria and Eastern Europe.

Victims of trafficking who were sexually exploited faced the attendant health risks resulting from unsafe or 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 in the country; prostitution rings routinely moved trafficked persons from city to city to avoid arrest.

Victims of trafficking were usually lured to Western Europe with promises of a job, or sold by relatives, friends, or acquaintances. They were then forced into prostitution, laboring in restaurants or sweatshops, or begging in the street. Their traffickers enforced compliance by taking their documents, beating and raping them, or threatening their families.

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. Victims were encouraged to file complaints, and there are no legal impediments for them to do so. Prostitutes who qualify as official trafficking victims under law receive numerous benefits, including residence, whether or not they filed a complaint. Illegal immigrants in general face deportation if caught. NGOs alleged that the government did not allow enough time between apprehension and deportation of illegal immigrants to screen for trafficking victims.

The government provided legal and medical assistance once a person was identified 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 2003, 47 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 to trafficking victims.

The government, in conjunction with other governments and NGOs, worked 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, or in 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 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 August the carabinieri closed a private health facility for the mentally ill in Reggio Calabria for structural, health and safety violations.

In June the national airline refused to board a disabled person claiming it would cause delays injurious to other passengers.

Of the 500 thousand workers with disabilities registered at public employment centers, only 4.8 percent found work.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Police continued to mistreat young immigrants and Roma. An NGO (Opera Nomadi) reported that there were no cases of abuse directed at Roma, but societal discrimination continued to affect government health and education services and citizenship claims.

Public opinion surveys indicated that the prevalence of negative attitudes toward immigrants was increasing, especially among young persons and in the north of the country. Immigrants believed they were discriminated against in employment (see section 6.e.).

There were no accurate statistics on the number of Roma in the country. NGOs estimated that a population of 120 thousand, 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 turned to begging or 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. On its national hotline it received 298 reported incidents of discrimination against ethnic minorities between December 2004 and August. The majority of complaints related to wage and overtime issues and discrimination in public. The office provided assistance in mediating disputes.

Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination

There was at least one allegation of official discrimination against homosexuals. In June a trial began for a homosexual who claimed that personnel in the ministries of defense and transport had his drivers' license revoked because of his sexual orientation. The trial was ongoing 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 allowsunions 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 in practice. Approximately 35 percent of the workforce worked 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). Police periodically discovered clandestine Chinese immigrants working in factories throughout the country, particularly in Tuscany's large Chinese immigrant community.

d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The government implemented laws and policies designed to generally protect children from exploitation in the workplace; however, child labor was a problem. The law prohibits 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, and these laws generally were effectively enforced in practice. However, the enforcement of minimum age or other child protection laws was difficult in the extensive underground economy. During the year an independent research center estimated that approximately 460 thousand children worked at least occasionally, while 70 thousand children worked for at least 4 hours per day. In 2002 the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) reported that approximately 31,500 children – age 11 to 14 – worked in agriculture (mostly boys) and urban hotels, coffee bars, and restaurants (mostly girls). This child labor occurred primarily within the family, and mistreatment was not a problem. However, ISTAT stated that mistreatment and exploitation were problems for child labor that occurred outside of families, particularly for children of immigrants.

Illegal immigrant child laborers from northern Africa, the Philippines, Albania, and China continued to enter the country in large numbers. Many minor children worked alongside the rest of their families to produce scarves, purses, and imitations of various brand name products.

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 the police and the 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 and found 2,276 Italians aged 14-18 and 259 foreigners. The ministry fined companies for violations concerning lack of periodical medical check-ups (600 cases), work-hours and leave (158 cases), and minimum age (84 cases of children under 15 being employed.)

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law does not set minimum wages, but they are set through collective bargaining agreements on a sector-by-sector basis. The minimum wage in most industries did provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Judges effectively enforced the wages set through collective bargaining agreements.

The legal workweek is 40 hours. Overtime work may not exceed 2 hours per day or an average of 12 hours per week. Unless 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 minimum number of rest periods required wasone 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. Labor inspectors were from the public health service or from the Ministry of Labor, but they were few in number in view of the scope of their responsibilities. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardizing their continued employment, and the government effectively enforced this right.

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