Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2017, 15:16 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2002 - Italy

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 31 March 2003
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2002 - Italy , 31 March 2003, available at: [accessed 18 November 2017]
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 31, 2003

Italy is a longstanding, multiparty parliamentary democracy. Executive authority is vested in the Council of Ministers, headed by the president of the Council (the Prime Minister). The Head of State (President of the Republic) nominates the Prime Minister after consulting with the leaders of all political forces in Parliament. In May 2001, the Parliament was elected in elections that were considered free and democratic. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, long trial delays and the impact of organized crime on the criminal justice system complicated the judicial process.

The armed forces are under the control of the Ministry of Defense. The Ministry of Defense controls the Carabinieri, a military security force; however, the Ministry of Interior assumes control of the Carabinieri when they are called upon to assist police forces in maintaining public order. Four separate police forces report to different ministerial or local authorities. Under exceptional circumstances, the Government may call on the army to provide security in the form of police duty in certain local areas, thereby freeing the Carabinieri and local police to focus on other duties. During the last few years, the army intermittently has supported the police in Sicily and in the province of Naples, where there are high levels of organized crime. There were allegations that police committed human rights abuses.

The country had an advanced, industrialized market economy, and the standard of living was high for the country's population of approximately 57.8 million. Small and midsize companies employed from 70 to 80 percent of the work force. Major products included machinery, textiles, apparel, transportation equipment, and food and agricultural products. The Government owns a substantial number of enterprises in finance, communications, industry, transportation, and services, but privatization continued to move forward at a measured pace.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; although there were some problems, the law and judiciary provide effective means of dealing with individual instances of abuse. There were some reports of police abuse of detainees, and use of excessive force against ethnic minorities. Accusations of police abuse were investigated by the judiciary. Prisons were overcrowded. The pace of justice was slow, and perpetrators of some serious crimes avoided punishment due to trials that exceed the statute of limitations. Lengthy pretrial detention was a serious problem. The Government has taken steps to combat violence against women and child abuse; however, they remained problems. Societal discrimination against women and discrimination and sporadic violence against immigrants and other foreigners continued to be problems. Child labor, mainly involving immigrant children, continued in the underground economy, but authorities investigated such reports actively. Trafficking in persons into the country, particularly women and girls for prostitution, was a problem, which the Government took steps to address. Italy was invited by the Community of Democracies' (CD) Convening Group to attend the November 2002 second CD Ministerial Meeting in Seoul, Republic of Korea, as a participant.


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

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were no reports of the arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life committed by the Government or its agents.

In December the investigating prosecutor recommended dismissing all charges against a policeman who shot and killed a rioting demonstrator during violent assaults by antiglobalization demonstrators during the July 2001 G-8 summit in Genoa. The prosecutor judged the policeman to have acted in self defense against "imminent and real danger" (see Section 1.d.).

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

The Red Brigades, a domestic terrorist movement, was believed to be responsible for the assassination of Marco Biagi in March outside his home in Bologna. The same group claimed responsibility for the 1999 shooting death of Massimo D'Antona outside his home in Rome. Forensic analysis indicated that the same weapon was used in both killings. Both men were respected academics who were employed as senior advisers to the Minister of Labor and had been associated with mainstream trade union organizations. At their September sentencing for other crimes, two Red Brigade members declared that Biagi's death had weakened the Government.

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 of incidents in which police abused detainees. According to Amnesty International (AI), 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, Africans and Roma were at particular risk (see Section 5).

Judicial investigation of events at mass antiglobalization demonstrations in Naples (March 2001) and Genoa (July 2001) supported charges that some police used deliberate and excessive force on detainees. Some of the worst abuse occurred in connection with a July 2001 police raid at the Diaz school, where the antiglobalization group Genoa Social Forum had its headquarters. Of the approximately 100 detainees, approximately 60 sustained numerous and severe injuries, with additional abuse inflicted as detainees were transported to detention facilities. Although judicial investigators confirmed that abuses occurred, identifying those responsible proved difficult – something that AI stated created "substantial impunity" (see Section 1.d.).

