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Council of Europe: ECRI publishes its fifth report on Italy

The Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published its fifth report on Italy on 7 June 2016. The report identifies major improvements as well as great matters of concern on which ECRI has formulated recommendations. The publication of the report follows the analysis of official documents, a country visit by ECRI experts and a confidential dialogue between the latter and the Italian government. ECRI visited Italy between 13 and 18 September 2015, aiming to collect information on the development of the Italian legislation on racism and non-discrimination, hate speach, racist violence, immigration and public policies on integration, and LGBT* issues.  

In the report ECRI positively evaluates the strengthening of anti-racist and anti-discrimination laws and supports the adoption of the draft legislation that would facilitate the accession to citizenship for several foreign minors residing in Italy. Among the positive aspects of Italy’s efforts against racism, the report stresses also the country’s important engagement in migrants search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean sea. Moreover, ECRI underlines that the Observatory for security against discriminatory acts (Osservatorio per la sicurezza contro gli atti discriminatori, OSCAD) is a good tool to facilitate the report of hate crimes to authorities and improve communication between police forces and victims. The report also positively notices that the new Plan of action against racism includes measures to address homophobic and transphobic violence and hate. In the press release that followed the publication of the report, moreover, the Council of Europe's Secretary general, Thorbjorn Jagland, has welcomed the adoption of the legislation on same-sex civil unions.

Nonetheless, ECRI identifies a series of concerning matters. To start with, the current anti-discrimination legislation does not criminalise skin- and language-based discrimination and does not punish it adequately according to the report. Moreover, ECRI holds that the National office against racial discrimination (Ufficio nazionale antidiscriminazione razziale, UNAR) is not sufficiently independent and its mandate is excessively narrow. A further matter of concern identified in the report relates to the forced eviction of Roma from irregular settlements, too often carried out with no due respect of protection standards. Eventually, the report finds that sexual education in schools is excessively underdeveloped and subject to contestation despite improvements in legislation. Particularly concerning are the controversies over sexual education when it relates to sexuality and gender identity.

In light of the above concerns, ECRI’s recommendations focus on the necessity to render UNAR indipendent both de jure and de facto and to adopt measures in favour of education to tolerance in schools, with a particular focus on the respect for gender diversity and sexuality. Finally, the report recommends the respect of international standards in migrants push-back operations and in the eviction of Roma communities from irregular settlements.

During the confidential dialogue phase, monitored states’ governments can elaborate observations and request their publication in the report. The Italian government particularly underlined in its observations that the process of criminalisation of hate acts is already into place and public hate speeches can be punished according to the current legislation. Moreover, the Italian government maintains that racism and discrimination are currently recognised as aggravating factors to threat and defamation crimes.

ECRI is a Council of Europe monitoring body established in 1993 specialised in contrasting any form of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance, according to a human rights perspective.

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