Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1986

Italy is a democratic, multiparty republic with a
parliamentary system of government. Legislative power is
invested in the Parliament, which is directly and freely
elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage. Executive
authority is concentrated in the Council of Ministers. Italy
has an independent judiciary. The Chief of State, the
President, is elected by Parliament and representives of
Italy's 20 regions.
Terrorist violence of both the left and right has remained at
low levels in recent years, due to the effective work of
police and magistrates and its overwhelming rejection by the
people as a whole. Although terrorism has yet to be
completely overcome, its considerable reduction has freed
increased law enforcement resources for the struggle against
organized crime, which remains a serious problem.
Italy has an industrialized market economy ranking among the
top 10 in the world in gross national product. It is
characterized by sizable government ownership in the primary
industrial sectors and by a dynamic private sector, especially
at the level of small and medixom-sized companies.
The drafters of Italy's post-World War II Constitution were
strongly influenced by Roman Catholic and social democratic
traditions. The Constitution contains guarantees of political
and civil rights that are generally observed in practice.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
a. Political Killing
In 1986, there was one confirmed killing by an Italian
terrorist organization, the Red Brigades. The victim was
Lando Conti, former Mayor of Florence. A related group
carried out a failed assassination attempt in which a member
of the terrorist command was killed. The would-be victim was
an economic adviser to the Prime Minister. Levels of
terrorism have dropped in recent years. Italian terrorists of
the far left now generally concentrate on sporadic attacks on
persons associated with the defense establishment, NATO, and
government economic policy.
Various criminal investigations have yielded evidence that
Middle Eastern groups involved in terrorism have been active
in Italy, some possibly supported by governments in the area.
However, the only confirmed attack of Middle Eastern origin
involving Italy in 1986 occurred in April, when an explosive
device killed four people on a TWA flight from Rome to
Athens. It is unclear whether the bomb was brought aboard the
airplane in Rome or at another point along its route.
b. Disappearance
There were no cases of disappearance linked to or condoned by
the State or its agents. There were no kidnapings by
political terrorist groups in 1986.
c. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
Freedom from torture is guaranteed by law and respected in
practice. Cruel and degrading punishment is forbidden by law
and is not generally employed by officials. Law enforcement
officers accused of breaking these rules have faced criminal
charges. In its 1986 report covering 1985, Amnesty
International reported the death in police custody of
Salvatore Marinto and said it had information indicating the
body showed signs of torture by the authorities. The
Government subsequently arrested 18 officers for involvement
in the death. Fourteen of the 18 were later released
Conditions of confinement vary, and some places of detention
are outdated and crowded but not inhumane or degrading.
Prisoners charged or convicted of terrorist acts are generally
separated from other prisoners. Amnesty International in its
1986 report stated that one prisoner held for 5 years in
preventive detention and reportedly suffering ill health had
been denied medical treatment.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Police procedures in Italy are carefully circumscribed by law
and judicial oversight. Arbitrary arrest is not practiced.
Anyone detained by the authorities must be charged within 48
hours. In normal criminal cases, the duration of pretrial
detention permitted varies according to the gravity of the
crime. Under reforms passed in 1984, the maximum that any
person may be held in preventive detention, even for the most
serious crimes, is 6 years, and no more than 2 years at each
step of the trial and the long appeals process. Nevertheless,
Amnesty International has complained about the excessive
length of pretrial detention. As a safeguard against abuse,
"Liberty Tribunals" are empowered to review evidence in cases
of persons awaiting trial and to decide whether continued
detention is warranted.
There is no forced or compulsory labor. Exile as a form of
punishment is unknown.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
A fair trial is assured by law and observed in practice in
almost all cases. Counsel is provided for the accused, free
of charge if necessary. The judiciary is independent of the
executive, and there are no political or security courts. All
cases may be appealed to the highest appellate court, the
Court of Cassation. There are no political prisoners.
Considerable debate continued in 1986 over procedures which
allow reduced sentences for confessed offenders willing to
testify against associates and accomplices. The system was
used effectively to combat terrorism and is now being employed
against organized crime.
Although there is no evidence of a systematic abuse of the
procedure by authorities, a series of highly publicized
acquittals on appeal in 1986 brought increased criticism of
magistrates for overreliance on it. Critics maintain that
such plea-bargaining allows too much latitude to individual
magistrates, who may be tempted to make an arrest before
obtaining evidence to corroborate testimony by plea-bargainers
(which may not always be reliable — particularly in organized
crime investigations). It is also claimed that the procedures
violate the principle of equal penalties for equal crimes.
A number of political parties and private organizations have
banded together to promote a series of national referendums on
judicial reform which are scheduled to be held in 1987. If
passed, they would bring major changes in Italian court
procedures and rules, as well as in the use of preventive
detention. Tho Government is also studying proposals for
judicial reform which, if passed in the meantime, could render
some, if not all, of these referendums unnecessary.
Amnesty International has complained that, in one case in
1985, two defendants were charged with crimes for which they
had already been tried.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
The concept of the privacy of the home is legally safeguarded
and respected by the authorities. Searches and electronic
monitoring may be carried out only under judicial warrant and
in carefully defined circumstances.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Free speech and a free press are assured under Italy's
democratic political system, which allows full expression of a
wide spectrum of political views. Although there is no
censorship, publications may be seized for violations of
obscenity laws or for defamation of state institutions. These
powers are seldom invoked. Government-run radio and
television are politicized at the administrative level but are
open to widely differing views. A large number of private
broadcasters air vigorous debate on political and social
issues .