Overcrowded and antiquated prisons continued to be a problem. Fifty-six thousand detainees were incarcerated in a prison system designed to hold 42,100. Older facilities tend to lack outdoor or exercise space, compounding the difficulties of close quarters. Approximately 55 percent of detainees were serving sentences; the other 45 percent consisted mainly of persons awaiting trial or the outcome of an appeal. Thirty percent of inmates were foreigners; however, in some prisons, foreigners outnumbered Italian citizens. In August prisoners in nearly half the prisons staged a coordinated protest against overcrowding and poor conditions and in favor of an amnesty. Nearly one in three prisoners was jailed for a drug violation. Approximately 108 prisoners died while in jail during the year, the same number as in 2001; 52 committed suicide, a 25 percent reduction from the 68 suicides in 2001. An additional 878 unsuccessful suicide attempts and approximately 6,300 acts of self-mutilation also were reported.

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

The Government permitted visits by independent human rights organizations, parliamentarians, and the media. Politicians from opposition parties conducted a highly publicized September inspection of prison conditions in connection with prisoner protests of overcrowding. AI, the U.N. Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), the U.N. Committee Against Torture, and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture regularly assessed the country's judicial and prison system. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Antigone, which is composed primarily of lawyers, magistrates, and academics, promoted the rights of detainees, worked closely with the European Commission for Prevention of Torture, and monitored the prison system.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observed these prohibitions. However, judicial investigations of violence at March and July 2001 antiglobalization protests suggested that authorities did not always fully respect these rights. One officer testified that a ranking police official ordered him to plant the two Molotov cocktails reportedly found by police during their July 2001 raid on the Diaz school (headquarters of one of the principal groups that organized the antiglobalization demonstrations in connection with the Genoa G-8 summit). Despite conflicting statements from other officers, investigators concluded in October that telephone records and videotape corroborated the testimony. The Molotov cocktails subsequently had been used by police to justify the arrest of 93 individuals detained during the raid. Scientific tests did not corroborate police claims of a knife attack on one of the first officers to enter the school. This alleged assault was cited subsequently as the reason for rough police behavior during the raid that resulted in serious injury to at least 60 of the detained demonstrators. Conflicting testimony by police contributed to the magistrates' decision to place under investigation 29 officers involved in the Diaz raid. An additional 48 officers suspected of committing abuses elsewhere in Genoa during the antiglobalization protests also were placed under investigation.

Warrants are required for arrests unless there is a specific and immediate danger to which the police must respond without waiting for a warrant. 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. Within 24 hours of a suspect's detention, the examining magistrate must decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed to an arrest. The investigating judge then has 48 hours in which to confirm the arrest and recommend whether the case goes to trial. In exceptional circumstances – usually in cases of organized crime figures – where there is danger that attorneys may attempt to tamper with evidence, the investigating judge may take up to 5 days to interrogate the accused before the accused is allowed to contact an attorney. The U.N. Human Rights Committee, the treaty monitoring body for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, recommended in 1998 that this 5-day period be reduced and that all detainees have access to legal advice immediately upon arrest.

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

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

In April Naples prosecutors ordered the preventive detention of eight policemen accused of brutality against March 2001 antiglobalization protestors, reportedly because they were frustrated by police reluctance to supply information. The order generated immediate controversy, in part because circumstances a year after the 2001 events did not appear to satisfy the law's requirements for "preventive" arrest and in part because prosecutors had not taken similar action against violent demonstrators. The arrests prompted protests by Naples policemen, which were supported by national police unions and police demonstrations elsewhere in the country. Revelations that some judicial authorities had taken part in the March 2001 protest prompted charges that investigating magistrates were politically motivated. Justice Minister Castelli wrote to the autonomous judiciary's self-governing body (see Section 1.e.) to suggest that prosecutors' plans to attend a May 10 seminar on dissent and globalization, concurrent with their ongoing investigations of the March 2001 protests, were "inopportune." On May 11, a Naples review court ordered the arrested officers freed; however, they remained under investigation at year's end.

In early December, a court ordered the release of 18 antiglobalization activists held under investigative detention as flight risks. Critics had charged that their mid-November detention (on possible charges of subversion and conspiracy in connection with violent 2001 protests in Naples and Genoa) amounted to repression of political speech and were another example of lack of judicial independence (see Section 1.e.). Also in December, police arrested 23 antiglobalization activists for specific property destruction crimes committed during the 2001 riots in Genoa.

The law prohibits forced exile – either internal or abroad – and the Government did not employ it.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respected this provision in practice. However, most cases involve long trial delays and the impact of organized crime on the criminal justice system complicates the judicial process.

The judiciary is comprised of professional magistrates who are selected through competitive exams, and in general advance through seniority. Magistrates function either as prosecutors (the executive branch does not perform prosecutorial functions) or trial and appellate judges. It is not unusual for magistrates to switch between these functions over the course of their career. The judiciary is self-governed by the Superior Council of the Magistracy (CSM). Two-thirds of its members are selected by magistrates, the rest by Parliament.

