Marco Pannella was born on 2 May 1930 in Teramo, in the Abruzzo region, Italy. He was one of the founders of the Radical Party in 1955. At the age of 17 he met philosopher Benedetto Croce, then President of the Italian Liberal Party, who influenced his political thinking profoundly. Inspired by the authors of the “Manifesto di Ventotene” Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi in particular, Marco Pannella became leader of the Radical Party in the 1960s. Until 1963 he was correspondant from Paris for the newspaper “Il Mondo” editored by Mario Pannunzio.
Animated by strong-held views on civil and political liberties, he was at the forefront of Italian politics on social issues including divorce, abortion, prison conditions, justice reform and legalization of cannabis. In the international arena he fought against militarism during the cold war, in favour of a UN moratorium on the death penalty and for the establishment of the International Criminal Court following the ad-hoc tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. In 1981 he conceived an appeal to end extarmination through starvation across the world which collected the signatures of 131 Nobel Prize Laureates.
In 1968 Marco Pannella was arrested in Sofia, Bulgaria, before being arrested and expelled for handing out flyers that denounced the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the communist regime. He supported military actions in Kuwait in 1991, Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001 and opposed the 2003 war in Iraq in that he understood that Saddam Hussein could be ousted without a fire being shot, through voluntary exile. In fact, in January 2003 he launched the campaign Free Iraq: the only alternative to war, to promote the exile for the Iraqi dictator thus laying the foundations of the ongoing work currently being promoted through the Global Committee for the Rule of Law.
He was elected in the Italian Parliament in 1976 for 18 years and in the European Parliament in 1979 for 30 years. Firm believer in international law and supporter of Israel, he campaigned for a two-democracies-for-two-peoples solution that required Israel’s membership in the European Union. As a federalist he praised the endless effort of his long time friend His Holiness the Dalai Lama to promote the autonomy of Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China.
He resorted to fasting on countless occasions, pushing farther Gandhi’s doctrine of nonviolence, in order to advance his goals and convince those in power to abide by the laws and rights that they frequently trampled on. Marco was an extraordinary freedom-loving politician and friend, greathearted and demanding civil rights activist, which is why we believe he was and will remain an inspiring protagonist of Italian and transnational politics.
He set up the Global Committee for the Rule of Law in March 2016, just weeks before passing, in order to push forward the engagement for the right to know and the rule of law which he basically devoted his entire life to. Marco passed away aged 86, in Rome, on 19 May 2016. He was constantly surrounded by Matteo Angioli and Laura Harth, plus his closest friends and comrades who formed his “family” by sharing with him the last months, day in and day out, of his exceptional life.