Forced evictions of Romani communities and discrimination against them continued. The “Nomad Emergency” (a state of emergency declared in 2008 in relation to the settlements of nomad communities in several Italian regions) was declared unlawful by the Council of State in November. The authorities’ failure to respond adequately to increased arrivals by sea from North Africa resulted in violations of the human rights of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees. Racism and discrimination towards minorities such as Roma and migrants continued. Italy failed to establish effective mechanisms to prevent and prosecute torture and other ill-treatment.
In the wake of the economic crisis in parts of Europe, a new government led by Mario Monti replaced the government of Silvio Berlusconi in November. Significant austerity measures were passed by the end of the year.Top of page
International bodies criticized Italy’s treatment of Roma, Muslims, migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted in his report in September that the declaration of the “Nomad Emergency” in 2008 provided the bedrock for widespread evictions from Roma settlements, often in violation of human rights standards. The declaration authorized “delegated commissioners” in several regions to derogate from a number of laws when dealing with people living in “nomad settlements”. The report also highlighted the sharp increase in arrivals by sea from North Africa since the beginning of the year, and that the reception system for migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees had been put under considerable strain. The Commissioner urged the authorities to strengthen Italy’s reception capacity as well as the integration system for refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection. He also called on the authorities to ensure that when confronted with boats in distress at sea, the safety and rescue of those on board should enjoy absolute priority over all other considerations.
The Advisory Committee on the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities published its third opinion on Italy in May. It noted an increase in racist and xenophobic attitudes towards groups such as Roma, Muslims, migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. The Committee also expressed concern that living conditions of Romani communities had deteriorated further.
The CEDAW Committee issued concluding observations in July urging Italy, among other things, to introduce a policy to overcome the portrayal of women as sexual objects and challenge stereotypes regarding the role of men and women in society and in the family.Top of page
Serious episodes of racial violence were reported. People were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, ethnicity and religion.
A draft law banning the wearing of full veils in public spaces was discussed in Parliament. If implemented the ban would have a disproportionate effect on women who chose to wear a burqa or niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs.
In December in Turin, a Roma settlement was set on fire by some local residents. The attack occurred after a protest allegedly organized in solidarity with a 16-year-old girl who had accused two Romani men of raping her. She later admitted to having lied about the violence against her.
Under the “Nomad Emergency”, authorities in five regions continued to be able to derogate from legislation that protects human rights, including several provisions of the law on administrative procedure. This facilitated the continuation of forced evictions of Romani communities, enabled impunity for these human rights violations and aggravated discrimination against them. In November, the Council of State declared the “Nomad Emergency” unlawful.
Reports of forced evictions continued in other regions not covered by the “Nomad Emergency”.
Italian authorities failed to fill the gaps in legislation punishing hate crimes. As a result, victims of crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression were not given the same protection as victims of crimes motivated by other sorts of discrimination.
By the end of the year, over 52,000 people had arrived by sea from North Africa, in particular on the island of Lampedusa, considerably more than in previous years. The authorities’ response was flawed and resulted in violations of the human rights of asylum-seekers, migrants and refugees. Actions included collective summary expulsions, violations of the prohibition of non-refoulement and unlawful detention. There were profound concerns that the implementation of agreements on migration control signed with several North African countries such as Libya, Tunisia and Egypt were resulting in asylum-seekers being denied access to international protection and in people being subjected to summary removals. Conditions in reception and detention centres fell short of international standards, and asylum-seekers and refugees were left destitute.
Legislation adopted in August to transpose the EU Returns Directive into domestic law violated migrants’ right to liberty. It extended the maximum period of detention of individuals solely for immigration purposes from six to 18 months. It also failed to reflect key safeguards included in the Returns Directive, thus undermining the promotion of voluntary returns, and favouring instead detention and enforced removals.
Following the decision of the European Court of Justice on the El Dridi case in April, the sanction of imprisonment of between one and four years for failure to comply with an order to leave the country was replaced by fines in August. The Court had been requested to assess the compliance of the Italian law with the EU Returns Directive.
In October, several organizations including UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and the International Organization for Migration, denounced the fact that they were denied access to 150 individuals in Bari who had been intercepted at sea. Of those, more than 70 were immediately repatriated. All the organizations were partners of the government in the implementation of the “Presidium project”, which aimed to improve the capacity and quality of the reception of people potentially in need of international protection.Top of page
The government’s record on the use of counter-terror legislation continued to be a cause of concern.
In April, the media reported that Adel Ben Mabrouk, a Tunisian national transferred from detention in Guantánamo Bay to Italy in 2009, was deported from Italy to Tunisia. He had been convicted in February of terrorism-related offences but was released after having been in pre-trial detention, as the court counted his years of detention at Guantánamo as time served.
Appeals before the Court of Cassation were still pending in the case relating to the rendition of Egyptian national Abu Omar in 2003. In December 2010, the Milan Court of Appeal had confirmed the convictions of 25 US and Italian officials involved in the abduction of Abu Omar from a Milan street, and sentenced them to up to nine years’ imprisonment. The Court confirmed the dismissal of charges against five high-level officials of the Italian intelligence agency for reasons of state secrecy. The 23 convicted US officials were tried in their absence. After his kidnapping, Abu Omar was unlawfully transferred by the CIA from Italy to Egypt where he was held in secret and allegedly tortured.Top of page
Reports of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials continued. There were no effective mechanisms established to prevent ill-treatment by police. Nor were concrete measures taken to ensure proper investigations and, where appropriate, prosecution of all law enforcement agents involved in human rights violations. The authorities failed to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and to establish an independent National Preventive Mechanism for the prevention of torture and other ill-treatment at the domestic level. Torture was also not incorporated as a specific offence in ordinary criminal legislation.
Appeals against the second instance verdicts, issued by the Genoa Court of Appeal in the trials of law enforcement officials, medical personnel and prison officers for the ill-treatment of protesters at the 2001 Genoa G8 summit, were still pending before the Court of Cassation.