Category Archives: Human Rights

Migration Policy and Management under the “Conte 1” Government

The fight against “irregular” migration to Italy featured prominently in the election manifesto of the Lega (League – a right-wing political party) and was incorporated in the coalition agreement concluded between the two governing parties after the 4 March 2018 general election, namely the League and the Movimento 5 Stelle (Five Star Movement). Accordingly, on 5 June 2018, the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr Giuseppe Conte, outlined the approach on migration of the newly formed Italian Government during his first speech before the Senate of the Republic (9th Meeting, XVIII Legislature):

It is clear to everyone that the management of migratory flows as implemented to date has failed. Europe allowed – we must emphasize it – selfish positions by Member States, which ended up placing the burden, which should have been shared, on border States, first and foremost on Italy. That is why we will vigorously demand to go beyond the Dublin Regulation, so as to ensure actual compliance with the principle of equitable responsibility-sharing and implement automatic mechanisms for the mandatory relocation of asylum seekers. […]

We want asylum procedures to be well-established and swift, also with a view to more effectively ensuring that the rights [of asylum seekers] are guaranteed and that they do not live in uncertainty. […]

We must also re-organize the reception system and make it efficient with a view to ensuring the transparent use of public funds and preventing any infiltration by organized crime. Should there be no grounds for the stay [of migrants in Italy], we will take action to make repatriation procedures effective and, at the European level, to compel third States willing to conclude cooperation agreements with any EU Member States to ratify bilateral agreements for the management of migratory flows.

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The Scope and Means of Action of the United Nations Security Council as Seen by Italy during its “Shared Membership”

Italy has a long tradition of taking public stances on issues concerning the United Nations (UN) in general, and the Security Council (SC) in particular. The most important of such issues is perhaps the reform of the SC, a hotly debated question on which Italy has been taking a leading position for many years, promoting a series of proposals around which a group known as “Uniting for Consensus” has gathered.[1] This very same theme has been discussed by Italian representatives at the UN also in 2017 and 2018, when they reiterated and further clarified their country’s view.[2] Those years also correspond to the biennium that saw Italy and the Netherlands share a split non-permanent seat at the SC (the former being a member in 2017). Therefore, Italy has recently had many occasions to express its ideas on the action of the SC.

It is well known that the role of the SC has been progressively expanding since the end of the Cold War, so that nowadays its activities have a far wider scope than that envisioned in 1945 by the drafters of the UN Charter. Such legal developments can be said to be, by now, largely accepted by the international community, and even those States that occasionally veto or anyhow oppose certain SC resolutions, sometimes do that inconsistently and by putting forth political rather than legal justifications.[3] This notwithstanding, the issue of how far-reaching the powers of the SC are remains the subject of scholarly debate and is still of some practical importance for States. From this perspective, it may be useful to review Italy’s stances on the action of the SC.

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The Threatened Demolition of the Khan al-Ahmar “Rubber Tire School” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

The Khan al-Ahmar community is located in the West Bank, near the road that connects Jerusalem to the city of Jericho and the Dead Sea and not far from the Israeli settlements that rise to the east of the Holy City.[1] Its 180 inhabitants (35 Bedouin families) belong to the tribal group Jahalin, originating from Tel Arad, in southern Israel. Members of this clan were expelled by the Israeli army in 1951 and had to relocate in what was then a territory under the control of Jordan. Nowadays, their lands are formally located within the so-called Area C of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which, under the Oslo Accords, is administered by Israel, and in particular on corridor E1, an area considered strategic for controlling the territory up to Jericho and for the expansion of the settlements. Families are extremely poor and live in temporary structures built without permits from the Israeli authorities, often funded by European countries. Villages are not connected to electricity, roads and the sewage system. They lack health and education infrastructures. Scattered in the area of Khan al-Ahmar live twelve Palestinian communities with roughly 1,400 inhabitants. The so-called “Rubber Tire School”, located in Khan al-Ahmar, serves 150 children from five different communities. The Italian NGO Terra di Vento established it in 2009 with an innovative project using mud and tires. Together with other infrastructures, it was funded by Italy, Belgium and the European Union.

Over the years, the Israeli authorities have confiscated and demolished existing facilities and issued several demolition orders to the detriment of the Bedouin communities of the Jerusalem area. As documented by the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, “from 2006 until the end of May 2018, 26 residential structures were demolished. 132 people were left without shelter, of which 77 were children and teenagers. In addition, 7 non-residential structures were demolished”.[2]

Several petitions were filed with the High Court of Justice in favor or against the demolition orders. The Israeli settlers petitioned the Court to have the demolition orders implemented, whereas the Palestinian communities tried to resist deportation. In this respect, the position of the Israeli Government is that the Khan al-Ahmar buildings were established without any permits and that residents have been offered an alternative location where the school would be reconstructed.[3]

On 28 May 2018, the Israeli High Court confirmed that the Government might demolish the homes of the residents of Khan al-Ahmar and the school.[4] On 4 July the Israeli civil administration started implementing the expulsion of the residents and the demolition of the buildings, but a subsequent petition to the Court froze the process. With a temporary injunction, the Court invited the parties to reach an agreement. The Government then insisted on the immediate relocation of the Palestinian community to a site in Abu Dis, near a garbage dump.[5] The Palestinian community refused the proposed solution and continued resisting to the expulsion and the destruction of their homes.

