Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Italy
|Publication Date||24 May 2012|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Italy, 24 May 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fbe39318a.html [accessed 25 January 2015]|
Head of state: Giorgio Napolitano
Head of government: Mario Monti (replaced Silvio Berlusconi in November)
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 60.8 million
Life expectancy: 81.9 years
Under-5 mortality: 4 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 98.9 per cent
Forced evictions of Romani communities and discrimination against them continued. The "Nomad Emergency" (a state of emergency declared in 2008 in relation to the settlements of nomad communities in several Italian regions) was declared unlawful by the Council of State in November. The authorities' failure to respond adequately to increased arrivals by sea from North Africa resulted in violations of the human rights of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees. Racism and discrimination towards minorities such as Roma and migrants continued. Italy failed to establish effective mechanisms to prevent and prosecute torture and other ill-treatment.
In the wake of the economic crisis in parts of Europe, a new government led by Mario Monti replaced the government of Silvio Berlusconi in November. Significant austerity measures were passed by the end of the year.
International bodies criticized Italy's treatment of Roma, Muslims, migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted in his report in September that the declaration of the "Nomad Emergency" in 2008 provided the bedrock for widespread evictions from Roma settlements, often in violation of human rights standards. The declaration authorized "delegated commissioners" in several regions to derogate from a number of laws when dealing with people living in "nomad settlements". The report also highlighted the sharp increase in arrivals by sea from North Africa since the beginning of the year, and that the reception system for migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees had been put under considerable strain. The Commissioner urged the authorities to strengthen Italy's reception capacity as well as the integration system for refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection. He also called on the authorities to ensure that when confronted with boats in distress at sea, the safety and rescue of those on board should enjoy absolute priority over all other considerations.
The Advisory Committee on the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities published its third opinion on Italy in May. It noted an increase in racist and xenophobic attitudes towards groups such as Roma, Muslims, migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. The Committee also expressed concern that living conditions of Romani communities had deteriorated further.
The CEDAW Committee issued concluding observations in July urging Italy, among other things, to introduce a policy to overcome the portrayal of women as sexual objects and challenge stereotypes regarding the role of men and women in society and in the family.
Serious episodes of racial violence were reported. People were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, ethnicity and religion.
A draft law banning the wearing of full veils in public spaces was discussed in Parliament. If implemented the ban would have a disproportionate effect on women who chose to wear a burqa or niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs.
In December in Turin, a Roma settlement was set on fire by some local residents. The attack occurred after a protest allegedly organized in solidarity with a 16-year-old girl who had accused two Romani men of raping her. She later admitted to having lied about the violence against her.
Under the "Nomad Emergency", authorities in five regions continued to be able to derogate from legislation that protects human rights, including several provisions of the law on administrative procedure. This facilitated the continuation of forced evictions of Romani communities, enabled impunity for these human rights violations and aggravated discrimination against them. In November, the Council of State declared the "Nomad Emergency" unlawful.
Reports of forced evictions continued in other regions not covered by the "Nomad Emergency".
In Rome the authorities continued to implement the "Nomad Plan", designed after the declaration of the "Nomad Emergency", which proposed the closure of all unauthorized camps, and the relocation of up to 6,000 Roma to 13 new or refurbished camps. The authorities carried out forced evictions of Roma settlements throughout the year, each time making people homeless. Evictions took place without adequate notice and due process, and in most cases only temporary shelter for women and small children was offered. Local NGOs reported that conditions and facilities in new camps fell short of international standards on adequate housing.
Although the Milanese authorities elected in May did not publicly celebrate evictions from Roma camps in the media like their predecessors, evictions continued in a manner that was inconsistent with human rights standards. In April, the authorities declared that since 2007 more than 500 evictions from irregular settlements had taken place. As in Rome, evictions did not follow administrative procedures and those affected did not have access to effective remedies; there was neither genuine consultation nor reasonable notice. Only temporary shelter was offered and only to women with small children. The authorities started closing down several authorized camps, sometimes linked to building projects for "EXPO 2015", a world fair that is held every five years in a different location around the world. Inhabitants of the via Triboniano and via Barzaghi authorized camps were evicted over several months without being provided with long-term adequate alternative housing. They were not consulted beforehand on alternatives to the eviction and on the resettlement options.
