Torture Committee Slams Italy Over Migration Deal With Libya

The United Nations Committee Against Torture is evaluating Italy's compliance with the Convention against Torture, with particular focus on its migration deal with Libya.

The Libya deal: a human rights black hole

Through its cooperation with Libyan authorities, Italy has funded illegal groups that help prevent migrants from leaving Libya, where they are subjected to violence and torture. In this way, Rome is de facto institutionalising a policy of detention and abuse.

This was one of the most difficult and sensitive areas discussed by the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) rapporteur on Italy, who reviewed Italy's compliance with the Convention against Torture during the 62nd session of the the United Nations Committee Against Torture.

The Committee has also noted how the deal with Libya is only the latest - and most worrisome - manifestation of a trend towards externalization of border management to third countries, with no concern whatsoever for their lack of compliance with human rights.

Worrisome migration policies

In addition to the agreements with Libya, other strong criticisms of Italy's overall migration policies were aired during the United Nations review. The Committee criticised the worrying practice of collective deportations as well as expulsions that are not preceded by careful checks on the risk that expelled migrants may be tortured in their home countries (in violation of the sacred principle of non-refoulement).

The rapporteur also harshly criticised Italy's Memorandum of Understanding with Sudan, which was not endorsed by Parliament before being put into operation (as is the habit with bilateral agreements on migration), and the resulting collective expulsion of 48 Sudanese people in Darfur in August 2016 (for which a case against Italy is now pending before the European Court of Human Rights).

The Committee also expressed concerns on one of the most discussed elements of the new immigration and asylum law, as demanded by the Home Affairs and Justice ministers, Marco Minniti and Andrea Orlando, respectively: abolishing the possibility of appealing to the denial of the asylum application. This, according to the Committee, has severely weakened the protection of refugees.

Finally, the Committee criticized the permanence in the Italian Criminal Code of the crime of "illegal" immigration - notwithstanding commitments to abolish such offence.

'A criminal act'

"Today the UN Committee Against Torture has shed light on the utter inadequacy of Italy's migration policy", said Patrizio Gonnella, president of the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (CILD).

"CILD has already denounced the illegitimacy of the deal with Libya, calling it a criminal act. In fact, it appears we are willing to do anything to stop migrants - including exposing them to unlawful detention, violence, abuses and tortures. We thus rejoin the critiques made by the UN Committee Against Torture and urge our government to take them into proper account, by revising all our migration policies in order to ensure human rights compliance".