Report by the Italian Senate’s Special Commission on Human Rights

Report by the Italian Senate’s Special Commission on Human Rights

The Report of the Special Commission on Human Rights of the Italian Senate, presented on 4 April 2018, addresses the main issues related to Italy’s commitment to the inviolable human rights at the domestic and international levels. The Commission, created for the first time during the XIV Legislature, works in liaison with organizations that deal with fundamental human rights; it sends its concerns to the government, to the institutions and to the public opinion, making use of Parliament’s own instruments and implementing its own initiatives, such as Resolutions. The Report under analysis, also known as “Manconi Report”, refers to the activities of the Special Commission chaired by Sen. Manconi during the XVII Legislature.

Concerning the assessment of human rights’ condition in Italy, the report highlights weaknesses and lacks related to the respect of the international standards and commitments. In particular, reference is made to the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council to which Italy underwent in 2014 for the second time. Of the 186 recommendations received, Italy has accepted 176 in the following areas: creation of an independent national institution; reception policies for asylum seekers and refugees; repression of messages of instigation to hatred and intolerance; integration of Roma, Sinti and Camminanti; ratification of optional conventions and protocols – such as the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance of 2006, Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 2008, the UN Convention on the reduction of statelessness of 1961, the condition of prisons and the delays of justice, the lack of specific rules against torture, the rights of disabled people, failure to achieve the 0.7% of GDP target for public development aid.

During the Legislature, Italy, a country strongly involved in the waves of migration that affected Europe following the outbreak of the Arab Spring and the War in Libya, was particularly involved in the development of reception policies for asylum seekers and refugees. There have been numerous visits by the Senators to the reception centres, to the Identification and Expulsion Centres and to the reception centres for asylum seekers, aimed at verifying whether the conditions in which these structures relate comply with the international standards required. The Commission has heard on this issue many governmental, national and local authorities, and has organized and participated in conferences and meetings to raise awareness of civil society on the subject.

The Report mentions parliamentary documents on the subject, focusing in particular on the law establishing the National Day in memory of the victims of immigration, scheduled on 3 October, the date of the tragic shipwreck of Lampedusa in 2013. The condition of Roma, Sinti and Camminanti in Italy has been the subject of numerous international appeals and some recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council. The above-mentioned periodic verification procedure contains 10 specific recommendations on the condition of these populations, eight of which were accepted by Italy. The Report on the inspections of the collection centers, camps and illegal centers for them, which revealed significant lacks compared to international standards in various aspects, including those of hygiene and health.

The Commission paid particular attention to the status of the Prison, the 41-bis regime and the status of prisoners with young children. With regard to the 41-bis regime, the investigative work began with the findings of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the reports of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. Despite having established in several pronouncements that, in general, the provisions of art. 41-bis does not violate the principles of the ECHR since it is configured as a necessary tool for the defense of public order and safety and for the prevention of crimes, the Court has intervened on individual aspects of the discipline and its implementation, aspects on which the Commission has also focused during the fact-finding investigation.

In addition, the Commission has carefully monitored parliamentary work to comply with international commitments on torture, which led to the introduction into the Criminal Code of the crime of torture (Article 613-bis) and of the crime of instigating torture ( Article 613-ter). The text of 613-bis, born from the parliamentary initiative of the President of the Commission Manconi, is very different from the one presented at the beginning of his parliamentary path and has been criticized by several associations dealing with torture, by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe and Sen. Manconi himself. The greatest criticality is given by the difficulty of applying the criminal offense to many serious cases, making this law almost superfluous. The Commission endeavoured to set up an independent national human rights institution in Italy in accordance with the UN Resolution 48/134 of 1993. However, the various bills proposed during the whole Legislature to implement this instrument failed.

The Report also addresses some of the issues that are dearer to the Radical Party, such as the Right to Knowledge, the Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and the war on Homophobia. Besides the numerous hearings, the Commission has sponsored numerous initiatives to raise awareness of civil society on these issues. Alongside the Italian commitment to the fate of our compatriots detained abroad, the Report deals with the dossiers relating to Alma Shalabayeva, Giulio Regeni and the “Marò”. The theses sustained by the Radical Party regarding these cases and the Government’s lack of ability to assert its voice in the international arena, both bilaterally and multilaterally, have been largely confirmed.

Finally, the Report presents some important battles for the respect of human rights in other countries such as Venezuela, Iran, Sudan and Syria.

We therefore believe that is right to draw attention to the hearing of Marco Pannella on the Right to Know, which was held on 15 April three years ago, at the Human Rights Commission chaired by Sen. Manconi. On that occasion, Marco Pannella strongly emphasized that the battle for the Right to Know constitutes an indispensable element to pursue the common transition of the Western world and of the Arab-Muslim majority world, towards the Rule of Law and the spread of the universality of the human rights.

The Right to Know exists in many resolutions and statements within the UN system, albeit in a very fragmented way. The attempt to ward off the war in Iraq through the exile of Saddam Hussein in 2003, with the Radical Party’s appeal “Free Iraq: the only alternative to war”, was unsuccessful. The impossibility of knowing was among the factors that made the conflict possible and, consequently, that make necessary the recognition of the Right to Know, understood as the right of citizens to know the way in which certain decisions of great importance are shaped and made by governments.

Marco Pannella recalled that the UN and several Courts have already applied the right to the truth or, even better, to know the truths, as an instrument of ex-post reparation of serious violations of human rights. By way of example, Mr. Pannella provided the judgment “El-Masri against the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (December 13, 2012) in which it is quoted 97 times. It is therefore a legal principle that needs to be achieved primarily through accessible and regular debates, which must be achieved through the careful and deontological flawless exercise of information processes, so that hte public is able to know, evaluate and choose amongst the available options.

Francesca Voce

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