The Legality of Italy’s Export of Arms

On 17 July 2017, during a Parliamentary debate on the ongoing war in Yemen, the Sottosegretario di Stato per gli Affari esteri e la Cooperazione internazionale (Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation), Mr. Vincenzo Amendola, presented the stance of the Italian Government vis-à-vis the conflict between the Houthi rebels and the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. The request for military support from President Hadi’s government, which enjoys wide international recognition, has been accepted by a coalition of States, led by Saudi Arabia. Before the Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies, 835th Meeting, XVII Legislature) Mr. Amendola qualified the government as the legitimate authority in Yemen. He described the situation as follows: 

In 2014, there was a true subversion of the institutional order from the Houthis, carried out by paramilitary militias. The coup interrupted the process of transition that was in place and resulted in the destitution of President Hadi and the fall of the Yemeni Parliament. Given the situation and the worsening of the terrorist threat brought about by Al Qaeda in great part of the Yemeni territory, which took advantage of the power vacuum in the country, a military intervention upon request and sustained by the legitimate government was launched by a coalition of States formed by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Sudan, Egypt and Morocco. 

Allegations of a violation of international humanitarian law as a result of the bombings carried out by Saudi Arabia led to questioning the export of arms to Riyadh. On this issue, too, the Undersecretary explained the Italian position. The obligations applicable to Italy as to the export of arms derive from domestic, European and international legal instruments. However, Mr. Amendola only mentioned the domestic framework and reminded that: 

The exports of arms are governed by Law no. 185 of 1990 and its subsequent amendments, and the authorizations for licenses involve different Ministries and authorities, as to the analysis of the content of the single operation as well as in terms of opinions for the export to non-EU/NATO countries. 

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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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The Italian Government’s position on the referendum on the self-determination of Catalonia

In September 2017 the Parliament of Catalonia, a region enjoying autonomous status within Spain, passed legislation to enable the holding of a binding referendum on self-determination. Claiming a breach of the indissoluble unity of the Nation as guaranteed by Article 2 of the Constitution, the Spanish Government brought the law before the Spanish Constitutional Court and threatened to suspend the regional autonomy of Catalonia should the referendum be effectively held. The Court pre-emptively suspended the law, and later declared it unconstitutional and void due to both the lack of competence of the Government of Catalonia in calling a referendum on a matter of Spanish sovereign authority and the fact that its approval by the Parliament of Catalonia did not comply with voting procedures. In the weeks preceding the referendum, Spanish law enforcement authorities started to seize ballot boxes and occupy Catalan ministries to search for evidence of the breach of Spanish law. Some of the key figures of the Catalan pro-independence movement were arrested and put under accusation for sedition. Tension between the parties rose, and people started to take the streets both in Madrid and Barcelona.

On 29 September 2017, during an urgent question time taking place at the Chamber of Deputies (861st Meeting, XVII Legislature), the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Vincenzo Amendola, was asked about the Italian Government’s position on the promotion of the referendum on self-determination by the Catalan authorities.

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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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Minister Plenipotentiary Tiriticco on the inchoate right to human dignity

NEW YORK, 71st GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEETING ON THE REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE, 27 OCTOBER 2016

On 27 October 2016, at the 71st General Assembly Meeting on the Report of the International Court of Justice, Minister Plenipotentiary Andrea Tiriticco, Director for International Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reaffirmed Italy’s abidance by the international rule prohibiting the use of force in inter-State relations. In his words:

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