Back Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes two reports on Italy

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published today the report on its most recent periodic visit to Italy, which took place in May 2012, together with the Italian Government’s response. The Committee has also published the report and response concerning its ad hoc visit to Italy in June 2010.
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In the course of the 2012 visit, the CPT received a number of allegations of physical ill-treatment by State Police and Carabinieri officers, in particular in the Milan area and mostly concerning foreign nationals. Consequently, several recommendations are made in the report concerning the reinforcement of safeguards against ill-treatment. The conditions of detention observed by the Committee in law enforcement establishments were on the whole acceptable. However, material conditions were poor in the cells at the Florence and Palermo State Police Headquarters (Questura).  In their response, the Italian authorities state that the above-mentioned cells have been taken out of service and that alternative - more suitable - places of detention have been found.

As regards the detention of foreign nationals under aliens legislation, some allegations of excessive use of force by Carabinieri and State Police officers during search operations were received at the Bologna Identification and Expulsion Centre (CIE). Material conditions of detention were adequate in terms of living space; however, the male unit of the centre was in a poor state of repair, apparently due to repeated acts of vandalism by detainees. The CPT was favourably impressed by the health-care services and the work performed by the cultural mediators at the centre, but expressed concern about possible staff reductions in these areas in the context of announced budgetary cuts.  In their response, the Italian authorities inform the Committee about the temporary closure of the CIE in Bologna in order to carry out renovation work and state that the health-care staffing levels would be maintained when the centre reopened.

In relation to the prisons visited, inmates generally spoke favourably about the manner in which they were treated. However, at Vicenza Prison the CPT’s delegation received a number of allegations of physical ill-treatment (kicks and punches) and/or excessive use of force by prison staff. The Committee recommends that external bodies (including the responsible judicial supervisory authorities) be informed of the allegations described in the report and that clear reporting procedures be introduced. Material conditions of detention were in many respects adequate at the prisons visited, with the notable exception of Palermo Ucciardone Prison, where most of the detention units were in a poor state of repair and the level of hygiene left much to be desired. Nevertheless, serious overcrowding was a source of concern in all the establishments visited in 2012; for example, at Bari Prison, the CPT’s delegation found 11 inmates accommodated in a room measuring some 20 m2. The cramped conditions were made worse by a lack of purposeful activities; the CPT calls upon the Italian authorities to expand the range of activities on offer to prisoners, including vocational training and work opportunities. In respect of the so-called “41-bis” regime, the report questions the necessity of the 2009 legislative changes which have imposed further limitations on this specific category of inmates already subject to a very restrictive regime. The health-care facilities were of a good standard in the establishments visited, but ensuring the confidentiality of medical examinations of prisoners and of medical data remains problematic.

In their response, the Italian authorities inform the CPT of steps taken to eradicate ill-treatment at Vicenza Prison. Further, they focus extensively on the efforts invested in order to increase the overall capacity of the prison estate in the short term and provide an account of legislative measures aimed at promoting a more developed range of alternative measures to detention.
As regards the treatment of forensic psychiatric patients in the Judicial Psychiatric Hospitals (OPGs), the CPT expresses concern in its report as regards the low health-care staffing levels and almost total absence of psychologists observed at the OPG of Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto. In their response, the Italian authorities summarise the measures taken and the related organisational constraints linked to the postponement of the closure of the Judicial Psychiatric Hospitals (OPGs) and the delay in the planned transfer of forensic psychiatric patients to new facilities under the Mental Health Departments at the regional level.

The report on the 2010 ad hoc visit addresses the issues of suicide prevention in prisons and the transfer of responsibility for prison health care to regional health-care authorities. The system of accountability for ill-treatment by law enforcement officials and prison staff is also explored, including through an examination of the effectiveness of the investigations in three concrete cases.

The visit reports and government responses have been made public at the request of the Italian authorities and are available on the CPT’s website (