Domenica, 21 Ottobre 2018
ROME

Challenging Strasbourg ruling puts prisons in spotlight

English
© ANSA

Rome, April 10 - Italy has formally challenged a
ruling by the European Court of Human Rights ordering Italy to
correct the "degrading and inhumane conditions" in its prisons
and to pay 100,000 euros in damages to seven inmates.
In January the Strasbourg-based court harshly criticized
authorities for holding prisoners in crammed cells, specifically
seven men who have been held at prisons in Busto Arsizio and
Piacenza, both located in northern Italy.
The inmates had fewer than three square meters of space
each.
Giovanni Tamburino, the head of Italy's department of
corrections, said the appeal was aimed at giving authorities
more time to address the issue.
"The year we have to abide by the verdict will begin from
the time Strasbourg rules" on the appeal, he said.
At the time of the January ruling, Italian President
Giorgio Napolitano said Italy should be ashamed by the court's
words, while Justice Minister Paola Severino said she wasn't
shocked by the court's criticisms.
"I am deeply humbled but unfortunately, today's sentence of
the European Court of Human Rights does not surprise me," said
Severino.
Three days after the January ruling, Premier Mario Monti
proposed a measure allocating 16 million euros for prisoner work
programs aimed at relieving overcrowding.
The country's prison conditions have long been the source
of criticism from human rights groups.
In December, the Permanent Observatory on Prison Deaths
reported that inmate suicides in Italy are 20 times that of the
general population, caused mostly by "environmental factors" and
"illegal" detention conditions.
The same month, Monti's administration issued a decree
allowing prisoners to serve the last 18 months of their sentence
under house arrest.
Italy's decision Wednesday to challenge the Strasbourg
ruling was blasted by prisoners' rights group Antigone for
"buying time" to correct a problem "that should be fixed
immediately".
"It's a shyster's trick," said Patrizio Gonnella, the
group's president. "It would have been better for Italy to roll
up its sleeves and start working right away to bring its prisons
within the law".
Italy's corrections chief said Italy's problems lie in its
lack of prisons.
"If you look at the 47 countries in Europe, Italy is second
only to Serbia when it comes to the lack of prison beds for
every prisoner," said Tamburino.
"The situation is serious. Italy is not above average when
it comes to the incarceration rate. The problem is the number of
prison structures.
"In 2008, we hit the alarming ratio of 130 prisoners for
every 100 spaces.
"We must work in two directions: increasing prison space
while lowering the prison population".
The ruling in January was the latest in a long string of
fines and penalties issued against Italy over the past year for
a variety of offences.
Italy picked up a record haul of fines in 2012 at the
European Court of Human Rights, which ordered it to pay a total
of 120 million euros last year to citizens whose rights had not
been respected, according to a report released Wednesday.
The figure is the highest annual fines total ever collected
by any of the 47 states that are members of the Council of
Europe.
Italy is regularly fined by the court for the slowness of
its legal system, which means Italians' right to have justice in
a reasonable time frame is frequently infringed upon.
Second to Italy for human rights fines in 2012 was Turkey
with 23 million euros - over five times less than Italy.

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