(This report covers the period January-December 1997)   There were allegations that members of the Italian armed forces had tortured, ill-treated and unlawfully killed Somalis in 1993 and 1994, while participating in a UN-authorized multinational peace-keeping operation. There were new reports of ill-treatment by law enforcement and prison officers. Over 3,000 Albanians were forcibly returned to Albania where they risked serious human rights violations. Three people accused of a politically motivated murder were imprisoned after possibly unfair trial proceedings. In January the Senate approved a bill reforming existing legislation governing conscientious objection to compulsory military service (see Amnesty International Reports 1989 to 1997). At the end of the year the bill was still awaiting approval by the Chamber of Deputies where its progress was delayed by over 2,000 amendments presented by opposition parties The findings of a 1995 visit of inspection by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to various places of detention and the government's interim response were published in December. The Committee stated that a "considerable number" of detainees in Milan and "many" in Rome had alleged ill-treatment by law enforcement officers, particularly police officers and, to a lesser extent, carabinieri officers. Further allegations had been heard in Naples and Catania. The Committee repeated the conclusion of its 1992 visit that detainees "and particularly foreigners and/or people arrested in connection with drugs-related offences, run a not inconsiderable risk of being ill-treated". It also reiterated its main recommendations on safeguards against ill-treatment and called on the government to establish an independent inquiry into the treatment of detainees by Milan police. The Committee expressed particular concern about the persistence of severe prison overcrowding and stated that overcrowding in San Vittore prison had worsened since 1992, when overall conditions of detention already amounted to "inhuman and degrading" treatment. It stated that a "large number" of Poggioreale prison inmates had alleged ill-treatment by prison officers. After visiting Spoleto prison, it expressed concern that the so-called "Article 41-bis" regime applied to certain prisoners held in connection with organized crime, by combining extreme isolation from the outside world with frequent transfers, could cause irreversible mental damage. It said that one of the regime's "undeclared" aims might be to induce collaboration with the judicial authorities through psychological pressure Between June and August, a number of former Italian paratroopers made public allegations, sometimes supported by photographic evidence, that in 1993 and 1994, while serving as part of a UN peace-keeping operation in Somalia, they had witnessed colleagues torturing and ill-treating Somalis. In some cases the treatment was said to have resulted in death. Similar allegations were made by Somalis and by Somali human rights monitors. One former paratrooper said that Italian troops based at Johar camp kept Somali prisoners tied up in the sun, deprived them of food and water, and subjected them to blows, cigarette burns on the soles of the feet and electric shocks; some were thrown against razor-wire fences In early June the government announced that the army had opened an internal administrative investigation into the conduct of Italian armed forces in Somalia and that the military prosecutor's office in Rome had opened judicial investigations into specific alleged human rights violations. Some cases were subsequently referred to civilian prosecutors for further investigation. In mid-June a Ministry of Defence decree established a five-member Government Commission of Inquiry, led by Ettore Gallo, a former Constitutional Court president, into the conduct of the Italian troops. The Gallo Commission, accompanied by members of the magistracy, gathered information in Italy, Ethiopia and Kenya. It interviewed 141 people, including a small number of Somalis, but did not visit Somalia In its August report the Gallo Commission described evidence of ill-treatment at Johar camp. It also examined eight specific episodes of alleged human rights violations. It considered credible allegations that soldiers had subjected a Somali man to electric shocks; that four soldiers had gang-raped a Somali woman, after one of them had beaten her semi-conscious; and that a group of soldiers had raped another with a pistol flare. All three episodes were already under judicial investigation, as was the alleged rape and murder of a 13-year-old Somali boy by an army major. However, the Commission did not consider the allegations in the last case nor the allegations of ill-treatment and unlawful killing made in three others to be credible The Commission concluded that the overall conduct of the Italian troops in Somalia had been good; that specific violations had been carried out at the level of the ranks; that lower-ranking officers had sometimes participated actively or passively and had failed to exercise proper discipline. It concluded that senior professional officers were apparently not "directly involved" in the violations and that a "stretched" line of command had made failure to report violations to them inevitable The Commission urged the military authorities to upgrade human rights training for conscripts. It recommended that in future, peace-keeping troops should be accompanied by magistrates and experts on international and national human rights standards. Within days of the report being lodged, new information came to light about further human rights violations by Italian troops in Somalia, accompanied by claims that high-ranking army officers had been aware of them and had not intervened to prevent them. The Minister of Defence asked the Gallo Commission to reopen its inquiry. It reconvened in September but its investigations were reportedly hampered because it did not have access to a substantial part of the new evidence. The new evidence was being investigated by the military prosecutor's office, and so was subject to judicial secrecy. Further allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officers were reported throughout the country. The most common complaints were of beatings with truncheons and repeated slaps, kicks and punches, frequently accompanied by racial abuse. According to official statistics, 170 penal proceedings were opened during 1996 against police officers accused of ill-treatment or other offences against personal liberty or dignity. Fifty-five formal complaints were lodged against carabinieri officers between June 1995 and November 1996, resulting in 64 penal proceedings: the vast majority were still pending a