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

Prosecutors may appeal unfavorable court verdicts, including sentences they deem too lenient. The Constitution gives prosecutors broad latitude to investigate filed complaints and media reports of crimes. Since magistrates cannot investigate every report of a crime, this allows for them to set their own investigative priorities.

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

Although some observers noted improvement, domestic and European institutions continued to criticize the slow pace of justice in the country. A January analysis by national newspaper Corriere della Sera indicated that the average wait for a definitive verdict in a criminal case declined slightly to 1,760 days (slightly less than 5 years). In 2001 the European Court of Human Rights issued 391 judgments against Italy for excessively long proceedings, more than half of the court's 683 rulings. Observers cited several reasons for delays: The absence of effective limits on the length of pre-trial investigations; the large number of minor offenses included in the penal code; unclear and contradictory legal provisions; prosecutors' complete freedom to set prosecutorial priorities (and some prosecutors' decisions to devote inordinate resources to a small number of cases); and insufficient resources, including an inadequate number of judges.

In December an appellate court again convicted two professors for the 1997 shooting death of a student at Rome's La Sapienza University. In 2001 the Court of Cassazione previously had ordered the case retried after the defendants appealed an earlier appellate conviction.

Reforms passed in 2001 reduced prosecutor's procedural advantages during trials and addressed problems created by abuses of some anti-Mafia measures, most notably those involving "pentiti," or Mafia informants. Judges may order the immediate detention of potentially dangerous individuals to reduce intimidation of witnesses and the risks that additional crimes could be committed while cases are under appeal. Pentiti must give testimony in open court, where it can be challenged by defense attorneys, and must provide significant testimony in order to receive benefits such as state protection and, for those convicted of other crimes, reduced sentences.

Despite these reforms, organized crime cases continued to generate controversy. In November an appellate court convicted former prime minister Andreotti of conspiracy to commit murder while simultaneously determining that there was insufficient evidence to convict the alleged murderers. Andreotti previously had been both acquitted and convicted of the charges in other trials stretching back to 1993. The conviction, based largely on the testimony of pentiti, sparked widespread criticism (including indirectly from the CSM) and calls for additional judicial reform from across the political spectrum.

The Berlusconi Government continued to press new reform proposals despite strong opposition from the magistrates. In March Parliament reduced the CSM's membership from 30 to 24 and abolished electoral tickets as the basis for election to the 16 CSM slots held by magistrates. In June magistrates staged a 1-day strike to protest government reform proposals. Those proposals included: Reducing magistrates' ability to switch between the trial judge and prosecutor career tracks, tying magistrates' advancement to merit rather than seniority, and having Parliament set priorities for categories of crimes to be prosecuted. In November the Parliament approved a measure restoring a legal provision that allows defendants to request a change of venue, if they had "legitimate suspicion" of bias by the trial judge. Critics stated that this measure was designed to help Berlusconi delay the remaining case involving his business dealings before he became Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Berlusconi continued to face one trial associated with his business activities prior to taking office the first time in 1994. Several prior cases were dismissed for lack of evidence, for exceeding the statute of limitations, or because the courts judged him innocent of the charges. Berlusconi attributed these cases to the leftist political agendas of some judges. The magistrates and the political opposition, in contrast, accused the Prime Minister of using his position to protect his legal and business interests.

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 may be carried out only under judicial warrant and in carefully defined circumstances; violations are subject to legal sanctions. However, after September 11, 2001, Parliament expanded antiterrorist laws to apply to suspects responsible for directing violent acts outside the country's borders and authorized prosecutors to order wiretaps in connection with ongoing investigations. Parliament imposed safeguards to prevent the release of information intercepted without prior judicial authorization to unauthorized persons and forbade its use in criminal proceedings.

In June Parliament discovered that wiretaps were used to probe how journalists acquired leaked information, in addition to investigate criminal allegations. A combination of conservative and liberal parliamentarians and press organizations criticized the autonomous judiciary for having authorized wiretaps that, in the case of an Il Giornale reporter – whom the authorities believed had knowledge of a fugitive's whereabouts – lasted 4½ months in 1998. Critics noted that the judiciary authorized 48,000 wiretaps. Privacy Authority Chairman Stefano Rodota warned against the proliferation of electronic surveillance by unobserved video cameras in public places.

