ERRC Letter to Italian Prime Minister

07 March 2000

On March 7, 2000, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, sent a letter to Italian Prime Minister Mr Massimo D'Alema to express concern at group expulsions of Roma from Italy. The expulsions took place following a series of allegedly abusive raids on March 3 and 4. In the letter, the ERRC urged Prime Minister D'Alema to provide the public with an explanation as to the legal grounds for the action and to condemn forthwith policies targeting Roma for group expulsion from Italy. Additionally, the ERRC stated that the Italian government should provide transportation back to Italy to those persons expelled on March 3 and 4. The ERRC further urged Prime Minister D'Alema to initiate thorough investigation into allegations that officers used excessive force while detaining individuals for expulsion and destroyed property belonging to Roma, and to punish strictly officers guilty of abuse. The text of the letter follows:

Honourable Prime Minister D'Alema,

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, is deeply concerned about reports of group deportations of Roma from Italy.

According to media reports, eyewitness testimony provided to the ERRC and eyewitness testimony provided to the Italian non-governmental organisation ARCI, in the early morning hours of March 3, 2000, more than 400 municipal police officers, carabinieri-- police reporting to the Ministry of Defence-- and military entered the municipal "camp for nomads" of Tor de' Cenci on the outskirts of Rome. In an unannounced raid, all of the inhabitants of the camp were detained and subjected to checks. Those Roma who had valid permits issued by local police-- reportedly 98 out of 210 persons in the camp-- were detained and brought to a nearby camp at Via Carucci, approximately fifteen kilometres from the camp at Tor de' Cenci, also on the edge of Rome. Those Roma who did not have valid permits-- reportedly 112 individuals in total-- were detained and taken to the airport in two police buses. The Roma were taken into the airport through a back entrance, apparently so that the expulsion would not attract public attention. At least fifty-six of these were loaded onto a military aircraft at Fiumicino, an airport operated by Ministry of the Interior. The plane departed from Rome for Sarajevo, Bosnia, at 2:55 PM. Among those Roma expelled were minors. According to ARCI, at least two Roma, 16-year-old Ms P.L. and 17-year-old Ms L.J., were sent to Bosnia without their parents, in contravention of Italian law. Officials dismantled the Tor de' Cenci camp, in the process destroying property belonging to Roma. Journalists and monitors were not allowed to witness the operation, neither the breakdown of the camp, nor the deportation from the airport. Referring to the Roma concerned as "nomads", Mayor of Rome Mr Franceso Rutelli stated in a faxed press release dated March 6 that the operation had been "successful" and that police removed "nomads involved in illegal activities."

Another operation reportedly took place at the Casilino 700 camp, also in Rome, at approximately 1:00 AM in the night of March 3-4. According to witnesses, a squad of police and carabinieri violently entered the camp. Officials reportedly broke windows and used abusive physical force while detaining individuals, as well as insulting the ethnic origins of Roma in the camp. Approximately thirty Roma from the upper right zone of Casilino-- known to be the "Bosnian" area of camp -- were detained and deported on a military plane at an unknown time. Police and municipal officials refused to provide the ERRC with any information on either the raids, the detentions, or the group deportations.

Police reportedly returned to the camp at Via Carucci on March 4 at approximately 1:30 PM and detained a further number of Roma. Most of these detainees were subsequently released. However, the whereabouts of five or six of them were not known as of March 6. Officials have not provided the public with any information with respect to the March 4 detentions.

Honourable Prime Minister D'Alema, the collective expulsion of aliens is in contravention of Article 4 of Protocol 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights. Discriminatory treatment additionally violates international legal provisions to which Italy is a party including Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 2 and 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The expulsions are particularly deplorable in light of the United Nations' Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination's strongly worded March 1999 criticism of Italian discriminatory practice against Roma. The Committee particularly noted "the apparent lack of appropriate training for law enforcement officials and other public officials regarding the provisions of the Convention."

The ERRC urges your office first of all to provide the public with an explanation as to the legal grounds for the action and to condemn forthwith policies targeting Roma for group expulsion from Italy. The Italian government should provide transportation back to Italy to those persons expelled on March 3 and 4. The ERRC additionally urges your office to initiate thorough investigation into allegations that officers used excessive force while detaining individuals for expulsion and destroyed property belonging to Roma, and to punish strictly officers guilty of abuse. We kindly request to be informed of the results of any such investigations and of any disciplinary measures taken.

Sincerely,

Dimitrina Petrova
Executive Director

Persons wishing to express similar concerns are urged to contact the
pertinent Italian authorities at the following contacts:

Prime Minister Mr Massimo D'Alema
Fax: +39 06 6798648
Minister Internal Affairs Mr Enzo Bianco
Fax: +39 06 46549534

Minister of Defence Honourable Professor Sergio Mattarella
Fax: +39 06 4885756

Foreign Minister Mr Lamberto Dini
Fax: +39 06 36912092

Mayor of Rome Mr Franceso Rutelli
Fax: +39 06 67102175

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