2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
March 11, 2010
Italy is a multiparty parliamentary democracy with a population of approximately 59.1 million. The bicameral parliament consists of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Executive authority is vested in the Council of Ministers, headed by the president of the council (the prime minister). The president, who is the head of state, nominates the prime minister after consulting with the leaders of all political forces in the parliament. International observers considered the April 2008 national parliamentary elections free and fair. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, although there were problems with lengthy pretrial detention; excessively long court proceedings; violence against women; trafficking in persons; and abuse of homosexuals, Roma, and other minorities.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
The government or its agents did not commit any politically motivated killings during the year. Although security forces were involved in several controversial killings, there was no apparent systematic pattern of abuse by authorities.
On January 30, a police inspector was involved in the fatal shooting of his neighbor, Diouf Ckeikh, a Senegalese immigrant. The incident, which took place in Civitavecchia, was the result of a minor dispute.
On March 20, an Algerian detained in a center for identification and expulsion in Rome died. Red Cross physicians stated a heart attack caused his death, while other detainees claimed that police officers had beaten him. The Ministry of Interior ordered an internal investigation.
On April 7, authorities charged two police officers in Milan with the murder of Giuseppe Turrisi, a man who was living in a homeless shelter. According to prosecutors, blows from the two officers resulted in the man's death.
On July 14, a judge sentenced a police officer to six years' imprisonment in the widely reported case of Gabriele Sandri. The court found the officer guilty of manslaughter for using excessive force in his attempt to break up a fight involving rival soccer fans in Arezzo in 2007.
On July 6, a judge sentenced four police officers to three years and six months in prison for the 2005 involuntary manslaughter of Federico Aldrovandi in Ferrara. In this case, police responded to a report of a person under the influence. The suspect later died from injuries he sustained while he was being taken into custody.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such practices; however, there were reports that police occasionally used excessive force against persons, particularly Roma and immigrants detained in connection with common criminal offenses or in the course of identity checks.
On May 15, Parma prosecutors indicted local police officers for assaulting Emmanuel Bonsu Foster, a young Ghanaian whom police identified as a drug dealer.
On October 7, the court of Genoa acquitted Gianni De Gennaro, who was head of the National Police during protest demonstrations at the 2001 G-8 summit. Authorities had charged him with inducing police officers to give false testimony regarding police behavior toward the protesters.
In July 2008 a court sentenced 15 police officers to prison terms of five months to five years for the "inhuman or degrading treatment," including assault, of some detained protesters. In November 2008 a Genoa court sentenced to two- to four-year prison terms 13 police officers convicted of perjury, conspiracy, or assault stemming from their raid on a building used by the protesters.
In 2008 the European Court on Human Rights (ECHR) issued judgments that found that the country had twice violated the prohibition against inhuman or degrading treatment in the European Convention on Human Rights.
On March 24, the ECHR, citing the need to prevent violation of their rights in their home countries, blocked the deportation of eight individuals whom authorities considered terrorists.
On August 3, the Interior Ministry deported a Tunisian man, Toumi Ali Ben Sassi, despite a May 18 request by the ECHR not to execute the expulsion on the grounds that he risked torture and mistreatment in his home country.
On February 24, the ECHR ruled that the June 2008 expulsion of Ben Khemais violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards, although some prisons remained overcrowded and antiquated. The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers. On July 26, the ECHR determined that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights regarding treatment of Bosnian inmate Izet Sulejmanovic in Rebibbia Prison from November 2002 to April 2003. The same court determined there had been no violation of the Convention for the period of detention from April to October 2003. Sulejmanovic filed suit based on the conditions of his detention, in particular, prison overcrowding and insufficient daily exercise outside of his cell. The court ordered the government to pay Sulejmanovic 1,000 euros ($1,430) in compensation.
On October 16, authorities arrested Stefano Cucchi for drug possession. While in custody, police transferred him to Rebibbia prison and then to a hospital, where he died on October 22. The circumstances of his death were not clear. The Prosecutor's Office in Rome opened a manslaughter investigation. The prisoners' rights group Antigone claimed that authorities held Cucchi in an overcrowded prison, resulting in failure to provide him the care due a prisoner arrested while under the influence of drugs.
According to the Ministry of Justice, at year's end, an estimated 66,500 inmates were in a prison system designed to hold 44,066; however, the uneven distribution of prisoners left a few institutions particularly overcrowded. Older facilities lacked outdoor or exercise space, and some prisons lacked adequate medical care. In September approximately 52 percent of inmates were serving sentences; the other 47 percent were mainly detainees awaiting trial.
According to an independent research center, during the year 175 prisoners died in custody, 72 of them by suicide. There were allegations that a small number of these deaths were the result of abuse or negligence on the part of prison officials.
Temporary detention centers for immigrants were less overcrowded than in the past due to a decrease in the number of persons reaching the country illegally from North Africa. The law does not require pretrial detainees to be held separately from convicted prisoners; they were held together in smaller prisons.
The government permitted visits to detention facilities by independent human rights organizations, parliamentarians, and the media.