In August, new legal provisions came into force which allowed for the forcible removal from Italy of EU citizens who did not fulfil the requirements set by the EU Directive on Free Movement and who failed to comply with an order to leave the country within a certain time frame. There were concerns that these provisions might be applied in a discriminatory manner and pave the way for the selective deportation of people belonging to specific ethnic minorities, in particular, Roma.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
Italian authorities failed to fill the gaps in legislation punishing hate crimes. As a result, victims of crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression were not given the same protection as victims of crimes motivated by other sorts of discrimination.
In July, the Parliament rejected a draft bill on homophobic and transphobic crimes, considering it incompatible with the Italian Constitution.
Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants
By the end of the year, over 52,000 people had arrived by sea from North Africa, in particular on the island of Lampedusa, considerably more than in previous years. The authorities' response was flawed and resulted in violations of the human rights of asylum-seekers, migrants and refugees. Actions included collective summary expulsions, violations of the prohibition of non-refoulement and unlawful detention. There were profound concerns that the implementation of agreements on migration control signed with several North African countries such as Libya, Tunisia and Egypt were resulting in asylum-seekers being denied access to international protection and in people being subjected to summary removals. Conditions in reception and detention centres fell short of international standards, and asylum-seekers and refugees were left destitute.
In March, a humanitarian crisis unfolded on the island of Lampedusa as a result of the failure of the authorities to ensure timely transfers of enough people to Sicily or to other regions of Italy. Thousands of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees were left stranded on Lampedusa in appalling conditions, with many of them having to sleep rough with limited or no access to sanitary and washing facilities.
In April, the government reached an agreement with the Tunisian authorities allowing for the summary removal of Tunisian citizens. Like other agreements on migration control, its content was not fully disclosed to the public.
In June, the government signed a memorandum of understanding on migration control with the Libyan Transitional Council, in which both parties agreed to implement existing arrangements. There were concerns that, as in previous years, this would lead to asylum-seekers being denied access to procedures to claim international protection, and to violations of the prohibition of non-refoulement.
On 21 August, the authorities carried out a "push-back" operation after Italian vessels intercepted a boat travelling from North Africa towards Lampedusa. There were reports that this was not an isolated episode and that such operations were taking place on a regular basis.
In September, a fire was started by people held in the overcrowded first aid and reception centre of Lampedusa, in protest at their detention there and the threat of forcible repatriation by the Italian authorities. The fire destroyed most of the facilities in the centre. Afterwards, some of those evacuated protested on the streets of Lampedusa. Clashes with the Italian police and some inhabitants of the island broke out and resulted in several people sustaining injuries. In response to these events, the Italian authorities resumed transferring people to other locations in Italy.
Legislation adopted in August to transpose the EU Returns Directive into domestic law violated migrants' right to liberty. It extended the maximum period of detention of individuals solely for immigration purposes from six to 18 months. It also failed to reflect key safeguards included in the Returns Directive, thus undermining the promotion of voluntary returns, and favouring instead detention and enforced removals.
Following the decision of the European Court of Justice on the El Dridi case in April, the sanction of imprisonment of between one and four years for failure to comply with an order to leave the country was replaced by fines in August. The Court had been requested to assess the compliance of the Italian law with the EU Returns Directive.
In October, several organizations including UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and the International Organization for Migration, denounced the fact that they were denied access to 150 individuals in Bari who had been intercepted at sea. Of those, more than 70 were immediately repatriated. All the organizations were partners of the government in the implementation of the "Presidium project", which aimed to improve the capacity and quality of the reception of people potentially in need of international protection.
Counter-terror and security
The government's record on the use of counter-terror legislation continued to be a cause of concern.