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President Mattarella’s Refusal to Promulgate a Law on the Financing of the Arms Industry

On 27 October 2017, the Presidente della Repubblica Italiana (President of the Italian Republic, hereinafter President), Mr. Sergio Mattarella, refused to promulgate the law[1] drafted and approved by the Parliament titled “Misure per contrastare il finanziamento delle imprese produttrici di mine antipersona, di munizioni e sub munizioni a grappolo” (Measures to combat the financing of firms manufacturing antipersonnel landmines, cluster munitions and submunitions, hereinafter Law no. 57)[2]. In the Italian constitutional system, in order for a law to enter into force the President has to promulgate it, according to Article 73 of the Constitution. To this end, Article 74 confers the President the power to require that the law undergoes a new debate in the two Houses of the Parliament, expressing the reasons for such a request. As explained in the opinion sent to the Senato della Repubblica (Senate of the Republic) and the Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies), the President identified two problematic features of the law, which are here illustrated.

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Italy’s Reaction to the Use of Chemical Weapons at Khan Shaykhun and to the US Attack on a Syrian Airfield

On 4 April 2017, it was reported that the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun – controlled at the time by the Tahrir Al-Sham Alliance – had been the object of an airstrike by the air force of the Government of President Bashar Al Assad.[1] As a result of the airstrike, chemical agents poisoned large numbers of civilians. 

In a report released on 30 June 2017, the Fact-Finding Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) estimated the number of deaths “as approximately 100 people” and determined that “Sarin or a Sarin-like substance” had been used as a weapon in Khan Shaykhun.[2] It took until 27 October 2017 for the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism to take position on the responsibility for the attack and affirm that the Leading Panel of the mechanism itself was “confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of Sarin at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017”.[3]

In the aftermath of the attack, however, several countries condemned the action and the United States (US), the United Kingdom and France openly called into question the responsibility of the Syrian Government.[4] The US President, Mr. Donald Trump, condemned the attack as “intolerable” and openly blamed the inaction of his predecessor Barack Obama, who, after establishing “a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons did nothing”.[5] On its part, the Syrian government denied any involvement in the use of chemical weapons.[6] The Government of the Russian Federation offered alternative explanations of the events, mentioning the fact that the Syrian Air Force could have “bombed an underground factory producing chemical warfare agents” or alluding to a possible “provocation by the terrorists”.[7] Within the United Nations (UN) Security Council, a draft resolution condemning the attack – tabled by France, the United Kingdom and the US – was vetoed by the Russian Federation, with the abstention of China, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan.[8] 

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Italy’s Involvement in Post-Conflict Lybia through the Lybian Coast Guard Training Mission

Post-conflict Libya has been riven by internal conflict, institutional, political and social instability as well as a grave humanitarian crisis. The achievement of stability in Libya has been of concern to the international community, in particular in light of the serious consequences of internal conflict and fragmentation on, inter alia, the fight against terrorism and the Islamic State, as well as against human trafficking and migrant smuggling across the Mediterranean Sea[1].

Historically a prominent international actor in the country, Italy has strongly supported the Government of National Accord, formed under the terms of the Libyan Political Agreement signed in Skhirat, Morocco, on 17 December 2015[2], and endorsed by the United Nations (UN) Security Council as the sole legitimate executive authority in Libya[3]. On 8 May 2017, during a briefing at the UN Security Council on the situation in Libya (7934th Meeting)[4], the Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, declared:

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On the Right of Defense before the Roman Rota

On 10 March 2017, during a meeting of the Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies, 757th Meeting, XVII Legislature), Mr. Renato Brunetta, a member of the Italian Parliament, posed an interpellation to the Sottosegretario di Stato per la Giustizia (Undersecretary of State for Justice), Mr. Gennaro Migliore, regarding the right of defense before the Roman Rota[1] in trials aimed at obtaining a declaration of nullity of marriage. In particular, Mr. Brunetta drew the Government’s attention to the fact that the Decano del Tribunale della Rota Romana (Dean of the Ecclesiastical Court), through a decree issued in December 2015, was preventing the parties to such trials from appointing their own defenders by claiming that prerogative for himself. The right of defense is enshrined in Article 6 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), to which the Holy See is not a party. The ECHR, however, is binding upon Italy, for which the same right is also a fundamental principle at the constitutional level.[2]

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The Venezuelan Crisis in the Italian Parliamentary Practice of 2017

Popular protests have been taking place in Venezuela at least since 2014: their targets are the Government’s crackdown on civil and political liberties and the grave economic crisis afflicting the country, which has inter alia resulted in skyrocketing inflation and a persistent lack of essential goods.

In December 2015, parliamentary elections were held and won by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a coalition of parties opposing President Nicolás Maduro and his United Socialist Party (PSUV). In the following months, President Maduro declared the state of emergency and assumed more powers, while the MUD started to collect signatures for a referendum to remove him from office before the natural end of his term. In October 2016, however, the National Electoral Council suspended the referendum process; new demonstrations against this decision took place.

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The Promotion of Human Rights in the Italian Parliamentary Practice of 2016

Italian Governments have long considered human rights protection as a fundamental guiding principle of their foreign policy. In a number of cases, Italy has thus used its diplomatic pressure to criticise human rights infringements committed by other States. In this area, Italy has increasingly acted in coordination with its European partners and in the framework of relevant international organisations, from the United Nations (UN) to the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe (CoE). Moreover, Italy has often referred explicitly to international human rights treaties to remind other countries of their legal obligations in the field.

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The Government’s Position Vis-à-vis Egypt on the Killing of the Italian National Giulio Regeni

At the beginning of 2016, the Italian national Giulio Regeni was murdered in Cairo in unclear circumstances. This soon became a major issue in the foreign policy of Italy and a cause of tension in its relations with Egypt. The event is here illustrated through the accounts given by the members of the Italian Government themselves, on the occasion of official reports to the Parliament. At the same time, some important political and legal aspects are also briefly addressed.

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