In November 2008 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention visited some facilities in Milan, Rome, Naples, and Sicily and expressed concerns about detention conditions of prisoners condemned for Mafia-related crimes. Several municipalities had permanent independent ombudsmen to promote the rights of detainees and facilitate access to health care and other services. The government provided access to detention centers for representatives of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and these visits were in accordance with the UNHCR's standard modalities.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Carabinieri, the national police, the financial police, and municipal police forces. The government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year; however, long delays by prosecutors and authorities in completing investigations of some cases of alleged abuse undercut the effectiveness of mechanisms to investigate and punish police abuses.
On July 14, a court sentenced two of eight Carabinieri arrested in Milan in 2006 for graft and evidence tampering to 30 to 66 months' imprisonment; it acquitted one of them. The eight reportedly used false evidence to extort money from a number of previous offenders.
During the year Romani NGOs complained that many Roma lived in constant fear of systematic and invasive searches of their living areas, accompanied by threats of deportation.
In 2008 the ECHR issued judgments that found two violations by the country of the right to liberty and security as provided by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention
To detain an individual, police require a warrant issued by a public prosecutor unless a criminal act is in progress or there is a specific and immediate danger to which they must respond. When authorities detain a person without a warrant, an examining magistrate must decide within 24 hours of the detention whether there is enough evidence to proceed with an arrest. The investigating judge then has 48 hours to confirm the arrest and recommend whether to prosecute. In terrorism cases authorities may hold suspects 48 hours before bringing the case before a magistrate.
Authorities generally respected the right to a prompt judicial determination. The law entitles detainees to prompt and regular access to lawyers of their choosing and to family members. The state provides a lawyer to indigent persons. In exceptional circumstances, usually in cases of organized crime figures, in which there is danger that attorneys may attempt to tamper with evidence, the investigating judge may take up to five days to interrogate the accused before access to an attorney is permitted. Some human rights organizations asserted that the terrorism law is deficient in due process and in some cases resulted in the deportation or return of alien suspects to countries where they had reason to fear persecution. The law allows for increased surveillance and enhanced police powers to gather evidence in terrorism cases, for example, DNA for purposes of identification (see section 2.d.).
Lengthy pretrial detention was a serious problem. During the first half of the year, 47 percent of all prisoners were either in pretrial detention or awaiting a final sentence. The maximum term of pretrial detention is from two to six years depending on the severity of the crime.
There is no provision for bail; however, judges may grant provisional liberty to suspects awaiting trial. As a safeguard against unjustified detention, detainees may request that a panel of judges (liberty tribunal) review their cases on a regular basis and determine whether continued detention is warranted.
Authorities may impose preventive detention as a last resort if there is evidence of a serious felony or if the crime is associated with the Mafia or terrorism. Except in the most extraordinary situations, preventive detention is prohibited for pregnant women, single parents of children under age three, persons over age 70, and those who are seriously ill.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence in practice; however, most court cases involved long trial delays.
There were some reports of judicial corruption.
Pressure on the judicial system, primarily in the form of intimidation of judges by organized crime groups, further complicated the judicial process. On July 4, authorities arrested six members of a criminal association in Trapani and charged them with attempted murder of a judge who had received letters containing bullets as well as explicit threats.
There are three levels of courts. Civil and criminal trial courts use a single judge, a panel of judges, or a jury. There is a criminal and a civil appellate court with juries. Both sides may appeal decisions of the court of appeals to the highest court, the Court of Cassation in Rome. Prosecutors may in some instances challenge acquittals by appealing directly to the Court of Cassation, bypassing the intermediary appellate level. Such appeals may be based on the court's application of the law or, in some cases, on the evidence. A separate Constitutional Court hears cases involving conflicts between laws and the constitution or over the duties or powers of different units of government.
Nine military tribunals and nine prosecutor's offices are in charge of military crimes committed by members of the armed forces, such as treason, unauthorized release of state secrets, and espionage. An appeals court reviews challenges brought by defendants or prosecutors.
In 2008 the ECHR found six violations by the country of the right to a fair trial as provided by the European Convention on Human Rights.
The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Trials are public. Defendants have access to an attorney in a timely manner. Defendants may confront and question witnesses against them and may present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Prosecutors must make evidence available to defendants and their attorneys upon request. Defendants have a presumption of innocence and the right to appeal verdicts.
In December 2008 a Milan court acquitted and released Melchiorre Contena, who was arrested in 1977 and found guilty of kidnapping and homicide in 1979. He had spent more than 30 years in prison but was released due to inconsistencies in the testimony of the three other kidnappers involved.
Domestic and European institutions continued to criticize the slow pace of justice and cited 51 especially egregious cases in 2008. At the end of 2008, 4,200 petitions seeking compensation from the government for excessively long proceedings were pending in the ECHR. In addition, according to the Court of Cassation, about 30,000 new cases were initiated at the national level in 2008. Also in 2008, the Court of Cassation rendered 3,612 judgments against the government for excessively protracted proceedings. The president of the Court of Cassation indicated some reasons for delays, including the excessive number of trials, the lack of nonjudicial remedies, and insufficient and inadequate distribution of offices and resources, including an insufficient number of judges.
In 2008 the ECHR found 51 violations by the country of the European Convention on Human Rights with respect to length of proceedings.
Courts could determine when the statute of limitations should apply, and defendants often took advantage of the slow pace of justice to delay trials through extensive pleas and appeals.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
The constitution provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. Civil remedies are determined by law, and arbitration is allowed and regulated by contracts. Often citizens and companies turned to arbitration because of trial delays.