In April, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in Toumi v. Italy that Italy had violated the ban on torture and other ill-treatment during the deportation of a man to Tunisia in 2009. The Court ruled that Ali Ben Sassi Toumi, a Tunisian national who had been convicted of terrorism-related offences, had been forcibly returned from Italy to Tunisia in violation of its order requesting a halt to his transfer. It held that diplomatic assurances of humane treatment that had been given by the Tunisian government, in advance of the deportation, did not eliminate the risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
In April, the media reported that Adel Ben Mabrouk, a Tunisian national transferred from detention in Guantánamo Bay to Italy in 2009, was deported from Italy to Tunisia. He had been convicted in February of terrorism-related offences but was released after having been in pre-trial detention, as the court counted his years of detention at Guantánamo as time served.
Appeals before the Court of Cassation were still pending in the case relating to the rendition of Egyptian national Abu Omar in 2003. In December 2010, the Milan Court of Appeal had confirmed the convictions of 25 US and Italian officials involved in the abduction of Abu Omar from a Milan street, and sentenced them to up to nine years' imprisonment. The Court confirmed the dismissal of charges against five high-level officials of the Italian intelligence agency for reasons of state secrecy. The 23 convicted US officials were tried in their absence. After his kidnapping, Abu Omar was unlawfully transferred by the CIA from Italy to Egypt where he was held in secret and allegedly tortured.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Reports of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials continued. There were no effective mechanisms established to prevent ill-treatment by police. Nor were concrete measures taken to ensure proper investigations and, where appropriate, prosecution of all law enforcement agents involved in human rights violations. The authorities failed to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and to establish an independent National Preventive Mechanism for the prevention of torture and other ill-treatment at the domestic level. Torture was also not incorporated as a specific offence in ordinary criminal legislation.
Genoa G8 trials
Appeals against the second instance verdicts, issued by the Genoa Court of Appeal in the trials of law enforcement officials, medical personnel and prison officers for the ill-treatment of protesters at the 2001 Genoa G8 summit, were still pending before the Court of Cassation.
In March, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that there was no violation of the right to life in relation to the death of protester Carlo Giuliani on the streets of Genoa on 20 July 2001. In May 2003, the inquiry into his fatal shooting by a law enforcement officer had ended with the judge of the preliminary investigation ruling that the officer had acted in self-defence and should not be charged.
Deaths in custody
In June, the Bologna Court of Appeal confirmed the first instance guilty verdict against four police officers for the unlawful killing of 18-year-old Federico Aldrovandi. Owing to the application of a law on pardon, the initial sentence of three years and six months was commuted to six months only. Federico Aldrovandi died in 2005 after being stopped by police officers in Ferrara. Appeals were filed before the Court of Cassation. In May, one of three police officers who had been sentenced in 2010 to prison terms of eight, 10 and 12 months respectively for helping to throw the inquiry off track, was also given a suspended sentence of a further three months. In January, a fourth police officer was acquitted of charges of involvement in deflecting the investigations.
In March, the trial against a prison guard for failing to assist Aldo Bianzino and other criminal offences, began. Aldo Bianzino died in prison in Perugia in 2007 two days after his arrest. Proceedings for homicide against unidentified perpetrators were closed in 2009.
The trial in relation to the death of Stefano Cucchi was ongoing. Six doctors, three nurses and three prison officers stood accused of various criminal offences, including abuse of authority and abuse of office, bodily harm and failure to offer assistance. In January, a high-level official in the prison service was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for falsifying official documents and for abuse of office. Stefano Cucchi died in October 2009 in a hospital's prison wing in Rome several days after his arrest.
Investigations were still ongoing into allegations of ill-treatment suffered by Giuseppe Uva while in police custody hours before his death. He died in June 2008 in a hospital in Varese. The trial against a doctor for his manslaughter, allegedly due to wrong medical treatment, was ongoing. In December, the body of Giuseppe Uva was exhumed to undergo further forensic examination.