Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings committed by police officers.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were some reports that government officials employed them.
On January 11, a court in Piacenza indicted five of the 11 Carabinieri officers arrested in July 2020 on charges of participating in a criminal gang that made illegitimate arrests, tortured arrestees, trafficked narcotics, and carried out extortions from 2017 to 2020. On July 21, prosecutors in Turin requested the indictment of the director and chief of prison guards of the Turin prison for abetting the mistreatment of detainees in at least 10 cases in 2018 and 2019, and for failing to report those guards responsible to authorities.
On June 30, the Ministry of Justice suspended 52 prison guards accused of beating a group of prisoners in the Santa Maria Capua Vetere prison who in 2020 had protested for more masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer to protect against COVID-19. On July 15, Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Justice Minister Marta Cartabia visited the prison and ordered a full internal investigation. Prosecutors opened investigations into the actions of 110 individuals, including prison guards of various ranks and the prison director. Associazione Antigone, an Italian nongovernmental organization (NGO) that reports on the human rights of prisoners, filed complaints for similar episodes that allegedly occurred in three other prisons.
The government found an allegation in 2020 of sexual exploitation and abuse by Italian peacekeepers deployed on a UN peacekeeping mission to be unsubstantiated and closed the case.
Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions met international standards overall, but some prisons were overcrowded and antiquated.
Physical Conditions: Prison populations at the Taranto, Brescia, Lodi, and Lucca prisons were at more than 180 percent of capacity. While the law requires the separation of pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners, Associazione Antigone reported that authorities at those prisons held the two groups of prisoners together.
According to a March report by Associazione Antigone, 23 percent of the 44 prisons that the NGO visited in 2020 and 2021 did not meet the minimum requirement of 32 square feet for each detainee. Additionally, the report noted that 29 percent of the cells lacked hot water. Lack of access to physical activity for inmates contributed at times to self-inflicted violence.
Ristretti Orizzonti, an NGO that tracks prison deaths, reported that 35 prisoners committed suicide, and 52 died of other causes as of September 4. Associazione Antigone believed that overcrowding and lack of services caused several deaths.
In several cases health care in prisons, including diagnosis, treatment, and psychiatric support, was insufficient. The ombudsman of detainees for the national prison system reported that in some overcrowded facilities, authorities did not allow prison personnel to implement all government-recommended measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In December 2020 more than 1,000 detainees and over 700 prison guards and staff tested positive for COVID-19.
The most recent publicly available report by an international prison-monitoring body was a January 2020 report by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) on its 2019 visit to the country. The report stated that at Viterbo Prison, the CPT heard a considerable number of allegations of physical mistreatment of prisoners by staff, mainly slaps, punches, and kicks. At Saluzzo Prison, the CPT heard additional allegations of physical mistreatment of inmates by staff consisting of punches and kicks. At Biella and Milan Opera Prisons, it received a few allegations of excessive use of force by staff. The CPT found deteriorating physical and structural conditions in one wing of Viterbo Prison.
Administration: Authorities investigated credible allegations of mistreatment. In July prisoners at two separate prisons in Florence and Genoa violently protested mistreatment. The protests came following the prisons’ denial of visitor permits, their refusal to allow prisoners to work outside the prison, and in response to overcrowding and a lack of services.
Independent Monitoring: In addition to periodic visits by the CPT, the government permitted independent human rights organizations, parliamentarians, the national and regional ombudsmen of detainees, and media to visit prisons and detention centers. The government also provided access to migrant and refugee detention centers to representatives of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Italian Red Cross, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Medecins sans Frontieres, and the European Asylum Support Office.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
To detain an individual, police must have a warrant issued by a public prosecutor, unless a perpetrator is caught in the act or there is a specific and immediate danger to which a police officer is responding. The law requires authorities to inform a detainee of the reason for arrest. If authorities detain a person without a warrant, an examining prosecutor must decide within 24 hours of detention whether there is enough evidence to validate the arrest. An investigating judge then has 48 hours to affirm the arrest and recommend prosecution. In cases of alleged terrorist activity, authorities may hold suspects up to 48 hours before bringing the case to a magistrate. These rights and processes generally were respected.