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. However, the autonomous judiciary is sensitive to investigative leaks and press criticism and imposes fines for defamation (see Section 1.f.). In connection with press leaks, in March and May, judges authorized raids on the homes and offices of journalists working for leading dailies La Republica, Corriere della Sera, and La Stampa. Police questioned journalists and seized their laptop computers, mobile telephones, electronic diaries, and paper and digitized archives. Political leaders and press organizations criticized the raids. In 2001 defamation suits against journalists and newspapers amounted to more than $1.5 billion (1.52 billion euros). The costs to major publications resulting from legal fees and the settlement of lawsuits by successful plaintiffs amounts to an estimated several million dollars annually. Many defamation lawsuits were filed by politicians. In 2001 the highest appeals court ruled that journalists and editors could be sued for defamation for quoting insulting remarks by third parties in their publications. However, another part of the ruling stated that public figures, including prominent politicians, could not utilize this provision.

The media provided a broad spectrum of political opinions, including those critical of Prime Minister Berlusconi and his policies. The press included dozens of newspapers, of which six have nationwide readership. One is controlled by a member of the Berlusconi family. There were three state-supported radio channels and dozens of privately owned ones. However, six of the country's seven national broadcast channels were owned either by Mediaset (a company in which Prime Minister Berlusconi has a major interest) or by the state-owned network (RAI); critics alleged that this allows for the Prime Minister to control the broadcast media. In April Berlusconi accused two RAI journalists and one RAI comedian of using their broadcast time to attack him personally and expressed the view that the RAI board should prevent such occurrences. The featured programs of the three journalists were not renewed when RAI made programming changes for the subsequent season; one of the journalists claimed this amounted to a restriction on freedom of expression. RAI's three channels historically reflected the views of major political parties, and disputes over partisanship on the airways were a recurrent feature of political discourse.

The country's highest appeals court ruled in 2001 that the Government may block foreign-based Internet sites if they contravene national laws. A 2001 law required registration of online information sites and acceptance of liability by site sponsors. These developments led to a 2-year investigation that resulted in action by the Financial Police who, in July, blocked five U.S.-based web sites that "specialized" in blasphemy against God and the Virgin Mary.

The Government did not restrict academic freedom.

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.

The Constitution authorizes the State to enter into relations with non-Catholic religious confessions pursuant to an accord ("intese"), on the basis of which the Government can provide support (including financial support) to the confession; these accords are voluntary, initiated by religious confessions, and do not infringe on the practice of religion. A 1929 agreement between the Catholic Church and the Government, which was revised in 1984, accords the Church certain privileges. For example, the Church can select Catholic religion teachers, whose earnings are paid by the State. The Government has signed accords with several minority religious groups. At year's end, the Buddhist Union and Jehovah's Witnesses awaited Parliamentary ratification of government accords.

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 object of lawsuits.

For a more detailed discussion see the 2002 International Religious Freedom Report.

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

The Constitution and the law provide for these rights, and the Government generally respected them in practice. The Constitution forbids the deprivation of citizenship for political reasons. Citizens who leave are ensured the right to return. In July Parliament abolished the 1947 Constitution's "transitory provision" barring male heirs of the former king, Umberto I of Savoy, from entering the country, ending what had been the country's sole limit on the freedom of movement of its citizens.

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

In 2001 the Ministry of Interior approved approximately 1,740 asylum requests and denied approximately 18,250 others. Of requests that were approved, approximately 44 percent involved nationals of the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Turkey.

Large numbers of illegal immigrants from eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, China, and West Africa continued to arrive, primarily by sea. According to the Interior Ministry, the number of immigrants increased by approximately 30 percent during the year. In the first 6 months of the year, 12,300 illegal immigrants were detained, as compared with 8,400 in the first 6 months of 2001. Many of these immigrants entered the country with the intent to transit to other European Union (EU) countries. Most illegal migrants paid fees to smugglers and many risked death due to unseaworthy vessels or forced disembarkation. At least 42 died in two separate incidents in September within sight of the Sicilian coast. Other illegal immigrants were forced to engage in illegal activities, were paid substandard wages, or forced to work as prostitutes to pay off debts incurred for their passage (see Section 6.f.).

In July Parliament passed a new immigration law that increased penalties for alien smuggling, trafficking, immigration fraud, and employment of illegal immigrants (see Section 6.f.). The new law also created an agency to coordinate border police operations and combat alien smuggling. According to the Ministry of Interior, authorities repatriated 75,448 illegal immigrants in 2001.

