Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Is Dictatorship On Its Way?

(Photo: Freedom! by PotironLight's).

On Tuesday July 8th, 2008, several thousands people gathered in Piazza Navona, Rome, to protest against two new justice bills introduced to the Parliament by the Italian Government. They were 15,000 according to the police and 100,000 according to the magazine Micromega, which promoted the demostration (lemonde.fr, elpais.com and micromega-online)*.

On June 16th, 2008, the Popolo della Libertà coalition - which holds the majority of seats at the Italian Parliament - presented a bill stating that some legal proceedings are more urgent than others, which are instead likely to be suspended for one year (lastampa.it).

In the meantime, the Center-Right coalition is also introducing a bill to grant retroactive judicial immunity to the President of the Republic, the President of the Senate, the President of the Chamber of Deputies and the Prime Minister himself (repubblica.it).

As a matter of fact, these two bills represent a clear and evident attempt to subjugate the judiciary.

As Mr Giuseppe D'Avanzo wrote, attacking the judiciary the Government deprives the Italian Parliament as well, overwhelming the fundamental principle of the balance of powers (repubblica.it).

According to the Minister of Justice, Mr Angelino Alfano, the suspension of some legal proceedings - concerning facts that happened before June 2002 and establishing penalties under 10 years of imprisonment - will speed up and simplify Italian justice, which is too congested and slow (repubblica.it).

Actually, this bill clashes with article 3 of the Italian Constitution: "All citizens have equal social status and are equal before the law, without regard to their sex, race, language, religion, political opinions, and personal or social conditions.".

All the more reason, its practical effects on justice will be devastating: according to the Associazione Nazionale Magistrati, more than 100,000 legal proceedings will be suspended. Magistrates won't ever be able to punish crimes such as kidnapping, extortion, robbery, rape, conspiracy, tax-evasion, corruption, clandestine immigration, family sexual abuse, culpable murder owing to medical mistakes or to car accidents, rubbish trafficking (repubblica.it).

Unfortunately, Mr Silvio Berlusconi himself happens to be involved in a legal proceeding for his alleged attempt to corrupt the British solicitor David Mills (bbc.co.uk). This legal proceeding would benefit of the new bill too (repubblica.it).

As a group of 100 University teachers of constitutional law publicly explained, granting judicial retrospective immunity to the Prime Minister has no equivalent in any western democracy (repubblica.it). The attempt to introduce it in Italy calls to mind a referendum set in Zimbabwe on February, 2000: aiming to confiscate land owned by white people without any compensation, that referedum would also have made Mr Robert Mugabe's government immune from prosecution for any illegal acts committed while in office (wikipedia.org).

In Italy, Summer is not the best season for justice. In July 1994, the newly-appointed Silvio Berlusconi's govermnent presented a bill that, aiming to reduce preventive detention, set free many corrupted politicians. The bill, known as "decreto salvaladri" [save-thieves bill] was then withdrawned owing to the resignations of the team of judges of Milan and to popular indignation (wikipedia.org).

In July 2006, the newly-appointed Romano Prodi's government - seconded by the center-right coalition - approved a general pardon law that had damaging effects on citizens' safety and freed many prisoners convicted for corruption crimes (indipendent.co.uk, guardian.co.uk and sole24ore.com).

What is the political opposition doing to prevent this judiciary putsch to take place? Actually, the leader of the Partito Democratico Mr Walter Veltroni rejected the invite to support the manifestation of July 8th in Rome made to him by the leader of L'Italia dei Valori party Mr Antonio Di Pietro (corriere.it). Mr Veltroni explained that he prefers to collect a huge petition and set a public manifestation on justice in October (repubblica.it).

The problem is that the attempt to get rid of democracy is going on right now. Unfortunately, the Partito Democratico seems unable to perceive this risk: on June 24th, his representative at the Italian Senate, Ms Anna Finocchiaro, explained that the party has no prejudice against a bill granting immunity to the Prime Minister (repubblica.it).

As Mr Umberto Eco said, "When the majority asserts that right is always on his side and the minority doesn't dare to react, democracy is in danger" (micromega-online) and as Ms Barbara Spinelli explained: "We are in urgent need of awekening. We need it even if few people will wake up, because the narcosis of minds, language, vision and memories is huge and in progress" (micromega-online).

The good news is that yesterday, in Piazza Navona, a new alliance has taken the first steps: the Girotondi movement, L'Italia dei Valori, Mr Beppe Grillo's movement, fractions and individuals belonging to La Sinistra l'Arcobaleno and to the Partito Democratico began to compare their different ideas and words under the flag of constitutional legality.

Trying to minimize the success of the event, the Italian press focused on the harshness of satire that Mr Beppe Grillo and Ms Sabina Guzzanti showed in piazza Navona. Far from being a risk for democracy, satire proves that the event was really free.

Listening to the speakers of the event is the best way to get your own idea about the whole thing:
It will be a long narrow street, but we have no alternative: united we stand, divided we fall.
"A forza di sentir dire che il diritto si riduce all'economia, c'è il caso che l'inesperto e il dilettante (che è anche peggiore) di filosofia, si metta a proclamare che il diritto consiste unicamente nel far tutti quanti il comodo proprio".

[Hearing so often that law is turned into economics, the unpractised or the amateur philosopher (which is even worst) may start proclaiming that law consists just in doing everything you like at your own leisure].

(Piero Calamandrei, Fede nel diritto, 1940).
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* In July 8th, 2008, I was in Piazza Navona personally and I'm not able to estimate how many people were there. But I can say that the square was filled with people. Considering that most of us had to go there at their expenses during a working day, in my opinion this was an extraordinary result.