In 2008 the ECHR found eight violations by the country of the right to protection of property under the European Convention on Human Rights.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice. Searches and electronic monitoring were generally permissible with judicial warrants and in carefully defined circumstances. The Court of Cassation's lead prosecutor may authorize wiretaps of terrorism suspects at the request of the prime minister.
The media published leaked transcripts of both legal and illegal government wiretaps during the year, including on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
On June 19, the national authority for the protection of privacy blocked the publication of photos featuring the prime minister and guests in his private residence.
The law allows magistrates to destroy illegal wiretaps discovered by police.
In 2008 the ECHR found 13 violations by the country of the right to respect for private and family life as provided by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution provides for the freedoms of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to ensure freedom of speech and the press.
On July 17, the ECHR determined that the country had violated freedom of expression in a case in which a journalist had been convicted for defamation of a local politician. In 2008 the ECHR found that the country had violated freedom of expression as provided by the European Convention on Human Rights. In 2002 the appeals court of Palermo sentenced Claudio Riolo, who had censured the conduct of the president of the province of Palermo in an article published by a local newspaper and reprinted by a national daily.
The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views. However, disputes over partisanship continued to prompt frequent political debate. The two main opposition parties and NGOs contended that media ownership was concentrated in too few hands. Prime Minister Berlusconi's family holding company, Fininvest, held a controlling share in the country's largest private television company, Mediaset; its largest magazine publisher, Mondadori; and its largest advertising company, Publitalia. His brother owned one of the country's nationwide dailies, Il Giornale.
The NGO Reporters without Borders and the journalists' union criticized several judicial actions against journalists and highlighted the threats and intimidation against journalists coming from criminal organizations in the south.
In September 2008 police searched the home of three journalists from the magazine L'Espresso, which had published articles on ties between criminal organizations and politicians involved with trash collection in Naples. They allegedly published information about the case leaked from the prosecutor's office.
During the year the National Federation of the Italian Press condemned what it described as excessive restrictions on freedom of expression. In May Freedom House's Freedom of the Press report showed a decline in the country's ranking from "free" to "partly free." In addition to the L'Espresso case, the National Federation of the Italian Press (NFIP) criticized RAI television, which was under the control of a parliamentary committee. RAI executives delayed transmission of a news analysis program, which was often critical of the Berlusconi government, in favor of broadcasting a special program highlighting the government's efforts to provide housing for those displaced by the L'Aquila earthquake in April.
During the year public officials continued to bring cases against journalists under the country's libel laws. On August 28, Prime Minister Berlusconi filed a libel suit against the daily La Repubblica for the publication of a list of leading questions over a period of months. Some of the provocative questions played off personal issues that became public as Berlusconi's wife asked for a divorce.
On September 2, Prime Minister Berlusconi sued the daily L'Unita for libel for printing two unfavorable articles on his private life in July and August. Berlusconi sought three million euros ($4.3 million) in damages.
In November 2008 a judge found journalist Marco Travaglio guilty of libel against former minister Cesare Previti for an article published by L'Espresso in 2002 suggesting he and his political party, Forza Italia, had direct links with the Mafia.
In the view of most observers the risk of such suits did not affect adversely the willingness of the press to report on politically sensitive subjects.
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail.
A special unit of the police monitored Web sites for crimes involving child pornography online. The government could request other governments to block foreign-based Internet sites if they contravened national laws. As an antiterrorism measure, authorities required that Internet cafe operators obtain licenses. According to Eurostat, in 2008, 47 percent of citizens had access to the Internet at home.
In October a Facebook "community" inciting violence against Prime Minister Berlusconi emerged. The judiciary sought to define a balanced approach to dealing with such overt threats.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.
c. Freedom of Religion
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.
There is no state religion; however, the concordat between the Roman Catholic Church and the government gives the Catholic Church certain privileges. For example, it may select Catholic religion teachers, whose earnings the government paid. In accordance with the law, the government had understandings with organizations representing non-Catholic religions pursuant to accords that allow the government to support them (including financially), including the Confederation of Methodist and Waldensian Churches, Adventists, Assembly of God, Jews, Baptists, and Lutherans. At year's end, the current government had not yet reviewed and submitted to the parliament for ratification other accords negotiated by the previous government with the Buddhist Union, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Church of the Constantinople Patriarchate, and the Hindu community.
Muslims in some locations continued to encounter difficulties in getting permission to construct mosques and other community buildings. In December 2008 the Islamic Center of Milan received approval for a plan to enlarge its mosque after seeking permission for several years. Although local officials usually cited other grounds for refusing building permits, some Muslims asserted that hostility toward their religion underlay the difficulties. The efforts of Northern League members of parliament to seek legislation to restrict building additional mosques furthered a hostile attitude toward Muslims.
There were occasional reports that government officials or the public objected to women wearing garments that completely covered the face and body. In August a northern town banned "burkinis" from its public pool. The mayor claimed the full-body swimsuit could disturb small children. He added that such swimwear could be a potential violation of pool hygiene rules.
The presence of Catholic symbols, such as crucifixes, in courtrooms, schools, and other public buildings continued to be a source of criticism and lawsuits. In February the Ministry of Education suspended a teacher for a month because he removed the crucifix from his classroom in Perugia.
