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.
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 485th MEETING, 18 SEPTEMBER 2015.
On 18 September 2015, during a meeting of the Chamber of Deputies, the Under-Secretary of State to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Mr Gianclaudio Bressa, answered a parliamentary question on the opening of humanitarian channels for migratory flows as well as possible measures to curb human trafficking. Mr Bressa stressed the need to achieve a European right to asylum and described the measures adopted by the Italian government. He stated:
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 478th MEETING, 9 SEPTEMBER 2015.
On 9 September 2015, during a question time at the Italian Chamber of Deputies, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Paolo Gentiloni Silveri, expressed the position of the Government on the initiatives aimed at suspending the Dublin III Regulation. The interrogating Member of Parliament had asked if and when the Italian Government will formally propose the suspension or the overcoming of the Dublin Regulation in order to establish a European Right of Asylum. The Minister stated:
SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC, XVII LEGISLATURE, 432nd MEETING, 16 APRIL 2015.
On 16 April 2015, the Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Filippo Bubbico intervened before the Senate of the Republic answering a parliamentary question concerning the legal status of children of people who benefit from international protection. At the outset, the Deputy Minister was asked to clarify whether it was true that, by means of a simple information circular, the Ministry of Home Affairs had intended to extend the acquisition of national citizenship on the basis of the ius soli principle to minors born in Italy from parents who benefit from international protection, similarly to what the law explicitly provides for minors born in Italy from stateless parents. Mr Bubbico said:
SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC, 4th PERMANENT COMMISSION (DEFENCE), XVII LEGISLATURE, 112th MEETING, 21 JANUARY 2015.
On 21 January 2015, the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Angelino Alfano, intervened in the Italian Senate in order to answer a parliamentary question concerning, inter alia, the actual purposes of the Triton mission undertaken on the European maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea. Mr Alfano recalled that:
SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC, XVII LEGISLATURE, 191st MEETING, 13 February 2014
On 13 February 2014, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, intervened before the Senate on the Enrica Lexie case. She expressed Italy’s serious concerns on the application of Indian anti-piracy and anti-terrorism legislation, which would run against the international efforts in fighting piracy. Moreover, the Minister criticised the stance taken by the UN Secretary-General, according to whom the dispute should be settled on a bilateral basis. The Minister eventually stressed that both NATO and the EU shared Italy’s concerns and supported the internationalisation of the dispute. She stated:
As for NATO, the Secretary-General just confirmed yesterday his sharing of our concerns and warnings in relation to the impact that the case of our marines might have on the entire framework of anti-piracy operations.
Thus, the reply given last Monday to a journalist by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, according to whom a negotiation on a bilateral basis of the marines case would be preferable to the involvement of the UN, despite not being new in its content, raised serious concerns and our greatest regret. The Secretary-General’s response is undoubtedly consistent with the traditional UN approach to judicial disputes between two Member States – a response, perhaps, where a misinterpreted consideration of impartiality toward two important members of the United Nations outbalances the attention that is due to the legal questions and matters of principle raised by Italy.
The point is, however, that the SUA Act, or its use as a ground for the indictment, had a substantial effect on the dispute. I dare to say – with all the respect that Italy has toward the United Nations system, which, moreover, I have always personally and frankly supported – that affirming at this point that such a case is a dispute between States is an irrelevant truism. And I believe that the reason is clear: the ongoing anti-piracy operations, in which we are taking part as our marines did, are grounded on several conventions on terrorism signed under the auspices of the United Nations, as well as on resolutions of the Security Council. These resolutions and these conventions are not only based on the common necessity to fight effectively piracy and terrorism, but also on the no less important necessity to prevent abuses and divergent interpretations of the definition of “terrorism” and “terrorist”. These notions are often used extensively, if not in an outright abusive way; it would thus be appropriate to establish a multilateral monitoring on the way national legislations in this field are interpreted and enforced.
What is more, we are no more the only ones to raise such concerns. Following the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council that was held last Monday, the European Union took the field to support Italy against the threat of an abuse of a legal framework which risks to jeopardise the entire anti-piracy international action. In this respect, too, I think that the response of the Secretary-General leaves something to be desired, as on this specific point we are not dealing any longer with a divergence or a dispute between Members of the United Nations, but with a critical mass of States, including four Members of the Security Council (two of which permanent Members), which raises a fundamental matter of principle.
She continued by saying that:
Italy has always coherently held the view that the case of the marines trespasses the ambit of bilateral relations, since it concerns the compliance with international law, including the principles of freedom of navigation, exclusive jurisdiction of the flag State, immunity of State agents acting in their official capacity, and the efforts of the international community in the fight against piracy. In fact, I reassert that our marines were taking part in an anti-piracy mission in accordance with international law, the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the Italian legislation enacting international anti-piracy norms, as the Government has affirmed in international fora. Therefore, we have constantly rejected the legitimacy of the jurisdiction of Indian judges and we have reiterated on several occasions that this jurisdiction is being exercised in contravention of the United Nations conventions on the law of the sea and of customary rules on functional immunity of State officials.
It is on the basis of these very considerations that, following the request of application of the SUA Act, we have further increased our pressures on the UN and, while since January we had decided to raise human rights concerns by means of an action before the High Commissioner, Ms Pillay, whom I am in touch with and will soon meet again in Geneva, as soon as the application of the SUA Act started being considered, we reacted strongly, as we are sure that this element goes far beyond the bilateral sphere.
Finally, she declared:
It is no more, it cannot be anymore a mere bilateral dispute, since what is at stake are the basic principles of the rule of law, and the application of anti-terrorism conventions and two Security Council resolutions authorising both the Atalanta operation (run by the EU) and the one named Ocean Shield .
The original Italian version of this speech can be downloaded here or found at www.senato.it/service/PDF/PDFServer/BGT/00747740.pdf.
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES AND SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC, 3rd AND 4th JOINT COMMISSIONS, XVII LEGISLATURE, 11 February 2014
On 11 February 2014, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, presented before the III and IV Commissions of the Chamber of Deputies and the 3rd and 4th Commissions of the Senate of the Republic the most recent updates in the Enrica Lexie case. The Minister opened her speech by mentioning the request by the Indian prosecutor to apply Indian anti-piracy and anti-terrorism legislation against the two Italian marines. She then presented the Italian defence and highlighted both the possible violation of human rights on the part of India and the commitment of the EU member states in the affair. She said:
You also know that our lawyers’ reaction has been very strong and, I think, very precise, radically contesting the possibility of using anti-terrorism legislation, as the Indian government had declared in the previous days. It is absolutely evident, in fact, that our marines are not terrorists nor pirates and on that ship, in that zone, on that day, they were acting in their official and institutional capacity in the name of the Italian government.
And she added:
In relation to the violation of human rights due to the lack of an indictment after two years, together with a restriction of their freedom, so that the two aspects are bound, we have also entered into contact with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who reserved the right to assess the situation.
I must acknowledge that all the twenty-eight member states [of the European Union] have had rather positive reactions. This affair is endangering the participation to the entire counter-piracy effort undertaken on the basis of the decisions of the United Nations and of European and national legislation. The High Representative [of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy] has spoken of enormous consequences precisely because an entire policy concretely started in the last years is being put into question.
She then concluded:
I recall that until recently, in other times, the same steps were met by declarations according to which this was essentially a bilateral issue between Italy and India. I just want to highlight that the fact that the European Union as such, and not only, came to take on responsibility for this represents a solid position that must be used. I also highlight this as a new element.
The Italian version of the statement can be downloaded here.