decision. Judicial proceedings relating to alleged ill-treatment by law enforcement and prison officers were frequently delayed. Trial proceedings against Secondigliano prison officers in connection with the alleged systematic ill-treatment of inmates in 1992 and 1993 (see Amnesty International Reports 1994 to 1997), had still not concluded by the end of the year. In January an appeal court acquitted Marcello Alessi of insulting a prison officer during an incident in San Michele prison in 1992 (see Amnesty International Report 1997) but confirmed his conviction for assaulting the officer. The joint trial of the officer charged with causing Marcello Alessi bodily harm and of Marcello Alessi, again charged with insulting the officer during the 1992 incident, was due to open in December, but was postponed until March 1998. In February the Supreme Court annulled the suspended prison sentences passed by an appeal court in 1996 on four Palermo police officers, in connection with the torture and death of Salvatore Marino in 1985, and ordered their retrial (see Amnesty International Reports 1986 to 1991). The joint trial of two police officers charged with causing Grace Patrick Akpan serious injuries, insulting her, threatening her and abusing their powers in February 1996 (see Amnesty International Report 1997), and of Grace Patrick Akpan on charges of refusing to identify herself to them, and of insulting, resisting and injuring a police officer, opened in February. It was immediately postponed until October 1998. In September the Ministry of Justice stated that the Public Prosecutor's office attached to the Rome Tribunal had requested that no criminal action be taken against police officers whom Edward Adjei Loundens had accused of ill-treating him in 1995 (see Amnesty International Report 1997). There was no indication of what investigations the prosecutor had carried out into the alleged ill-treatment. In March, in response to a sudden influx of over 13,000 Albanian asylum-seekers (see Albania entry), the government issued a decree offering temporary humanitarian protection. However, it excluded from such protection Albanians deemed a danger to public security, including those suspected of involvement in the organization of illegal immigration, prostitution, arms and drug-trafficking. Over 3,000 Albanians were reportedly summarily excluded and forcibly returned under these provisions. The Italian navy also patrolled the sea between the two countries, attempting to intercept and stem the arrival of asylum-seekers by boat. In January, following a Supreme Court decision, Ovidio Bompressi, Giorgio Pietrostefani and Adriano Sofri began 22-year prison sentences for participation in the killing of Police Commissioner Luigi Calabresi in 1972. The criminal proceedings against them had opened in 1988 after Leonardo Marino, a former member of the 1970s extra-parliamentary left-wing group Lotta Continua (Continuous Struggle), confessed to a series of robberies and said that he had driven the assassin's get-away car in 1972, that Ovidio Bompressi, a prominent group member, had been the assassin and that Adriano Sofri, the group's leader, and Giorgio Pietrostefani, one of its committee members, had been the instigators. The four were first sentenced by an assize court in 1990 but a further six trials followed: three at appeal court level, including one which acquitted them, and three at Supreme Court level, including one which annulled a guilty verdict. Leonardo Marino was not imprisoned after the January Supreme Court decision. As a pentito, a person benefiting from remission of sentence in return for collaboration with the judicial authorities, he had received a reduced sentence of 11 years' imprisonment in 1990 and by 1995 had also benefited from the statute of limitations. He had previously spent some three months in detention. In December the three prisoners applied for a judicial review of their case Amnesty International was concerned about the length and complexity of the judicial proceedings and about several other aspects which raised serious doubts about their fairness. These included the extent to which the final verdict relied on the uncorroborated evidence of a pentito whose testimony was revealed during the proceedings to contain contradictions and inaccuracies. In addition, key material evidence was destroyed or disappeared, in one instance five months after the opening of the criminal proceedings against the three prisoners. In March, noting the inability of the Albanian Government to ensure the protection of all its citizens, Amnesty International called on the Italian authorities to abide by their international obligations not to forcibly return people to a country where they risked serious human rights violations In June Amnesty International wrote to the Ministers of Justice and Defence welcoming the prompt opening by the military authorities of inquiries into alleged human rights violations by Italian troops in Somalia and asking to be informed of their outcome. It also called for a comprehensive inquiry by a judicial body independent of the military authorities, to ensure a demonstrably impartial investigation, and urged the establishment of an effective complaint mechanism for Somalis alleging human rights violations by Italian soldiers. It subsequently welcomed the establishment of, and provided information to, the Gallo Commission. In July Amnesty International recommended that those investigating the human rights violations carry out on-site investigations in Somalia as soon as possible. In September the Minister of Justice informed Amnesty International that criminal courts in Livorno and Pescara had initiated five proceedings against Italian soldiers in connection with various offences, including sexual assault of Somali women, deliberate infliction of injuries leading unintentionally to the death of Somali citizens and the infliction of ill-treatment and physical injuries. No information was supplied by the Minister of Defence In March the organization drew Prime Minister Romano Prodi's attention to successive Amnesty International reports detailing its concern about allegations of ill-treatment, sometimes amounting to torture, inflicted by law enforcement and prison officers. The organization also sought information about any steps already taken, or envisaged, to implement the recommendations made to the government by the UN Committee against Torture in 1995 (see Amnesty International Report 1996). In September the Prime Minister forwarded a Ministry of Justice document providing information on the status of investigations or trial proceedings in a number of cases of alleged ill-treatment documented in Amnesty International reports.

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