On November 3, the ECHR determined that the display of crucifixes in schools in the country violated the separation of church and state. The ruling was nonbinding and was met with wide disapproval in the country. An appeal was pending at year's end.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Denial of the Holocaust is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison. There were no reports of any prosecutions under this law during the year. The country's approximately 30,000 Jews maintained synagogues in 21 cities. No violent anti-Semitic attacks were reported during the year, but societal prejudices persisted, manifested largely by anti-Semitic graffiti in a number of cities. Small extremist fringe groups were responsible for anti-Semitic acts.
On January 23, 22 shops owned by Jews were the target of vandalistic attacks in Rome by the fascist group Militia, which left a banner urging a boycott of Jewish shops.
The government condemned the anti-Semitic vandalism. Prime Minister Berlusconi, foreign minister Franco Frattini, and other politicians across the political spectrum expressed solidarity with the victims and their intent to fight prejudice and violence at the national and international levels. There were no reported arrests in connection with the attacks by year's end. Addressing the presidents of major American Jewish associations, Berlusconi confirmed "the commitment of Italy to ... fight all forms of anti-Semitism."
The government continued to host an annual meeting to increase educational awareness of the Holocaust and to combat anti-Semitism.
There were also instances of discrimination and violence against Muslims. In June 2008 two homemade bombs thrown at the Milan Islamic Center damaged the main gate.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom at www.state.gov/g/drl/irf/rpt.
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The constitution provides for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.
The government cooperated with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations to protect and assist refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
The law prohibits forced exile, and the government did not employ it.
Protection of Refugees
The country is a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol. The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The country is a party to the EU's Dublin II Instruction, whose partners generally transfer asylum applications to the first member country in which the applicant arrived. In practice the government provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened.
The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees under the 1951 convention and the 1967 protocol. In 2008, 4,431 persons received such protection. Between January and August, 1,246 immigrants were granted asylum status, and 1,387 obtained humanitarian protection. According to the UNHCR, the top three countries of origin of persons granted temporary protection were Eritrea, Nigeria, and Somalia.
The government provided temporary protection to refugees fleeing hostilities or natural disasters. The government granted such refugees temporary residence permits which had to be renewed periodically and did not ensure future permanent residence.
Between May 1 and September 22, the Ministry of the Interior identified 1,800 individuals who came ashore illegally from North Africa, compared to 18,800 in the same period of 2008. Those who were apprehended were sent to temporary detention centers for processing, and a magistrate determined whether they would be deported (if their identity could be ascertained), issued an order to depart (if their identity could not be ascertained), or accepted for asylum processing.
According to Save the Children, between May 2008 and February 2009, 1,994 unaccompanied minors and 300 accompanied underage migrants came ashore in Lampedusa; 1,680 were hosted in protected communities but 1,119 of them fled. The Interior Ministry equipped special sections of identification centers to host minors.
On July 2, the parliament approved a law that criminalizes illegal immigration. It is punishable by a fine and an immediate order to leave the country. The law also permits the creation of unarmed citizen patrol groups to help police keep order.
In August 2008 the government signed an agreement with Libya that includes provisions for patrolling the Libyan coast by Italian and Libyan officers using Italian boats. The controversial agreement allows all immigrants departing from the Libyan coast, not only Libyan nationals, to be turned back before they reach the country's soil. On May 7, under the new agreement, the Italian coast guard escorted to Libya 227 immigrants whom it stopped in the Strait of Sicily. Similar operations continued over the summer and produced a dramatic decrease in the number of immigrants who reached the country's shores.
On September 23, the minister of the interior stated that in the first four months of cooperation with Libya, the country's authorities stopped four boats and sent back 834 persons attempting to reach the country. He claimed that the new measures prevented over 17,000 migrants from departing Libya in their attempt to reach the country. There were claims from some of the persons transferred to vessels for return to Libya that the country's officials used force in the process.
The Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights and the UNHCR criticized the country's new policy of repatriation of immigrants to Libya. There were concerns that authorities returned immigrants who may have been eligible for asylum in Europe to a country that has not signed international conventions on protection of refugees. In addition, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International criticized the government for its failure to screen foreigners and to identify refugees, unaccompanied minors, and victims of trafficking.
In July the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) visited the country to examine the government's new policy of intercepting migrants approaching by sea from the south and returning them to Libya. By year's end, the CPT had not published its report.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
National and international experts, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, considered the April 2008 parliamentary elections free and fair.
On June 6 and 7, the country held elections to the European Parliament that were considered free and fair.
Numerous political parties functioned without government restrictions or outside interference.
There were 58 women in the 322-seat Senate and 134 women in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies. Women held five of 23 positions in the Council of Ministers.
The only legally defined minorities were linguistic: the French-speaking Valdostani and the German-speaking Altoatesini/Suedtiroler. There were four members of these groups in the Senate and three in the Chamber of Deputies. In a largely monolithic society, immigrants represented approximately 5 percent of the population, and fewer than half of these qualified as ethnic/racial minorities. Two members of immigrant groups (of Moroccan and Congolese origin) were elected to the Chamber of Deputies.
In 2008 the ECHR found that the country had violated the right to free elections as provided by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Section 4 Official Corruption and Government Transparency
The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implemented these laws effectively.
