Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1985

Italy is a democratic, multiparty republic with a parliamentary
system of government. Legislative power is vested 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 representatives of the regions.
Terrorist violence of both the left and right has declined in
recent years due to the effective work of police and
magistrates and, in essence, the people's rejection. Although
terrorism has yet to be completely overcome, its considerable
reduction has freed law enforcement resources for the struggle
against organized crime, which continues to be a serious
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 medium-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 rigorously observed in practice.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
a. Political Killing
In 1985, there was one confirmed killing by an Italian
terrorist organization, the Red Brigades. The victim was Ezio
Tarantelli, a prominent labor economist. Efforts over past
years by terrorists of the far left and far right to provoke
the forces of order into taking extreme security measures have
failed. Government and law enforcement agencies have used the
emergency powers granted them to fight the terrorist threat
with care and moderation.
There are indications that Italian terrorists have received
some support from outside the country, particularly from
extremist Middle Eastern groups, and there are continuing
allegations of direct or indirect East European support.
Terrorist actions claimed by Middle Eastern groups, including
bombings and attacks on individuals, increased in 1985 and
resulted in 3 deaths and more than 60 wounded. A Middle
Eastern connection is suspected in a number of incidents for
which no group claimed responsibility. In addition, an Arab
terrorist group killed 12 persons and injured many more in an
attack on the Israeli airline passenger ticket counter at Rome
airport in December.
b. Disappearance
There have been no cases of disappearance linked to or
condoned by the State or its agents. There were no
kidnappings by political terrorist groups in Italy in 1985.
However, an apparently foreign group continues to claim
responsibility for the 1983 disappearance of a teenage Italian
girl, Emanuela Orlandi. The group has called for the release
from prison of Mehmet Ali Agca, who is serving a life sentence
for the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981.
Ms. Orlandi is still missing.
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 not employed by officials. Law enforcement officers
accused of breaking these rules have faced criminal charges.
When a Mafia suspect died in police custody in August 1985,
several officers were immediately suspended, and an
investigation was begun. 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.
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. Maximum
periods of preventive detention are substantially less for
lesser crimes. 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. Authorities hope that streamlined
judicial procedures will help reduce the number of prisoners,
currently about 20,000, awaiting trial or appeals in Italian
jails. There is no forced or compulsory labor.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
A fair public trial is assured by law and observed in
practice. Counsel is provided for the accused, free 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.
There was considerable debate in 1985 over procedures which,
in certain types of cases, provide for reduced sentences for
confessed offenders in return for testimony against associates
and accomplices. This system proved very effective in the
Government's effort to combat terrorism and is now in part
being employed against organized crime. There is no evidence
of any systematic abuse of the procedure by the authorities.
However, critics maintain that the procedure allows too much
latitude to individual magistrates, that it violates the
principle of ecjual penalties for equivalent crimes, and that
the testimony thus obtained, particularly in organized crime
investigations, may not always be reliable. The issue has
sparked a wide-ranging and spirited debate in the press,
government circles, and other forums.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
In Italy, the concept of the privacy of the home is legally
safeguarded and generally 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 Rights, 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 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. 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 an 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
position of Italy's 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, all religions are free to organize
and proselytize within the limits imposed by the laws
governing public order. The Government is in the process of
reaching agreements with other religious groups to define
their rights and standing. Individuals are free to profess
and practice any religious faith.
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 their 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 1985.
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 periodically.
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 status
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. Nongovernmental organizations are free to
investigate conditions in Italy, to attend trials, and to
publish their findings . 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 Human Rights, and Caritas
International .
Amnesty International's principal concern in its 1985 Report
(covering the year 1984) continues to be the excessive length
of judicial proceedings in what it called "political" cases.
Freedom House rated Italy "free."
Italy is a prosperous, developed country with a population of
57 million (1985). Per capita gross national product in 1984
was $6,843. As a country possessing an industrial market
economy, Italy encourages the ownership of property alone or
in association with others. The Government provides special
funds for investment in southern Italy, whose development, for
historical reasons, has been slower than that of the north.
Education and economic and social services are generally
available to all without discrimination of any kind.
According to 1985 statistics, life expectancy at birth was
74.6 years and the infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births
was 11.2.
Italy has a comprehensive body of law and regulation that
outlaws child labor and ensures payment of a reasonable
minimum wage and safe and healthy working conditions. Both
government authorities and unions make significant efforts to
ensure that these regulations are universally enforced. The
proliferation of small-scale, family-run businesses and
manufacturing enterprises _in Italy's dynamic private sector
means, however, that despite enforcement efforts, violations
of these norms sometimes occur.
Women generally have equal status under the law, but they are
engaged in a continuing effort to maintain and strengthen
their rights. Women participate freely in social and
political life and continue to expand their economic role,
although they are under represented in the professions and
management. There are legal limitations on women's property
rights within marriage which derive from traditional Italian
social values. Strong private-sector demand for female labor
has ensured a very low level of unemployment among women who
constitute about 27 percent of the labor force.