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

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

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage. In May 2001, Parliament was elected in elections that were free and democratic. There were numerous political parties that functioned without government restrictions.

There were no restrictions on women's or minorities' participation in government and politics. There were 25 women in the 315-seat Senate and 64 women in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies; women held 2 of 25 cabinet positions.

In 2000 Parliament approved a constitutional change allowing an estimated 3.9 million citizens abroad to vote and setting aside 12 seats in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies and 6 in the 315 seat Senate to represent them. Enabling legislation enacted in 2001 set technical details for their absentee participation in the country's next national elections.

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.

There were government human rights organizations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister's office, the Privacy Authority, and the Senate had a committee on human rights.

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

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


Violence against women remained a problem. The NGO Telefono Rosa, which provides a hot line through which abused women may obtain legal, medical, and other assistance, reported that 37 percent of the 1,766 calls it received this year involved physical violence in the home, a decline from 49 percent in 1991, according to a statistical survey taken that year. Thirty-one percent of the cases involved psychological violence and 16 percent, economic violence.

Legislation protects women from physical abuse, including by family members, allows for the prosecution of perpetrators of violence against women, and shields women who have been objects of attack from publicity. The law treats spousal rape in the same manner as any other rape. Law enforcement and judicial authorities are not reluctant to prosecute perpetrators of violence against women, but victims sometimes did not press charges due to fear, shame, or ignorance of the law. According to Telefono Rosa, approximately 3 out of 4 women who experienced violence declined to report it to the authorities. However, Telefono Rosa also noted that the entry of more women into the police force contributed greatly to a willingness of female victims of violence to cooperate with police.

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

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

Women enjoy legal equality with men in marriage, property, and inheritance rights. Males and females enjoy equal access and treatment with regard to education, health, and other government services.

The law regulates night work for women; with some exceptions, women may work at night. These exceptions include pregnant women who are mothers of one or more children below the age of 3, or women with disabilities. As a result of liberal maternity leave laws introduced to benefit women, some employers have found it advantageous to hire men instead. The law on parental leave grants mothers and fathers an equal right to take leave when a child is sick. The law also requires civil service recruiters to explain in writing their motives for hiring or promoting a man rather than a woman as a manager. The rule was designed to promote women's access to the higher echelons of public administration and is to apply in offices where women managers number less than a third of the total. A study during the year indicated that women constituted 51 percent of civil servants but only 24 percent had high-level assignments.

Nevertheless, according to research conducted in 2001 by an independent research center, women's salaries were 26.6 percent lower than men's for comparable work. Women were underrepresented in many fields, such as management, entrepreneurial business and the professions. In public education, women represented 80 percent of the personnel but only 22 percent of general directors, 37 percent of executives, 33 percent of inspectors, and 33 percent of union members. By year's end, the National Statistical Institute (ISTAT) reported that employed women were more likely to have a high school diploma (36 percent) than employed men (31 percent). Employed women did better in higher education; the comparable figures for a university degree are 14.4 percent for women and 10.9 percent for men. In October 12.1 percent of females were unemployed, compared to 6.9 percent of males. Youth unemployment (ages 15 to 24) was 24 percent for men and 32.3 percent for women.

Women in the military have been integrated quickly into the military ranks. Voluntary female military service was introduced in a 1999 law.

A number of government offices worked to ensure women's rights. The Ministry for Equal Opportunity is headed by a woman, and there is an equal opportunity commission in the office of the Prime Minister. The Labor Ministry has a similar commission that focuses on women's rights and discrimination in the workplace, as well as equal opportunity counselors who deal with this problem at the national, regional, and provincial government levels. However, many counselors had limited resources with which to work. Many NGOs, most of which are affiliated with labor unions or political parties, actively and effectively promoted women's rights.


The Government demonstrates a strong commitment to children's rights and welfare. Schooling is free and compulsory for children from age 7 to age 18; those unable (or unwilling) to follow the academic curriculum are allowed to shift to vocational training at age 15. This reform was intended to reverse the middle and secondary school dropout rate, which historically has been high. The dropout rate for the academic year 2000-2001 was 4.6 percent.