The anticorruption and transparency office in the Ministry of Public Administration acts as the government watchdog on corruption.
According to the national audit court (corte dei conti), courts in 2008 convicted 68 persons on corruption charges and recovered 117 million euros ($167 million). In 2008 financial and carabinieri police found sufficient cause to refer to prosecutors 5,361 cases of public officials suspected of such crimes as corruption, graft, abuse of power, and embezzlement, while 68 public employees were convicted of corruption.
There continued to be isolated reports of government corruption during the year. According to the ministries of interior and justice, in 2006 prosecutors charged 925 individuals with corruption; courts convicted 130 persons of corruption. Prosecutors charged 2,725 persons with abuse of authority; courts convicted 45 persons of abuse of authority. Prosecutors charged 2,725 with embezzlement.
On October 9, the Constitutional Court ruled that the July 2008 legislation granting immunity from prosecution to the four highest government officials was unconstitutional.
On June 11, Palermo prosecutors began investigating two politicians believed to have helped a Mafia-owned company secure natural gas distribution concessions from the regional government of Sicily. Majority party senator Carlo Vizzini and European parliamentarian Salvatore Cintola of one opposition party allegedly collaborated with at least two other politicians.
In July 2008 authorities arrested Abruzzo governor Ottaviano Del Turco and a number of other local officials and charged them with corruption, embezzlement, fraud, and abuse of power in a case allegedly involving 12.8 million euros ($18.3 million) in the health care sector. Prosecutors have requested the indictment of Del Turco, and the decision of preliminary investigation judges was expected in spring 2010.
The law gives citizens the right to access government documents and to be informed of administrative processes. With some security-related exceptions, the government and local authorities respected this right in practice for citizens, noncitizens, and the foreign press.
Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.
Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuse, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, ethnic background, and political opinion. It provides some protection against discrimination based on disability, language, or social status. The government generally enforced these prohibitions; however, some societal discrimination continued against women, persons with disabilities, immigrants, and Roma.
Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, and the government enforced the law effectively. In 2008, according to the Ministry of Interior, 4,637 cases of rape were reported, and police identified 8,845 assailants.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a problem. In 2007 the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) reported that 6.7 million women aged 16 to 70, or 32 percent of all women, had been victims of violence at least once in their lives. Five million women were victims of sexual violence, one million of them of rape or attempted rape. ISTAT estimated that in 2006 there were 74,000 cases of rape or attempted rape, of which 4,500 were reported to the police. Partners reportedly committed approximately 23 percent of sexual abuses. According to the Ministry of Interior, from June 2008 through July 2009, 5,556 cases of sexual abuses were reported to police.
The law criminalizes the physical abuse of women, including by family members; allows for the prosecution of perpetrators of violence against women; and helps abused women avoid publicity. ISTAT reported 113 killings of women by their current or ex-partners in 2008. Law enforcement and judicial authorities prosecuted perpetrators of violence against women, but victims frequently declined to press charges due to fear, shame, or ignorance of the law.
On July 17, the Ministry of Equal Opportunity established a hotline for victims of stalking, in addition to the hotline for victims of violence seeking immediate assistance and temporary shelter. From February 23 through October, 3,247 cases of stalking were reported to the Ministry of Equal Opportunity hotline. Police received 4,124 stalking complaints and made 723 arrests. From March 2006 through 2007, 16,700 women reported episodes of violence to this hotline, and half of them requested assistance. The NGO Telefono Rosa assisted 1,744 victims of violence, 287 of whom were foreigners. The NGO ACMID-Donna established a toll-free number for abused Muslim women and received 5,500 calls from November 2008 through August 2009. Approximately 82 percent of those cases involved violence or other mistreatment by husbands or relatives, including unwillingly being in a polygamous marriage, a situation affecting an estimated 14,000 women.
There were occasional reports of "honor crimes" and forced marriage. In June 2008 a 16-year-old Moroccan girl living in Piacenza simulated her own kidnapping to avoid a forced marriage arranged by her family. The intended groom was a Moroccan man over 60 years old and living in France.
In September police in Pordenone took a 45-year-old Moroccan man into custody on suspicion of murdering his daughter, Saana Dafani. The father was upset over his 18-year-old daughter's relationship with a 31-year-old Italian man.
Female genital mutilation is a crime punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment. The government estimated that 35,000 women were victims of genital mutilation, 1,100 of whom were age 17 and younger. An interagency committee of the Department of Equal Opportunity in charge of combating female genital mutilation implemented a prevention program that included an awareness campaign for immigrants, an analysis of risks, and training of cultural mediators. On November 9, the Ministry of Equal Opportunity inaugurated a hotline dedicated to victims of such mutilation.
On June 11, the NGO Arci launched a campaign against genital mutilation in collaboration with migrant women's associations in Rome, Florence, and Turin.
Prostitution is legal in private residences; the law prohibits pimping, brothels, and similar commercial enterprises. The trafficking of women for sexual exploitation remained a problem. In 2008, according to the Ministry of Interior, 4,350 persons were charged with trafficking in persons and pandering.
The law permits domestic courts to try citizens and permanent residents who engage in sex tourism outside of the country, even if the offense is not a crime in the country in which it occurred. According to the domestic branch of End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT Italy), in recent years sex tourists from the country made Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Northern Russia, and Brazil preferred destinations.
