Europe's human rights court has ruled that the brutal 2001 beating of a G-8 summit protester by Italian police amounted to torture. Italy's activists have called on the government to urgently adopt a law against torture.
The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights slammed Italy for a crackdown on anti-globalization protesters at the 2001 G-8 summit in the northern Italian city of Genoa. In a ruling on Tuesday, the court also ordered Rome to compensate one of the victims, Arnaldo Cestaro, who was 62 years old at the time of the protest.
The court also said that Italy must change its laws in favor of criminalizing torture. Currently, torture is not a crime under Italian law.
The rights court's rulings are binding on the 47 states of the Council of Europe - the continent's human rights watchdog - of which Italy is a member.
Italy has three months to appeal against the ruling.
The 2001 G-8 summit was marked by violence as the anti-globalization protesters were attacked by police during a nighttime raid of a school in Genoa. Several demonstrators were severely beaten up, and the scuffle between the police and the protesters resulted in the shooting of an activist.
"Acts of violence took place after a police riot squad stormed the building to carry out a search," the court said in a statement, adding that Cestaro sustained acts of torture.
Europe's top human rights court also said that the Italian criminal legislation "was inadequate for the punishment of such acts, and not an effective deterrent against their repetition."
Several policemen who were not involved in the raid were charged after the incident but got off with light sentences, the court said, adding that the actual perpetrators were never brought to justice.
While the majority of some 100,000 protesters were peaceful during the Genoa conference, some set fire to vehicles and carried out acts of violence.
Following the court's ruling, Italy's human rights campaigners and parliamentarians called on the government to reform its current torture law.
"Justice in Strasbourg, with Italy condemned for a brutality which in Europe can be called torture. The fact that it is not a crime in Italy is shameful, dire," said Patrizio Gonnella, head of the Antigone human rights body.
Laura Boldrini, speaker of the European country's lower house of parliament, said the ruling was a "black page" in Italy's recent history, which "the new law certainly cannot erase."
"It (a new law) will, however, bring Italy into line on human rights," Boldrini said Tuesday, adding that it would "finally fill a gap which European judges, like all Italian citizens, consider intolerable."
The Tuesday ruling is likely to set a precedent for a number of other similar cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
shs/gsw (AP, AFP)