There is no provision for bail, but judges may grant detainees provisional liberty while awaiting trial. The government provides a lawyer to indigent persons at its expense. The law requires authorities to allow a detainee to see an attorney within 24 hours of his or her arrest, or within 48 hours for cases of suspected terrorist activities. Access to an attorney can take up to five days under exceptional circumstances if the investigating judge needs to interrogate the accused concerning organized crime or if the judge foresees a risk the attorney may attempt to tamper with the evidence.
Pretrial Detention: Pretrial detention that exceeded the legal time limit of two to six years and trial delays caused problems. Authorities normally adhered to the maximum term for pretrial detention; in no case did it equal or exceed the maximum sentence for the alleged crime. According to independent analysts and magistrates, the large number of drug and immigration cases awaiting trial, the lack of judicial remedies, the high number of foreign detainees, and insufficient digitalization of trial records resulted in delays. In some cases detainees could not be placed under house arrest because they had no legal residence or because there was a shortage of resources, including officers, judges, and administrative staff.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. There were isolated reports that judicial corruption and politically motivated investigations by magistrates impeded justice. Several court cases involved long trial delays.
The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.
Defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them. They have the right to a fair and public trial, although trials can be delayed due to an insufficient number of available judges and administrative clerks or due to legal maneuvering. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials.
The law provides for defendants to have access to an attorney of their choice in a timely manner or to have one provided at public expense if they are unable to pay. Defendants had adequate time to discuss and prepare cases with their lawyers in appropriate facilities available in all prisons. Judiciary experts reported foreign detainees were unable to access needed interpretation or translation services in a timely manner. A defendant has the right to confront and question opposing witnesses and to present his or her own witnesses and evidence. Defendants may not be forced to testify or confess guilt, and they have a right to appeal verdicts.
Domestic and European institutions criticized the slow pace of the judicial process, which the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated. The Ministry of Justice reported that the period between a criminal charge and the start of a trial was on average 478 days. Additionally, on average 1,038 days elapsed for a case to arrive at the court of appeals from the time of the initial indictment. The country’s “prescription law” (statute of limitations) in criminal proceedings requires that a trial end by a specific date. Courts determine when the statute of limitations applies. Defendants sometimes took advantage of delays to exceed the statute of limitations, which allowed them to avoid a guilty sentence at trial, or to be released from prison pending an appeal by the prosecutor’s office. In 2019 the Ministry of Justice reported the statute of limitations applied to 113,524 cases. The percentage of detainees who received a final sentence that cannot be appealed has risen over the previous 10 years. As of September 2020, 66 percent of prisoners had received a final sentence, compared with only 51 percent in 2009. In October a new penal reform law modified the maximum length of time allowed for various trial stages in an effort to accelerate the judicial process. Specifically, the new law created a statute of limitations of two years for cases to be heard on appeal, and one year for cases that reach the Court of Cassation (the country’s highest court).
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
By law individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. Individuals may bring cases of alleged human rights violations by the government to the European Court of Human Rights once they exhaust all avenues for a remedy in the domestic court system.
Property Seizure and Restitution
The government has endorsed the Terezin Declaration and worked toward fulfilling its goals and objectives. The Jewish community has no outstanding restitution claims with the government. The Anselmi Commission, a technical body with the mandate to investigate the confiscation of Jewish assets during the Holocaust and the restitution of assets thereafter, reported in 2002 that, in general, deported survivors who claimed assets received them back, but those survivors or heirs who did not claim assets remained uncompensated. Governmental institutions, however, have not followed up on the Anselmi Commission’s recommendations to try to identify survivors or their heirs entitled to unclaimed property. The Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI) reported that, in general, most confiscated assets were returned to their owners or next of kin except in cases when the latter could not be identified. UCEI additionally noted that national and local authorities have not been fully effective in seeking out potential claimants for communal and heirless property but characterized the government as cooperative and responsive to community concerns in the areas of protection and restoration of communal property. The Rome Jewish Community continued to seek international assistance in restoring the contents of the Jewish communal library of Rome looted by the Nazis in 1943.
A December 2020 law expanded compensation to Holocaust survivors, Jewish victims of persecution, and their heirs facilitating access to a 500 euros ($575) per month government benefit. The new law also simplifies procedures to obtain the benefit, easing the requirement of proving that discrimination occurred.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports of arbitrary or unlawful interference by the government.