The country has a code of conduct for tourist agencies to help combat sex tourism.
Sexual harassment is illegal, and the government effectively enforced the law. By government decree emotional abuse based on gender discrimination is a crime.
Couples and individuals had the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children, and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination. Access to information on contraception, and skilled attendance at delivery and in postpartum care were widely available. Women and men were given equal access to diagnostic services and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
The law gives women the same rights as men, including rights under family law, property law, and in the judicial system.
According to an independent research center, the overall gap between salaries for men and women was 16 percent, although a study released in July estimated the gap between men and women with the same jobs and qualifications was 2 percent. Women were underrepresented in many fields, including management, entrepreneurial business, and other professions. Although 36 percent of lawyers were women, no women were members of the prestigious National Council of Lawyers. Although 60 percent of doctors were women, only 14 percent of the heads of local health authorities were women.
The parliament ratified a new law ending discrimination in the retirement age between men and women. Previously, women could retire at 60, five years earlier than men. The European Commission found the rule illegal in 2008, and the country enacted the new law to be in compliance.
A number of government offices worked to ensure women's rights, including the Ministry for Equal Opportunity and the Equal Opportunity Commission in the Prime Minister's Office. The Ministry of Labor and Welfare has a similar commission that focuses on women's rights and discrimination in the workplace. Many NGOs, most of them affiliated with labor unions or political parties, actively and effectively promoted women's rights.
Citizenship is derived from one's parents (jus sanguinis). Citizenship is not derived by birth within the country's territory. Local authorities registered all births immediately.
In 2008 Telefono Azzurro, an NGO that advocates for children's rights, received 304,774 calls and 3,230 requests for assistance. Of these, an estimated 6 percent involved sexual abuse, and 18 percent physical violence. In 56 percent of the cases, the victims were female; 44 percent of the victims were younger than 10. In 2006 authorities registered approximately 170 reports of sexual intercourse with minors, 290 reports of production of child pornography, and 180 reports of possession of child pornography.
NGOs estimated that 10 percent of persons engaged in prostitution were minors. An independent research center estimated that approximately 30,000 minors entered the country illegally in 2008, of whom about 8,000 were sheltered in protected communities. Of those, 80 percent left the communities without authorization.
On February 25, Carabinieri officers arrested 11 Bulgarian Roma accused of trafficking minors from Bulgaria to Western European countries. Victims were forced to marry other Roma and to commit crimes such as shoplifting, pickpocketing, and burglary.
On May 24, the minister of interior announced the establishment of a new hotline run by Telefono Azzuro, dedicated to helping find minors who disappeared and assisting those who ran away. In 2008 there were 1,330 runaways, of whom 998 were not citizens of the country.
On January 21, authorities arrested an Italian in Thailand for the third time of having had sex with minors. On May 19, authorities arrested a 60-year-old Italian in Thailand and accused him on the same grounds.
Illegal immigrant child laborers from North Africa, West Africa, the Philippines, and China continued to enter the country. The flow of children from Albania dropped dramatically, possibly due to improved economic conditions for Albania and increased law enforcement cooperation between the country and Albania.
Few of the country's children engaged in prostitution for survival. However, independent research center Parsec has reported that thousands of minors from Eastern Europe engaged in prostitution for survival. Prostitution under the age of 18 is against the law, but no penalty is specified.
The country, which has a statutory rape law, is not a destination for sex tourism. The minimum age for consensual sex varies from 13 to 16 years old based on the relationship between partners. The penalty for child pornography ranges from six to 12 years in prison, and the penalty for violation of the law regarding the minimum age for consensual sex ranges from two to 10 years in prison.
A special unit of the police monitored 26,600 Web sites during the year; the unit investigated 1,155 persons for crimes involving child pornography online and arrested 51. According to the NGO Telefono Arcobaleno, 6.5 percent of those accessing pornographic materials involving minors worldwide were from the country.
Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons; however, trafficking in persons was a problem. Persons were trafficked to, from, through and within the country. According to NGO sources, the number of new victims trafficked in 2008 was an estimated 2,800.
The country was a destination and transit country for women, children, and men trafficked internationally for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Women and children were trafficked for forced prostitution mainly from Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Albania, Ukraine, Russia, South America, North and East Africa, the Middle East, China, and Uzbekistan. Chinese men and women were trafficked to the country for the purpose of forced labor. Romani children continued to be trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced begging. Men were trafficked for the purpose of forced labor, mostly in the agricultural sector in southern Italy but also in sweatshops around the country. According to one NGO, 90 percent of foreign seasonal workers were unregistered, and two-thirds were in the country illegally, rendering them vulnerable to trafficking. The top five source countries for agricultural workers, from where forced labor victims were likely found, were Poland, Romania, Pakistan, Albania, and Cote d'Ivoire.
Between one-quarter and one-third of women trafficked for prostitution came from Romania, according to the Ministry for Equal Opportunity. Parsec estimated that the large majority of persons engaged in prostitution were immigrants primarily from Romania, Nigeria, Bulgaria, Ukraine, China, Moldova, and Russia. A large number of women entered the country voluntarily and were subsequently obliged to engage in prostitution to repay smugglers. The average age of victims declined, and an increasing number of victims were trafficked for labor outside the sex industry, particularly in the agriculture and service sectors. Immigrants, mostly from Nigeria, North Africa, China, and Eastern Europe, played a major role in trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, both as traffickers and as victims, although citizens were also involved.