The abuse of children was a problem; in 2001 the NGO Telefono Azzurro received 511,000 calls related to child abuse. It was estimated that 60 percent of violence against minors was committed within the home. According to a survey by Telefono Azzuro, almost 400 cases involved sexual violence, for which fathers were responsible 31 percent of the time; mothers were responsible 4 percent, and relatives 27 percent. In 78 percent of the cases, the victims were female; almost half were ages 10 or younger. Both public and private social workers counseled abused children and were authorized to take action to protect them. Telefono Azzurro maintains two toll-free hot lines for reporting incidents of child abuse. Research conducted in 2000 on behalf of the Government by a private institute estimated that the number of minors involved in cases of violence (including prostitution) was between 10,000 and 12,000. There were between 1,880 and 2,500 minors who worked as street prostitutes, of whom 1,500 to 2,300 were trafficked into the country and forced into prostitution (see Section 6.f.). The domestic NGO Social Service International assisted in repatriating unaccompanied immigrant minors. Police reported that they monitored 28,200 websites for child pornography and related crimes. Police arrested 23 persons, registered 474 complaints, and conducted 522 searches for internet-based child pornography.

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

Persons with Disabilities

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

Although the law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, mechanical barriers, particularly in public transport, left such persons at a disadvantage. In April the trade union confederation – Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL) – set a precedent by providing sign language interpreters and a reserved area for its hearing impaired members at a major rally.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

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

Roma are another traditional minority but without a specific geographic base or official recognition of their language. There were no accurate statistics on the number of Roma in the country. Roma community members and Roma-oriented NGOs estimated that the population was approximately 120,000, of whom up to 80 percent could be Italian citizens – most of whom can trace their ancestry in the country to the late 14th Century. These Roma tend to live in the central and southern parts of the country. They worked principally as artisans or in small circuses or amusement parks and lived in conditions indistinguishable from those of other Italians.

Additional Roma have immigrated from Eastern Europe. Roma immigrants, or the children of Roma immigrants, are 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, in the absence of a police presence, an environment of illegal activity. While many municipalities are building permanent settlements, an absence of programs to promote the integration of immigrant Roma into local communities leaves them isolated on society's margins. Faced with limited income and job opportunities, and suffering from harassment, some Roma turned to begging or petty crime, which reinforced negative societal attitudes and generated repressive measures by police and some judicial authorities. In 2001 a male Rom was convicted for the 1998 killing of an 11-year-old boy. Press accounts of the police investigation reported that a principal witness offered conflicting versions of the killing. Societal prejudice may have been a factor in the conviction, which in March an appeals court annulled because of trial irregularities.

Increasing immigration, much of it from China, South Asia, North and West Africa, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Turkey, and the Middle East, altered demographic and cultural patterns in communities across the country and led to some anti-immigrant sentiment. As many migrants are Muslim, religion became an additional factor differentiating them from native-born citizens. Some Catholic prelates contributed to popular reaction by emphasizing the perceived threat posed by immigrants to the country's "national identity" and what they viewed as the country's need to favor immigration by Catholics "or at least Christians."

6. Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

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

The law prohibits discrimination by employers against union members and organizers. Dismissals of workers must be justified in writing. If a judge deems the grounds spurious, he can order the employer to reinstate or compensate the worker; in firms employing more than 15 workers, workers have the option to choose between reinstatement and compensation, whereas in firms with fewer than 15 workers, the employer makes the choice. To encourage small firms to cross this 15-worker threshold, the Government reached an accord in June with the Confederazione Italiana Sindacati dei Lavoratori (CISL), the Unione Italiana del Lavoro (UIL), the Unione Generale del Lavoro (UGL), and other unions (but not the CGIL) to change the law by exempting such firms from this provision's coverage.

Unions associate freely with national and international trade union organizations. The CGIL is the largest national trade union confederation. There are three other confederations: CISL, UIL, and UGL. CGIL, CISL, and UIL are affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU); the UGL has been associated with the World Confederation of Labor (WCL).

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

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

The Constitution provides for the right to strike, and this right was exercised frequently. The law restricts strikes affecting essential public services (e.g., transport, sanitation, and health). The law also defines minimum service to be maintained during a strike as 50 percent of normal service, with staffing by at least one-third the normal work force. The law established compulsory cooling off periods and more severe sanctions for violations and covered transport worker unions, lawyers, and self-employed taxi drivers. The law has been effective in preventing complete work stoppages in essential public service sectors on the frequent occasions during the year on which such strikes occurred. However, there were numerous strikes in many sectors during the year, including an April 16 general strike. That protest, which all major unions backed, was called to oppose the Government's liberalization of restrictions on an employer's right to fire workers (see Section 6.a.). The unions considered these restrictions an important symbolic right. In July all major trade unions, except CGIL, accepted a limited, experimental liberalization of the restrictions as part of an annual labor pact. In October CGIL staged a national 1-day strike to protest the Government's proposed 2003 budget and to reiterate its opposition to the liberalized dismissal provisions.

