Sunday, 30 September 2007

Are We Sending a Man to Torture?

(Photo: The Scream, by 3arabawy) Italy wants to repatriate Mr Nassim Saadi, a Tunisian citizen acquitted of international terrorism charges who would face the risk of torture in his own country, where he was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment. Sunday, September 14th, the Italian authorities have rejected Mr Saadi’s request for political asylum, while the European Court of Human Rights has formally asked Italy not to expel Mr Saadi to Tunisia, according to the 3rd article of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Ms Julia Hall, senior Europe and Central Asia researcher at
Human Rights Watch, reports that “Assurances of humane treatment from Tunisia won’t protect Nassim Saadi from torture, and the Italian government knows it. Instead of sending people back to face ill-treatment, Rome should put pressure on Tunis to stop abusing prisoners.” (
Mr Saadi’s expulsion would take place owing to the Pisanu law of July 2005, which allows the
Ministero degli Interni (Home Office) to repatriate people suspected of working for terroristic organizations. While this law is going to expire at the end of the year, the Italian Constitutional Court will give its opinion on it in November 20th (Agi and tlaxcala).
The Italian police arrested Mr Nassim Saadi in October 2002. Mr Saadi was charged with international terrorism, being supspected of arranging a supposed suicide attack for
Al Qaeda (rainews24). In May 2005 Mr Saadi was acquitted of international terrorism charges, even if at the same time the court of Milan sentenced him to 4 years and 6 months of imprisonment for criminal conspiracy and forgery ( In August 2006, Mr Saadi was unprisoned for elapsed legal terms and then brought to the temporary permanence centre of via Corelli, in Milan, waiting for expulsion (La Stampa). The European Court for Human Rights started to examine the case of Mr Nassim Saadi in July 2007 (
According to Mr Kevin Jon Heller, "Saadi v. Italy is just one of many recent attempts to create a 'national security' exception to the absolute prohibition on deporting individuals to face torture." (
Reporting on the case,
Amnesty International explained that: "At present, human rights law is clear. The absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment means that states are obliged to ensure that their representatives do not engage in torture and other ill-treatment, no matter the circumstances. They must bring to justice those responsible for these acts and ensure redress to the victims. The prohibition also means that states may not expose people to risks of torture or other ill-treatment in other countries. Thus they cannot lawfully send someone to any place where they face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment. These rules hold true, no matter the circumstances, including where the person concerned is suspected of involvement in terrorism." (
Even if it’s so difficult to investigate and put under arrest people suspected of terrorism, there is no reason for complicity on torture.

"We have beaten you, Winston. We have broken you up. You have seen what your body is like. Your mind is in the same state. I do not think there can be much pride left in you. You have been kicked and flogged and insulted, you have screamed with pain, you have rolled on the floor in your own blood and vomit. You have whimpered for mercy, you have betrayed everybody and everything. Can you think of a single degradation that has not happened to you?" (George Orwell, 1984, part III, ch. III, 1949).

"– Kameraden, ich bin der Letze! (Compagni, io sono l’ultimo!) – […] Vorrei poter raccontare che fra di noi, gregge abietto, una voce si fosse levata, un mormorio, un segno di assenso. Ma nulla è avvenuto. Siamo rimasti in piedi, curvi e grigi, a capo chino, e non ci siamo scoperta la testa che quando il tedesco ce l’ha ordinato. La botola si è aperta, il corpo ha guizzato atroce; la banda ha ripreso a suonare, e noi, nuovamente ordinati in colonna, abbiamo sfilato davanti agli ultimi fremiti del morente." {– Kameraden, ich bin der Letze! (Mates, I am the last one!) – […] I would like to tell that amongst us, despicable flock, a voice stood up, a murmur, a sign of assent. But nothing happened. We stood on our feet, bent and grey, and we didn’t uncover our head till the German ordered us to do it. The trap door opened, the body darted atrociously; the band turned back to play and, drown up again in a column, we marched past the last quivers of the dying man} (
Primo Levi, Se questo è un uomo, 1958).

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Will Pinocchio Listen to Mr Grillo?

(Photo: Pinocchio, by Gnegnet).

Saturday, September 8th, more than 300,000 Italians met up in the whole country and the world over to sign a draft bill proposed by Mr Beppe Grillo.

The famous comic artist has been leading for years a tough protest against Italian political parties, turning his blog into the most known and active one in the country.

Calling up Italians to join the Vaffanculo Day (literally "Fuck You Day"), Mr Grillo succeeded in forcing the media to debate his political proposal (

Mr Grillo’s supporters gathered to claim three radical changes:

  1. Citizens have the right to choose the candidates for the Italian Parliament.
  2. No MP can be in office for more than two mandates.
  3. Those citizens who have been convicted on first instance can’t be in office as MP at all.
The whole political system, with the exception of Mr Antonio Di Pietro's Italia dei Valori, rejected Mr Grillo’s proposal as an anti-political menace to democracy. Almost all Italian MPs refuse to acknowledge Mr Grillo’s draft bill, regretting his fiery tones and his words aiming to replace the political parties with the government of the citizens themselves (
Italian opinion makers and journalists showed varied opinions. Mr Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the former Italian President, invited Mr Grillo to acknowledge the role of political parties and to take into account the possibility of making his movement itself a new party (
Mr Eugenio Scalfari, la Repubblica's founder, condamned Mr Grillo’s proposal explaining that assembly government is the ante-room of dictatorships (
The political scientist Giovanni Sartori marked the differences between his own view and Mr Grillo’s one, but said that anyway a gust of wind carrying off the miasmata of the Italian Second Republic will make him really feel relieved (
The Resistance historian Giovanni De Luna warned that Mr Grillo’s movement is pointing at some of the main political issues of the country (La Stampa), while on the same paper the liberal journalist Barbara Spinelli wrote that Mr Grillo is not anti-political, but he actually shows and reports the parties’ unfaithfulness to their voters (
Going into the matter, at present the candidacies for the Italian Parliament are chosen by the parties instead of the citizens. Italian politicians have a very high average age and many MPs are in office since the ’60s, preventing young people to take their place. As Mr Grillo reports, 24 current Italians MPs convicted for different crimes are still in office and nobody asked them to resign (
Let's give for granted that the Constitution is worth dying for and that political parties are an irreplaceable element of democracy, as article 49 clearly explains. Anyhow, Mr Grillo’s draft bill aims to deepen the participation of citizens into the life of the country and is indeed widely acceptable.
But will lying Italy really listen to its "Grillo parlante", the talking cricket who is Pinocchio's conscience in Carlo Collodi's tale? Recent history would make us think it won't listen.
Between 1992 and 1994, indeed, the claim for freedom and justice concerning the inquiries on the bribes of ‘Tangentopoli’ lead to a very opposite end.
"I magistrati di Milano invocavano un ritorno generale alla legalità, ma nell’Italia degli anni ’90 questo non era chiedere poco. Interpretata alla lettera, quella richiesta significava che molte famiglie italiane avrebbero dovuto iniziare a porsi una serie di domande decisamente scomode sul proprio comportamento, su quanto la cultura politica dominante fosse anche la loro stessa cultura."
[The judges of Milan Public Prosecutor’s Office called for a general return to lawfullness, but on the Italy of the 90’s that was asking a lot. Interpreted literally, that request meant that many Italian families should have begun to ask themselves many uneasy questions on their own behaviour. They should have asked themselves if the dominant political culture was their own culture too.]
(Paul Ginsborg, L’Italia del tempo presente. Famiglia, società civile, Stato. 1980-1996, ch. VIII).