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Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2002 - Italy

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 26 March 2003
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2002 - Italy, 26 March 2003, available at: [accessed 21 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.

European Social Forum26

In the run-up to the European Social Forum held in Florence from 5th to 10th November 2002, the government had planned, among other things, to suspend a number of clauses in the Schengen Treaty. This would have enabled it to restore border controls for nationals of the European Union countries, preventing many members and representatives of NGOs from coming and participating, and thus restricting democratic debate. The government eventually decided not to act on this threat. The demonstrations took place peacefully.

Following the Forum, a number of Italian defenders from the anti-globalisation movement were arrested in connection with the events at the time of the G8 Summit in Genoa in 2001. Since that Summit a number of organisations had been under close surveillance (telephone taps, mail intercepts). On 15th November the judicial authorities in Cosenza (Calabria) issued arrest warrants for 20 defenders in Calabria, Naples and Apulia. Most of the defenders belonged to a network called "Rebel South" set up before the G8 Summit in Genoa, and some of them had close ties to the alternative trade union organisation « Cobas ». The defenders also included the young leader of "No Global" in Naples, Francesco Caruso. On 25th November, seven activists were placed in detention in Naples, Cosenza and Taranto, ten were placed under house arrest and three others were released, in particular for health reasons. Some of the jailed defenders, including Francesco Caruso, were held for a time in a maximum-security cell. All are accused of political conspiracy to disrupt the operations of the organs of the State and of disseminating subversive propaganda aimed at disrupting the economic order through violence (Art. 270a of the Criminal Code). This article goes back to the fascist period and was adopted in order to eradicate socialist organisations. The accusation refers to the occupation of temporary employment agencies and to violence that occurred at the two international Summits in Naples in March 2001 and in Genoa in July 2001. Several spontaneous demonstrations were held in Italy to condemn these arrests.

On 3rd December the Catanzaro Tribunal in Calabria announced that it was ordering the release of all the activists arrested and the cancellation of the arrest warrants. The charges were however not dropped. The day after this decision was taken, the Prosecutor in Genoa in turn issued 23 arrest warrants against anti-globalisation activists in the north of the country. The charges against these persons range from vandalism and looting (which carry a prison sentence of 8 to 15 years) to possession of arms and explosives, resistance and violence against the representatives of the security forces and "psychological participation" in destructive activities and arson. The Judge explained that those who facilitated the acts or who supported their goals were to be prosecuted even if they had not materially participated in an offence. Nine people were remanded in custody.

Meanwhile the Observatory has been informed that in early January 2003 77 policemen were being prosecuted for brutality in connection with the events in Genoa and in particular a raid against a school (serving as a base for the demonstrators) in which 72 people were injured, and that three chiefs of police had been transferred. The Italian Chief of Police is reported to have stated to the Parliamentary Board of Inquiry that the police had used excessive force during the demonstrations in Genoa. The government is said to have re-assigned him to new tasks. The Italian press has reported allegations that policemen had placed objects in the school, i.e. bombs in this case, to justify the action taken by the police.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website ( was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

26. See Open letter to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders and to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, dated 22 October 2002.

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