There were no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Bonded Labor

The law prohibits forced or bonded labor, including by children; however, there were reports that such practices occurred. In March police discovered clandestine Chinese immigrants working under forced circumstances in a textile plant near Rome. Similar discoveries have been made elsewhere in the country, particularly in Tuscany's large Chinese immigrant community (see Sections 6.d. and 6.f.).

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

The law forbids the employment of children under age 15 (with some limited exceptions), and there are specific restrictions on employment in hazardous or unhealthful occupations for men under age 18, and women under age 21; however, these laws were not respected fully in practice. The enforcement of minimum age or other child protection laws is difficult in the extensive underground economy. In June ISTAT issued a report on a child labor survey, conducted in conjunction with the International Labor Organization (ILO), that for the first time provided reliable statistics on child labor in the country. ISTAT reported that approximately 31,500 children – a large number of whom are 14 years old – 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 particularly China continued to enter the country in large numbers, and the influx from China continued to rise. According to the Carabinieri, an estimated 30,000 illegal Chinese worked in sweatshop conditions near Florence, with many minor children working alongside the rest of their families to produce scarves, purses, and imitations of various brand name products. Many of these factories, which face threats of infiltration or coercion by Chinese organized crime, were equipped with escape tunnels to thwart labor inspections. Carabinieri officers who worked on child labor used a videocassette program to educate schoolchildren on child labor laws, their rights as specially protected workers, and workplace hazards. Labor Ministry inspections in 2001 of almost 25,000 firms revealed that the employment of approximately 1,000 minors entailed some irregularity of age, occupation, prescribed medical evaluation, or required rest or vacation period. More than 800 people faced charges as a result of the investigations.

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

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

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

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

The law sets basic health and safety standards and guidelines for compensation for on-the-job injuries. For most practical purposes, EU directives on health and safety also have been incorporated into the law. Labor inspectors are from the public health service or from the Ministry of Labor, but they are few in number in view of the scope of their responsibilities. Courts impose fines and sometimes prison terms for violation of health and safety laws. In 2001 the Workmen's Compensation Institute reported an increase of accidents by 1.1 percent over the 2000 figures and a 3.1 percent increase in the number of accidents resulting in death, a trend attributed to increased overall employment. Accidents occurred with the greatest frequency in the underground economy, which employs approximately four million workers. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardizing their continued employment.

f. Trafficking in Persons

There is no law specifically addressing trafficking in persons. However, trafficking may be prosecuted through application of provisions of a 1958 law on prostitution and other articles of the Penal Code. Trafficking in persons for prostitution and forced labor was a problem, which the Government took steps to address. Government officials did not participate in, facilitate, or condone trafficking.

While there is no law that specifically prohibits trafficking in persons, other laws used to prosecute traffickers include laws prohibiting the exploitation of prostitution (the Merlin law), slavery, sexual violence, kidnaping, and assisting the entry of illegal migrants. Cases prosecuted for reduction into slavery can bring penalties of up to 20 years; however, such cases were usually only used for minors because of the difficulty under the law in proving slavery for adults. Penalties for infractions of the Merlin law include 6 years' imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000 (10,000 euros). The law contains provisions on the exploitation of prostitution, pornography, and sexual tourism to the detriment of minors with penalties of up to 20 years. In July Parliament approved a new immigration law (see Section 2.d.) that strengthened penalties to combat alien smuggling and human trafficking. Smugglers would face sentences of 4 to 12 years, and fines up to $15,000 (15,000 euros), for each alien smuggled. Higher penalties (5 to 15 years, fines of up to $25,000 (25,000 euros) per alien) would apply to trafficking involving minors or people destined for prostitution. Since this law was newly enacted, there were no statistics available for its efficacy.

The Government investigated and prosecuted many cases against traffickers using existing laws (except the new immigration legislation), primarily using the Merlin law. Some prosecutions resulted in convictions. There were no statistics for the number of prosecutions that ended in sentencing. The Government also cooperated with foreign governments investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases. In early October, the Government announced the results of "Operation Sunflower Two." The operation covered Germany, Austria, Poland, the Ukraine, and 10 regions in the country by Italian Carabinieri (policeman) in conjunction with Europol forces from the aforementioned countries and resulted in 80 arrests in the country. In December Parliament approved a permanent law applying special prison conditions to traffickers. The measures, previously limited to Mafia members, were designed to limit criminals' ability to continue their operations from jail.

