Tech & Rights

What Happened in Italy's Asti Prison Was Torture

Two inmates in an Italian prison were thrown into solitary confinement, stripped of their clothes, denied food and sleep, and beaten.

by Corallina Lopez Curzi
More than ten years ago, two detainees were brutally mistreated in Asti's penitentiary. When their case arrived at the European Court of Human Rights, the Italian government quickly stepped up to pay for what had happened.

It was torture

It was December 2004. Two men detained in the Italian prison of Asti were put in solitary confinement, stripped of their clothes, denied food and sleep, insulted and beaten. Their brutal mistreatment at the hands of the penitentiary police went on for days.

The case ended up in court almost incidentally, thanks to some information uncovered in the course of another investigation. Eight years after the fact, however, the case was dismissed by the Italian Supreme Court.

Because of the absence in the Italian criminal code of a specific crime of torture, the judges - despite recognizing that the mistreatment of the two men amounted to torture - were unable to condemn anyone for what happened.

The case goes to Strasbourg

Antigone, represented by its ombudsman, lawyer Simona Filippi, and Amnesty International Italia, represented by its president, Antonio Marchesi, joined forces to help the two detainees in the preparation and submission of the appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

At the end of November 2015, the Strasbourg judges admitted the case for violation of Article 3 of the Convention. The Italian government, instead of waiting for a judgment, immediately proposed an amicable compensation to settle the case, offering 45,000 euros to each of the two men.

Antigone's president, Patrizio Gonnella, said, "The decision of the European Court of Human Rights is of enormous importance for the Italian penitentiary system, and our government is now substantially admitting its responsibility by offering compensation to the two men. As was written by Asti's judges in the 2012 judgment, what happened - and ultimately went completely unpunished - clearly amounted to torture."

Amnesty's president, Antonio Marchesi, added, "In light of these facts, we once again ask the Italian government to finally introduce the crime of torture - as defined by the 1984 UN Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights - into the criminal code."

Show your support

The obligation to criminally prosecute torture, as set down by international conventions and by the Italian Constitution itself, has indeed remained unattended for far too long, and this is not the first time that the absence of a specific crime has led to a denial justice (as recently recognized by the Strasbourg judges in the recent Cestaro case with regard to the events during the 2001 G8 summit).

If you also believe that Italy should finally get to grips with torture by criminally prosecuting it, sign Antigone's petition asking for the introduction of the crime of torture into the Italian criminal code!