On February 11, police arrested and accused three Romanians and an Italian of trafficking, raping and abusing a Romanian girl. They enticed the girl from her home village with the bogus offer of a caretaker's job in Sicily. The Romanians stole her passport, isolated her, and repeatedly raped her over a 20-day period. Then, the Italian physically abused her as part of his successful attempt to force her into prostitution.
NGOs and independent experts reported that traffickers became more sophisticated in lowering the profile of their illicit activities. Due to increased enforcement efforts, traffickers moved their victims away from street prostitution and towards conducting their activities in hotels, clubs, discos, and other less visible venues. This shift made it more difficult for authorities to identify trafficking victims.
The law provides prison sentences of eight to 20 years for trafficking or enslavement. If the victims are minors, sentences increase by one-third to one-half. The law mandates special prison conditions for traffickers that limit their ability to continue their operations while incarcerated.
According to the Ministry of Justice, authorities investigated 2,738 persons for trafficking in 2008 and arrested 365; trial courts convicted 138 persons, and appeal courts convicted 148.
The government cooperated with foreign governments, including those of Romania, Nigeria, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Moldova, to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases. Because police had difficulty in meeting the law's evidentiary standards in some trafficking cases, authorities relied on enforcement of immigration law to stop trafficking.
There were no reports during the year that government officials participated in, facilitated, or condoned trafficking.
The law provides temporary residence or work permits to trafficked persons seeking to escape their exploiters. Authorities and NGOs encouraged trafficking victims to file complaints, and there were no legal impediments to their doing so. Unlike most other illegal immigrants, who face deportation if apprehended, persons who qualify as trafficking victims under the law receive benefits, including legal residence, whether or not they file a complaint. However, the UNHCR and NGOs criticized the government for not always allowing enough time between apprehension and deportation of illegal immigrants to screen them as possible trafficking victims.
The government provided legal and medical assistance, access to shelters, and job training to persons identified by authorities as victims of trafficking. In 2006 the government assisted 7,300 women. There were also assistance and incentive programs for those willing to return to their native countries; in 2006, 62 victims who chose to return to their home countries were repatriated.
The law empowers magistrates to seize convicted traffickers' assets to finance legal assistance, vocational training, and other social integration assistance for trafficking victims.
The government worked with foreign governments and NGOs to organize trafficking awareness campaigns. The law directs the Foreign Ministry, working with the Ministry of Equal Opportunity, to conclude antitrafficking agreements with trafficking source countries.
The Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report can be found at www.state.gov/g/tip.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of other state services. The government effectively enforced these provisions, but there was some societal discrimination.
Although the law mandates access to government buildings for persons with disabilities, mechanical barriers, particularly in public transport, left such persons at a disadvantage. The Ministry of Labor and Welfare was responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Many cities lacked infrastructure (such as elevators at subway and funicular stations and ramps on sidewalks) for persons with limited mobility and those in wheelchairs.
Independent research centers estimated there were approximately 2.8 million persons with disabilities.
There continued to be reports that authorities mistreated Roma. The NGOs International and National Union of Roma and Sinti in Italy (UNIRSI) and Opera Nomadi reported cases of discrimination, particularly in housing and evictions, deportations, and government efforts to remove Romani children from their parents for their protection. Government officials at the national and local levels, including those from the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Equal Opportunity, met periodically with Roma and their representatives.
During the year the Interior Ministry continued a campaign to crack down on illegal immigration based on a May 2008 emergency decree on security and immigration. Authorities arrested or expelled several hundred foreigners and took the names of others who lived in encampments near major cities.
On August 5, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that local authorities were permitted to collect personal data on Roma who live in authorized camps.
A census of Roma in authorized camps registered 7,200 inhabitants. Authorities closed a few unauthorized encampments and sheltered hundreds of Roma in temporary facilities.
There were no accurate statistics on the number of Roma in the country. NGOs estimated that 140,000, including 75,000 citizens, were concentrated on the fringes of urban areas in the central and southern parts of the country. Romani camps were characterized by poor housing, unhygienic sanitary conditions, limited employment prospects, inadequate educational facilities, and inconsistent police presence.
According to the European Fundamental Rights Agency, the majority of North African immigrants living in the country believed that they were discriminated against and mistreated by police because of their ethnicity.
On January 25, authorities arrested and charged three persons for the October 2008 "hate crime" killing of Mohamed Chamrani, a Moroccan who had been beaten and thrown into Lake Garda.
On June 25, near Milan, five members of a family, including a 70-year-old woman, assaulted and injured in a dispute over a parking spot a 64-year-old citizen of the country who had emigrated from Egypt. Before beating him, the man's attackers shouted that he should return to where he came from. His injuries, including broken ribs, required hospitalization.
The government's Office to Combat Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in the Ministry of Equal Opportunity assisted victims of discrimination. In 2007 the office received about 8,000 calls on its national hotline. The majority of complaints related to labor conditions, wages, and discrimination in the provision of public services. The office provided legal assistance and helped mediate disputes.
Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
There were no laws criminalizing homosexuality. An official from the NGO Arcigay reported police maintained order at several gay pride events, including a march through Rome. Arcigay reported the group was granted permits for the events. The Rome police department has created a special unit to investigate reports of crimes based on sexual orientation.