The Ministry of Equal Opportunity leads an intergovernmental committee charged with monitoring trafficking and coordinating government activity to combat it. Other members include the Ministries of Social Affairs, Justice, Interior, and Foreign Affairs, as well as a special anti-Mafia prosecutorial unit. Major lay and Catholic NGOs concerned with trafficking, among which Parsec and Caritas were the most active, cooperated with this body. There were no statistics from either the Government or from NGOs to show the extent of the trafficking problem.

Italy was a country of destination and a transit point for trafficked persons. According to the social research institute, Parsec, exact statistics on women and children involved in prostitution have not been updated since 1998. Estimates are in the range of 2,000 persons a year. However, press reports on Operation Sunflower Two stated up to 50,000 persons from just Russia and Ukraine were trafficked to the country in 2001, although no source was provided for this statistic.

Trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation involved economically and socially vulnerable, illegal immigrants, mostly from Nigeria, Albania, Eastern Europe (Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria), China, and South America (Ecuador, Peru, Colombia). Trafficked persons arrived to the country by boat, bus, or airplane. Victims of trafficking endured the classic conditions of trafficked persons: Lured to Western Europe with promises of a job, or sold by relatives/friends/acquaintances, they were then forced into prostitution, laboring in restaurants or sweatshops, or begging on the streets. Their traffickers enforced their compliance by taking their documents, beating and raping them, threatening their families, or frightening them with voodoo rites. Some trafficked women were killed when they showed opposition or went to the authorities.

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

One of the reasons for the lack of statistics is that criminal organizations moved trafficked persons around the country. Prostitution gangs have established routes to move prostitutes from city to city, making it harder for police to identify and track trafficked persons. Trafficked persons were not in one place long enough for police to garner their confidence and break up a route. Three north-south axes (focused along the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian coasts) and three east-west axes were identified as routes that gangs used.

Organized criminal groups, both large and small, were behind most trafficking in the country, particularly from Albania. Trafficked persons from Nigeria usually were controlled by a madam, usually a former trafficked person, who held the lien on the loan that was paid for the trafficked person. They had to work off their debt to her before they were "freed."

According to a recent article in Il Giornale, 19 Italian diplomatic posts were investigated for visa fraud over the past 3 years; however, a direct connection of government officials in trafficking was not established. A number of employees remained under investigation in connection with the sale of visas. There was no evidence of official, institutional, or government involvement in trafficking.

Victims of trafficking who were in the sex trade faced the attending health risks resulting from unsafe or unprotected sex. They usually were out on the streets day and night in all sorts of inclement weather. They generally did not go to health centers or doctors. Trafficking victims in the Tuscany region working in sweatshops possibly were exposed to dangerous chemicals in the leather tanning and working industry. Due to the long hours they worked in close proximity to possibly dangerous machinery, there were health risks to life and limb.

The law provides temporary residence/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. If a complaint is lodged, victims usually did not face prosecution for any laws they have broken. There was still some deportation of victims, particularly involving Nigerian prostitutes. Repatriated victims do face problems in their home countries; this is particularly true in Nigeria and Albania. There was a growing problem of recognizing victims' rights when the victims have broken immigration laws. This concern was raised by NGOs as more deportations occurred during the year, and the Government has strengthened illegal immigration laws. The NGOs alleged that not enough time was allowed: Between apprehending illegal immigrants and deporting them; discovering if the people who have broken immigration laws also have been trafficked; obtaining information on their traffickers; and informing them of their rights as victims before they were deported. The Government did provide legal and medical assistance once a person has been identified as having been trafficked. There were shelters and programs for job training. There also were assistance and incentive programs to those willing to return to their home country.

The Government, in conjunction with other governments and NGOs, worked to orchestrate awareness campaigns. In March the country hosted a preliminary session of the EU STOP program culminating in a September meeting in Brussels on trafficking. On July 11-12, a group of NGOs, representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the City of Rome, hosted a conference to address trafficking of children, with an emphasis on identifying and reporting patterns of trafficking into and within the country for purposes of prostitution and child slavery. The event was attended by more than a dozen organizations, including the Lelio Basso Foundation, Terre des Hommes Italia and Save the Children Italia (co-sponsors), the ILO, International Organization for Migration, Caritas, and UNICEF. Representatives from national and regional governments of Albania and Romania also were present.

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