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Italian citizens' right of free assembly is limited only in
cases where national security or public safety is endangered.
Trade unions are not government controlled, and their right to
organize, engage in collective bargaining, and strike are
fully protected by the Constitution. They associate with
international labor bodies freely and without interference.
According to Government figures, about 40 percent of the work
force is organized. Professional and employer associations
also organize and represent their constituencies freely.
c. Freedom of Religion
Italy's relations with the Roman Catholic Church are governed
by a 1984 agreement (Concordat) between the Italian Government
and the Holy See, ratified in 1985. The new agreement,
replacing the Concordat of 1929, recognizes the rights and
place of the Church but no longer accords it the status of a
state religion. The Roman Catholic Church continues
informally to enjoy special standing in Italy because of the
presence of the Vatican and because the overwhelming majority
of Italians are at least nominally Roman Catholic.
Nevertheless, persons are free to profess and practice any
religious faith. All religions are free to organize and
proselytize within the limits imposed by the laws governing
public order. The Government has reached agreements with some
other religious groups to define their rights and standing.
Roman Catholic religious instruction is offered in public
schools as an optional subject.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Italian citizens may travel freely both within the country and
abroad. Emigration is unrestricted. Citizens who leave are
guaranteed the right to return, and the Constitution forbids
deprivation of citizenship for political reasons. Italy has
been a haven for many persons fleeing persecution in other
countries. There were no cases of forced repatriation of
political refugees in 1986.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Italy is ruled democratically under its free parliamentary
system. Although the Constitution outlaws the Fascist party,
a wide range of organized and active political parties exists
from the far left of the political spectrum to the far right.
Election campaigns are free and open, and voting is by secret
ballot. The two chambers of Parliament and regional,
provincial, and municipal councils are elected at regular
intervals. Opposition groups are active and are frequently
able to alter or reject government policies. The regions of
Trentino-Alto Adige and Val D'Aosta are organized under
special statutes aimed at safeguarding the rights of their
respective German- and French-speaking minorities.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
The Italian Government and nongovernmental human rights
organizations support human rights around the world. Italy
participates fully in various international human rights
organizations. Political parties and religious groups
participate in activities related to human rights.
Organizations active in human rights affairs include Amnesty
International, the Official Interministerial Committee for the
Rights of Man, the Institute of Humanitarian Law, and Caritas
International .
Nongovernmental organizations are free to investigate
conditions in Italy, attend trials, and publish their
findings. For example, in 1986 a number of suicides among
recently conscripted army recruits drew widespread attention
to the basic training system and to the traditional hazing of
newcomers by more senior recruits. In addition to the Defense
Ministry's official investigations, political parties,
newspapers, and private organizations (including pacifist
organizations) have examined and reported on the issue in
detail. Statistics indicate that the suicide rate among
Italian recruits is lower than in other NATO conscript
armies. However, some of these reports have been critical of
the armed forces. A wide range of proposals, both official
and nongovernmental, have been made for the improvement of
conscription, training, and barracks regimen.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Language, or Social Status
Food, shelter, health care, and education are available to all
inhabitants regardless of race, religion, sex, ethnic
background, or political opinion.
Women generally have equal status under the law and
participate freely in social and political life, though they
are under represented in the professions and management and
continue to work to expand their role. There are legal
limitations on women's property rights in marriage which
derive from traditional social practices.
Minimum work and safety standards are established by law and
buttressed and extended in collective labor contracts. The
basic law of 1923 provides for a maximum work week of 48
hours — no more than 6 days per week and 8 hours per day. The
8-hour day may be exceeded for some special categories. Most
collective labor agreements provide for a 36- to 38-hour
week. Overtime may not exceed 2 hours per day or an average
of 12 hours per week.
There is no minimum wage set under Italian law; basic wages
and salaries are set forth in collective labor agreements.
National collective labor agreements set forth minimum
standards to which individual employment agreements must
conform. In the absence of agreement between the parties, the
courts may step in to determine fair wages on the basis of
practice in related activities or related collective
agreements .
Basic health and safety standards and guidelines for
compensation for on-the-job injury are set forth in an
extensive body of law and regulations. In most cases, these
standards are exceeded in collective bargaining agreements.
Under current legislation, no child under 15 years of age may
be employed (with some specified exceptions). The Ministry of
Labor, having consulted with the labor organizations, may
exceptionally authorize the employment on specific jobs of
children over 12 years of age. The minimum age is 15 for men
employed in dangerous, fatiguing, and unsanitary work; 16 for
men employed: underground; in quarries, mines, and tunnels
without mechanical vehicles; in weight lifting and carrying;
in loading and unloading sulphur ovens in Sicily; and in
occupations harmful to the workers' morale. No worker under
18 years may be employed in driving and pulling trucks and
carriages, or in jobs for the manufacture, handling, and
salvaging of explosives. No women, regardless of age, are
permitted to be employed underground, in quarries, mines, or
tunnels. Only women over 21 are allowed to work on dangerous,
fatiguing, and unsanitary jobs, on the cleaning and servicing
of engines, or on moving machinery.