Head of state: Giorgio Napolitano (replaced Carlo Azeglio Ciampi in May)
Head of government: Romano Prodi (replaced Silvio Berlusconi in May)
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
International Criminal Court: ratified

Italy lacked a comprehensive asylum law. The government failed to forward extradition requests for 26 US citizens to the USA in the Abu Omar rendition case. Several migrants were given an expulsion order and some were sent back to their countries of origin based on counter-terrorism laws in place since 2005. No specific crime of torture was provided for in Italian law.


Italy still lacked a specific and comprehensive law on asylum, and retained the Bossi-Fini law on migration which included provisions that contravened human rights laws and standards.

Detention and expulsions of migrant minors

Migrant minors continued to be routinely detained upon arrival at the maritime border in Italy, in contravention of international human rights and refugee law. The right of detained minors to be kept separate from adults who are not members of the same family was in many cases not respected. Minors were often not given legal aid or information about their rights and were in some cases at risk of being forcibly returned to their countries of origin due to inaccurate age assessment. In some cases unaccompanied minors also faced body searches, inspections and confiscation of belongings. Some minors were not granted prompt access to asylum procedures, while others were considered as asylum-seekers without their knowledge and received residence permits which they did not understand.

  • In January, three brothers of Somali origin who were minors were sent back to Ghana, from where they had arrived only the previous day, reportedly carrying false passports. During their detention at Malpensa Airport in Milan they were reportedly not asked their age or nationality, nor informed about the possibility of applying for asylum and not allowed to contact their relatives in Europe. The three eventually fled to Côte d'Ivoire.

Corruption and abuses in detention centres

Conditions in many detention centres continued to be problematic. There were reports of guards taking bribes to supply migrants with overpriced goods and complaints of poor legal, medical and psychological assistance.

  • In October it was reported that groups of migrants escaped from the Caltanissetta detention centre in Sicily after bribing guards. The Ministry of the Interior and the Caltanissetta public prosecutor began investigations into abuses and crime at the same centre.

Access to migrant detention centres

Following a declaration by the Minister of the Interior that AI should be allowed access to migrants' detention centres, procedures were initiated to authorize such access. Access had previously been denied to AI and other non-governmental organizations.

Co-operation with Libya

High-level discussions with the Libyan authorities began regarding joint actions aimed at stemming migration to Italy and included promises by the Italian authorities of financial support to Libya to build detention centres for migrants, and by Libya to patrol its southern borders. This undertaking was given despite the fact that Libya had not ratified the UN Refugee Convention and its Protocol, and had not established national asylum procedures.

Counter-terrorism measures

Abu Omar abduction and rendition

Preliminary judicial investigations were concluded in the case of Abu Omar, an Egyptian citizen with an Italian residence permit, who was abducted from a street in Milan in 2003 as part of the USA's programme of secret detentions and renditions – the unlawful transfer of people between states outside of any judicial process. Abu Omar was flown by the USA to Egypt, where he was reportedly tortured in detention. The abduction was reported to have been carried out by US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents and members of the Italian military and security service agency, Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare (SISMI). Although the Minister of Justice gave permission for Italian magistrates to interview suspects in the USA, by the end of 2006 the Ministry had not forwarded extradition requests to the US authorities. By the end of the year a total of 26 arrest warrants for alleged US operatives had been issued, including one for the head of the CIA office in Italy at the time of the abduction. Arrest warrants were also issued for two SISMI agents.

In December, prosecutors asked a judge to indict the 26 US operatives and nine Italian citizens, including the head of SISMI at the time of the abduction.

Summary expulsions

Several migrants were given expulsion orders and some were sent back to their countries of origin based on counter-terrorism legislation (Law 155/05, the so-called "Pisanu Law") in place since 2005. No judicial control was carried out on whether those expelled were involved in criminal activities, whether the expulsion itself was legal, or whether subjects of the expulsion orders risked human rights abuses in their countries of origin. Those expelled during the year included nationals from Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia.

  • One man was summarily expelled to Syria despite having a residence permit to remain legally in Italy. He was reportedly detained for several days by the Syrian authorities before being released.

The Pisanu Law allowed expulsion orders of both regular and irregular migrants to be decided and implemented based on "well-grounded reasons to believe that his/her stay in the territory could favour in any manner terrorist organizations and activities". The law did not require the person deported to have been convicted of or charged with a crime connected to terrorism and did not provide for judicial confirmation or authorization of the decision and of its implementation. The law provided for a judicial appeal against the decision, but not for suspension of the actual deportation pending the appeal. The expulsion procedure lacked effective protection from refoulement for people who could be at risk of persecution or other serious human rights violations once in the country of origin. In November, the European Court of Human Rights suspended the deportation of three people about to be expelled based on the Pisanu Law. The Court based its decision on the risks they would run in their countries of origin if expelled, including the risk of torture and ill-treatment.

The Italian Constitutional Court was investigating whether some provisions of the Pisanu Law violated the right to judicial remedy, the right to defence, and the right to fair trial.

During the second half of the year, evidence emerged regarding a governmental list of migrants to be expelled on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. At least one of the persons expelled in 2006 based on the counter-terrorism law was on the list.

Police concerns

Italy still failed to make torture, as defined in the UN Convention against Torture, a specific crime within its penal code. There was no independent police complaints and accountability body. Policing operations were not in line with the European Code of Police Ethics, for example in the requirement for officers to display prominently some form of identification, such as a service number, to ensure they could be held accountable.

  • An investigation continued into a December 2005 operation in Val di Susa when several hundred law enforcement officers attempted to remove around 100 people demonstrating against a high-speed rail link. Demonstrators were reportedly assaulted and beaten, many while sleeping.

Updates: policing of 2001 demonstrations

Trials of police officers continued in relation to policing operations around the mass demonstrations in Naples in March 2001 and during the G8 Summit in Genoa in July 2001.

  • In November a Genoa court declared that it would not reopen investigations into the death of Carlo Giuliani, a young man fatally shot by a law enforcement official during the 2001 demonstrations in the city. Calls to reopen investigations had been prompted by the emergence of potential new evidence.

International scrutiny

In April, the UN Human Rights Committee adopted its Concluding Observations on Italy after reviewing the state's periodic report. The Committee recommended among other things that Italy establish an independent national human rights institution, in accordance with the UN Paris Principles. It also recommended that efforts be increased to ensure that prompt and impartial investigations were carried out into allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officers.

The Committee further recommended that the maximum period during which a person may be held in custody following arrest on a criminal charge be reduced, even in exceptional circumstances, to less than the current five days and that the detainee be given access to independent legal advice immediately. It also recommended that Italy ensure that the judiciary remain independent of the executive power, and that judicial reform not jeopardize this independence.

AI country reports/visits


  • Italy: Invisible children – The human rights of migrant and asylum-seeking minors detained upon arrival at the maritime border in Italy (AI Index: EUR 30/001/2006)
  • Italy: Five years after the G8 Genoa policing operations – Italian authorities must take concrete action to prevent and prosecute police brutality in all circumstances (AI Index: EUR 30/005/2006)
  • Italy: Abu Omar – Italian authorities must cooperate fully with all investigations (AI Index: EUR 30/006/2006)

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