There were reports of societal discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Arcigay reported eight killings and 52 nonlethal attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) persons between January and September, compared to nine killings and 45 other attacks in 2008. Several of the crimes were described as domestic disputes. Between May and September, several acts of vandalism were committed against bars and discos catering mainly to LGBT clientele.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
There were no reports of violence or discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDs.
Section 7 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The law provides for the right to establish, join, and carry out union activities in the workplace without previous authorization or excessive requirements, and workers exercised these rights in practice. The law prohibits union organization in the armed forces. Unions claimed to represent between 35 and 40 percent of the workforce.
The law provides for the right to strike, and workers exercised this right by conducting legal strikes. The law restricts strikes affecting essential public services (such as transport, sanitation, and health) by requiring longer advance notification and precluding multiple strikes within days of each other.
In February the government approved a bill to restrict transport strikes. Only those unions representing at least half the workforce can call transport strikes.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, and the government protected this right in practice. The law provides for the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively, and workers exercised this right. Approximately 35 percent of the workforce worked under collective bargaining agreements.
Antiunion discrimination is illegal, and the government effectively enforced labor laws. Employees fired for union activity have the right to request their reinstatement. There were no reported cases of discrimination.
There are no export processing zones.
The free-trade-zone law allows a company of any nationality to employ workers of the same nationality under that country's labor laws and social security systems.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, and the government enforced such laws; however, there were reports such practices occurred. Women were trafficked for sexual exploitation, Romani children for sexual exploitation and begging, and workers for agricultural labor or to work in sweatshops manufacturing counterfeit products.
Parsec estimated that approximately 500 victims of labor trafficking worked outside the sex industry, mainly in domestic, agricultural, or service labor. Forced labor occurred primarily in the agricultural sector and mostly in the south where, according to the NGO Doctors without Borders, a large majority of the foreign seasonal workers were unregistered and did not hold residence permits.
On March 12, Carabinieri police announced the arrest of nine Egyptians and one Moroccan accused of trafficking in persons for labor exploitation. Traffickers smuggled hundreds of North Africans from Libya, facilitated their escape from temporary centers, provided fake documents, and forced them to work illegally in a cleaning company near Milan.
"Operation Viola," coordinated by the national anti-Mafia prosecutor, continued during the year. On April 20, police arrested 49 persons from a criminal association based mainly in Campania for trafficking drugs and children. The minors, all from Nigeria, were threatened and forced into prostitution in various regions of Colombia, Turkey, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands.
Chinese men and women were trafficked to the country for forced labor. At the end of the year, the trial was still pending of a Chinese entrepreneur charged in March 2008 with abetting illegal immigration and exploiting 47 Chinese victims including six minors and two pregnant women working and living in a sweatshop near Reggio Emilia.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The government sought to enforce laws and policies designed to protect children from exploitation in the workplace; however, there were a number of reports of child labor.
The law prohibits employment of children under age 15 with some limited exceptions, and there are specific restrictions on employment in hazardous or unhealthy occupations for boys under the age of 18 and girls under the age of 21. Enforcement was generally effective in the formal economy; however, it was difficult in the extensive informal economy.
Illegal immigrant child laborers, mostly from 15 to 18 years of age, continued to enter the country from North Africa, the Philippines, and China. They worked primarily in the manufacturing and services industries. Most arrived with their parents; however, according to the NGO Terre des Homes there were about 24,000 unaccompanied minors.
Children were trafficked for sexual exploitation and begging. The minister of interior estimated that minors represented 20 percent of the total victims of trafficking and smuggling from Romania; of those, three out of four were engaged in prostitution. In 2007 about 300 minors were trafficking victims, according to the Ministry for Equal Opportunity. National and local authorities provide minor victims automatic residency permits (valid until age 18) and access to education and other assistance programs. On September 30, according to the Ministry of Welfare, 6,587 unaccompanied minors were registered, 74 percent of whom were hosted in protected communities.
The government, employers' associations, and unions continued their tripartite cooperation to combat child labor. The Ministry of Labor and Welfare, working with police and Carabinieri, is responsible for enforcement of child labor laws, but their efforts were often ineffective.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The law does not specify a minimum wage; it provides for it to be set through collective bargaining agreements on a sector-by-sector basis. The minimum wage in most industries provided a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Courts effectively enforced the wages set through collective bargaining agreements, but workers in the informal sector often worked for less than the analogous minimum wage in the formal sector.
The legal workweek is 40 hours. Overtime work may not exceed two hours per day or an average of 12 hours per week. Unless limited by a collective bargaining agreement, the law sets maximum overtime hours in industrial sector firms at no more than 80 per quarter and 250 annually. The law requires rest periods of one day per week and 11 hours per day. Premium pay is required for overtime. These standards were effectively enforced.
The law sets basic health and safety standards and guidelines for compensation for on-the-job injuries. There were labor inspectors in both the public health service and the Ministry of Labor and Welfare, but their numbers were insufficient to ensure adequate enforcement of health and safety standards. The standards were not enforced in the informal economy. According to the Workmen's Compensation Institute, in 2008 there were 1,120 work-related deaths. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardizing their continued employment, and the government effectively enforced this right.