Human Rights Coalition Welcomes CERD Concluding Observations on Italy

10 March 2008

CERD Issues Strong Recommendations for Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti in Italy

Budapest, Florence, Geneva, Mantova: Today, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), osservAzione and Sucar Drom welcomed the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on Italy's compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

In its Concluding Observations, CERD focused significant attention to the issues raised by the coalition. Specifically, CERD expressed serious concerns about instances of hate speech targeting Roma by politicians, and the role of the media in spreading anti-Romani messages. The Committee also highlighted the "use of illegal force by the police against Roma, in particular Roma of Romanian origin […] in the course of raids in Roma camps", particularly following the enactment of emergency decrees on the expulsion of EU nationals in November 2007 and January 2008, the continuing segregation of Roma and Sinti in camps for nomads, as well as discriminatory ordinances and signs which restrict the freedom of movement of Roma and Sinti in Italy. Finally, the Committee noted the failure of the Italian government to recognise Roma and Sinti as a national minority and to adopt a comprehensive national policy for improving the situation of these communities in Italy.

The Committee issued a number of strong recommendations for action by the Italian government, which, to a large extent, mirror recommendations made by the coalition. As regards the issue of hate speech, CERD noted that the "State party should increase its efforts to prevent racially motivated offences and hate speech, and ensure that relevant criminal law provisions are effectively implemented. […] It also recommends that the State party take resolute action to counter any tendency especially from politicians to target, stigmatize, stereotype or profile people on the basis of race, colour, descent, and national or ethnic origin or to use racist propaganda for political purposes." It also recommended that the media be encouraged to "play an active role in combating prejudices and negative stereotypes which lead to racial discrimination and that it adopt all necessary measures to combat racism in the media" The Committee also requested that the Italian government adopt a code of conduct of journalists.

Regarding the prevailing pattern of police ill-treatment and forced evictions of Roma living in camps, the Committee recommended that the Italian government, "take measures to prevent the use of illegal force by the police against Roma, and that the local authorities take more resolute action to prevent and punish racially motivated acts of violence against Roma and other persons of foreign origin." Further, the Committee condemned the racial segregation of Roma in the field of housing, and recommended that the government "act firmly against local measures denying residence to Roma and the unlawful expulsion of Roma, and to refrain from placing Roma in camps outside populated areas that are isolated and without access to health care and other basic facilities.

Finally, the Committee called on the Italian government to "adopt and implement a comprehensive national policy as well as legislation regarding Roma and Sinti with a view to recognizing them as a national minority and protecting and promoting their languages and culture" and "strengthen its efforts to support the inclusion in the school system of all children of Roma origin and to address the causes of drop-out rates […]."

The coalition of human rights organisations had, in the run-up to the Committee’s 72nd session and review of Italy, submitted a comprehensive parallel report on the human rights crisis of Roma and Sinti in Italy. In the run-up to the Committee review, COHRE and the Geneva-based Anti-Racism Information Service provided training to Italian Roma rights activists on using the international treaty system, with support from the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO). These activists made oral presentations to the Committee at the February session in Geneva. The ERRC/COHRE/osservAzione/Sucar Drom parallel report is available in English  View it (Acrobat pdf format)!.

The ERRC, COHRE, osservAzione and Sucar Drom call on the Italian government to take serious actions to implement the CERD recommendations and to cease immediately the extreme human rights violations currently happening with alarming frequency in the camps for Roma and Sinti in Italy.

The full text of the Concluding Observations is available in English  View it (Acrobat pdf format)! and in Italian  View it (Acrobat pdf format)!.

To read the Italian version of this press release please click here  View it (Acrobat pdf format)!.

For further information, please contact:

Tara Bedard, ERRC Programmes Coordinator, tara.bedard@errc.org
Claude Cahn, COHRE Head of Advocacy Unit, claudecahn@cohre.org
Piero Colacicchi, osservAzione President, pierocolacicchi@tele2.it
Bernardino Torsi, Sucar Drom President, sucardrom@sucardrom.191.it

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