Roma rights continued to be violated and forced evictions contributed to driving those affected deeper into poverty and marginalization. Derogatory and discriminatory remarks by politicians against Roma, migrants and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people promoted a climate of rising intolerance. Violent homophobic attacks continued. Asylum-seekers were unable to access effective procedures to seek international protection. Reports of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials continued. Concerns persisted about the thoroughness of investigations into deaths in custody and alleged ill-treatment. Italy refused to introduce the crime of torture into domestic legislation.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Italy for the first time in March. Among other things, she was concerned that Italian authorities were treating Roma and migrants as “security problems” rather than looking at ways to include them in society.
In April, the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture published reports on the periodic visits to Italy of September 2008 and July 2009, highlighting, among other things, the lack of a torture provision in the criminal code and the overcrowding of prison facilities. The 2009 report also condemned the policy of intercepting migrants at sea and forcing them to return to Libya or other non-European countries as a violation of the principle of non-refoulement (prohibition on returning individuals to countries where they would risk serious human rights violations).
On 25 June, the European Committee of Social Rights found that Italy discriminated against Roma and Sinti in the enjoyment of several rights, including their rights to housing and protection against poverty and social exclusion, and the right of migrant workers and their families to protection and assistance.
In February, Italy’s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review. In May, the government responded by rejecting 12 of the 92 recommendations received. Of particular concern was the refusal to introduce the crime of torture into domestic legislation and to abolish the crime of irregular migration.Top of page
Roma continued to face discrimination in the enjoyment of their rights to education, housing, health care and employment. Derogatory remarks by some politicians and representatives of various authorities helped foster a climate of intolerance towards Roma, migrants and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
In August, the Observatory for Security Against Discriminatory Acts set up by police authorities became operational; this mechanism aims to encourage and make it simpler for victims to submit complaints against discriminatory attacks.
Forced evictions of Roma continued throughout the country. Some families were subjected to repeated forced evictions, which disrupted their communities, their access to work and made it impossible for some children to attend school.
Violent homophobic attacks continued. Due to a gap in the law, victims of crimes motivated by discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity were not given the same protection as victims of crimes motivated by other sorts of discrimination.Top of page
Asylum-seekers and migrants continued to be denied their rights, particularly regarding access to a fair and satisfactory asylum procedure. The authorities failed to adequately protect them from racially motivated violence and, by making unsubstantiated links between migrants and crime, some politicians and government representatives fostered a climate of intolerance and xenophobia.
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and NGOs continued to express concern that the agreements between Italy, Libya and other countries to control migration flows were leading to hundreds of asylum-seekers, including many children, being denied access to procedures to claim international protection. Asylum applications in Italy continued to fall dramatically.
In January, two days of violent clashes between migrant workers, local residents and the police in the town of Rosarno led to over 1,000 migrants (most of whom had permits) fleeing or being removed from the area by law enforcement agencies. The clashes started after a migrant worker was injured by gunshots from a moving car, as he and others were walking home after working in the fields. In April, a judicial inquiry into the causes of the riots led to over 30 people – Italian and foreign nationals – being arrested for the exploitation and enslavement of the migrant workers employed in the agricultural sector in the area. The inquiry was still ongoing at the end of the year.Top of page
In December, the 2009 convictions of 25 US and Italian officials involved in the abduction of Abu Omar from a Milan street in 2003 were upheld by the Milan Court of Appeal. The 23 convicted US officials were tried in their absence. The Court sentenced the accused to up to nine years’ imprisonment. After his kidnapping, Abu Omar was unlawfully transferred by the CIA from Italy to Egypt where he was held in secret detention and allegedly tortured. The Court confirmed the dismissal of charges against five high-level officials of the Italian intelligence agency, based on reasons of state secrecy.
The criminal proceedings concerning terrorism-related charges against Adel Ben Mabrouk and Rihad Nasseri, two Tunisian nationals transferred from detention in Guantánamo Bay to Italy in 2009, were ongoing. There were concerns that the accused would be deported to Tunisia in violation of the principle of non-refoulement.Top of page
There were continued reports of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials. Concerns persisted about the independence and impartiality of investigations and about the thoroughness of the collection and preservation of evidence in cases of deaths in custody and alleged ill-treatment, which may have led to impunity. Repeated petitions to the authorities from the victims and their families remained essential to ensure thorough investigations and bring the perpetrators to justice.
In March and May, the Genoa Court of Appeal issued second instance verdicts in the trials on the torture and other ill-treatment perpetrated by law enforcement officials against G8 protesters in 2001. The opportunity to file appeals with the Court of Cassation was still open at the end of the year.
In March, the Court recognized that most of the crimes that had taken place at the temporary detention centre of Bolzaneto, including grievous bodily harm and arbitrary inspections and searches, had expired due to the statute of limitations, but still ordered all of the 42 accused to pay civil damages to the victims. The Court also imposed prison sentences of up to three years and two months on eight of the accused.
In May, the same Court found 25 of the 28 people accused of similar abuses at the Armando Diaz School guilty, including all high-ranking police officers present at the time of the events, and imposed prison sentences of up to five years. Many of the charges were dropped due to the statute of limitations.
If Italy had introduced torture as a specific crime in its criminal code, however, the statute of limitations would not have applied.Top of page