EU Watch

Italy Challenged on Slow Progress Combating Torture in Prisons

Italy's government was asked tough questions during the review of its implementation of the Convention against Torture. Detainees' rights and state authorities' use of torture remain problematic areas.

by Federica Brioschi

From November 13 to 15, Italy went under review at the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) during its 62nd session. On the 13th, the CAT held a private meeting with Italian civil society organisations, including Liberties member Antigone, which wrote a shadow report focusing on the new law against torture, the situation in prisons and immigration laws and detention centres.

At the public session of the 14th, the Committee commented on the Italian state's progress in implementing the Convention. At the public session of the 15th, the government had the opportunity to answer questions and concerns raised by the Committee during the previous days.

Aside from Italian migration policies, which are discussed here, the Committee raised concerns about the country's law against torture and conditions of detention.

Law against torture: non-compliant

Some of the issues raised by the Committee regarding the law against torture concern the definition of torture, which results difficult to prove, the non-specificity of the crime that can be committed by anyone instead of being a crime only related to public officials; moreover, it has the normal statute-limitation and no fund for victims of torture has been established.

Prisons: overcrowding and ill-treatment

With regard to conditions of detention, the CAT raised concerns over the very long sentences of detainees in the 41-bis system, as well as over the excessive use of isolation within this regime.The CAT urged the Italian state to reduce the use of pre-trial detention and raised concerns about the overcrowding rate, which, according to the Italian government, is currently around 120%.

The Committee also lamented the lack of educators and social workers and the general overuse of isolation as a disciplinary measure. Furthermore, it asked about notable cases of mistreatment of detainees, such as the Asti case, the Liotta case and the Rotundo case, and was very concerned about the lack of disciplinary and penal proceedings, especially but not only against the police officers who perpetrated the acts of violence in these cases.

One positive development

The Committee appreciated the appointment of the position of national guardian for detainee's rights. The post is currently held by Mauro Palma, a former president of the Council of Europe Commission for the Prevention of Torture and a great expert on detention conditions.

The Italian government supplied answers to many of the issues raised by the CAT, but not to all of them. We hope that the government will seriously take into consideration the advise of the Committee in order to properly and fully address ongoing human rights violations.

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