Italy: Treatment of vulnerable persons and criminalization of torture voiced as key concerns for the HR Committee

The Human Rights Committee remains concerned about the treatment of migrants in hotspots. Photo credit: Liberties.EU

The sixth periodic report of Italy was reviewed by the Human Rights Committee on 9th and 10th March 2017. One of the main concerns expressed during the dialogue between the State delegation and Committee members was the lack of criminalization of torture in the Italian Criminal Code. Another issue is the treatment of vulnerable communities, including migrants and the communities of Roma, Sinti and Caminanti. Other concerns were the duration of cases in the judiciary, the independence of the National Office against Racial Discrimination (UNAR), domestic violence, same-sex adoption and detention conditions.

The delegation started the session with a positive note: Italy is planning on withdrawing their two remaining reservations to the ICCPR. 

The webcast of the review is available here: part 1 and part 2.

"Two, three years ago, a civil case lasted several years, and today, thanks to a number of reforms, there has been a decrease in the number and the duration of cases."

- Member of the Italian delegation, responding to a question about the backlog in the judiciary

Treatment of vulnerable persons

The Committee raised a number of concerns regarding migrants. Firstly, it was concerned about bilateral agreements regarding rapid return of refugees. Italy has such agreements with Libya and Sudan but the safeguards in those instruments are not clear. According to the delegation, these agreements comply with Italy’s human rights and non-refoulement obligations.

Furthermore, the number of unaccompanied migrant minors (UMM) has doubled to 24 000 in 2016.  The Committee emphasized that Italy has to ensure legal assistance to this group and appoint a guardian as quickly as possible. Moreover, the state should monitor the presence of UMMs because they sometimes disappear from reception facilities. Another reason for concern is the age determination process. The delegation clarified that the process is less invasive at first and only becomes more invasive if necessary. Less invasive measures include an interview, an analysis of life experience and a psychological review.

The Committee also raised concerns about the excessive use of force in hotspots in order to compel migrants to give their fingerprints. The object of their concern was particularly whether Italy had investigated those allegations. Next to that, the living conditions in reception facilities are alarming, as well as the length of asylum procedures. The delegation emphasized that human rights of migrants are respected when assessing their claim. An important safeguard is the fact that fingerprinting happens under video surveillance. Moreover, the hotspots are considered as places of deprivation of liberty and receive unannounced visits. Refugees as well as economic migrants have access to legal aid.

Lastly, the treatment and in particular the housing of Roma, Sinti and Caminanti communities was already worrying in the previous concluding observations, and the Committee reiterates its concerns. 

Criminalization of torture

NGOs raised in their reports the issue of the criminalization of torture. The criminal code of Italy does not contain a provision criminalizing torture, nevertheless it is an obligation under the Convention Against Torture. Italy ratified this Convention on 12 January 1989. NGOs emphasized that this issue is not a theoretical concern since trials have already ended in impunity because torture was not punishable under Italian law (see here).

The delegation clarified that a reform of the Criminal Code is pending but it is currently postponed. The bill has been suspended at Senate level because of political and technical reasons. However, the delegation emphasized that the criminalization of torture is crucial. 

Recommendations of the Committee

The Concluding Observations for which the State should provide information on the implementation within one year, concern:

  • National Human Rights Institution:
    • Expeditiously establish a national human rights institution in compliance with the Paris Principles
  • Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees:
    • Abrogate the crime of irregular entry and stay
    • Refrain from collective expulsion of migrants 
    • Ensure that immigration detention only applies as a last resort
    • Increase the number of available places in reception centers and improve the conditions
    • Fully implement the Standard Operating Procedures of the hotspots
  • Unaccompanied minors:
    • Ensure that the age assessment procedure is based on safe and scientifically sound methods
    • Review the guardian assignment procedure to appoint guardians in a timely manner
    • Ensure adequate conditions in reception facilities
    • Take measures to prevent disappearance of those children

The next (seventh) periodic report of Italy should be submitted by 29 March 2022.

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