ERRC submission to CERD documenting discrimination of and violence against Roma in Italy

05 March 1999

In written comments submitted today to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) documents that Roma in Italy are the victims of police violence and pervasive racial discrimination in virtually all spheres of public life. The comments are presented on the occasion of the Committee's examination of Italy's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

In its submission, ERRC demonstrates that the Italian government has failed to comply with its obligations under the Convention to prohibit, punish and remedy racial discrimination against Roma. In particular, the submission highlights the following areas of concern:

As to Article 2 of the Convention (requiring States to bring to an end racial discrimination by all appropriate means, including legislation), legal prohibitions against racial discrimination in Italy remain of uncertain scope and provide for ineffective remedies. Officials at all levels of government seem to lack awareness of -- let alone determination to act on -- their obligation to ensure the effective enforcement of anti-discrimination laws and regulations.

As to Article 3 (banning racial segregation), by developing a housing policy for Roma premised on the racist and incorrect characterisation of them as "nomads," the Italian government has fostered the segregation of Roma into inhuman and degrading "camps" to which no other segment of the population is confined.

As to Article 4 (obligating States to not permit public authorities or institutions to promote or incite racial discrimination), government authorities in Italy have failed to acknowledge and condemn widespread anti-Roma policies, practices and attitudes.

As to Article 5 (guaranteeing equality before the law), Roma are commonly subjected to unremedied, racially-motivated police violence, and are discriminated against with respect to a broad range of rights to which non-Roma in Italy are entitled, most egregiously and systematically, the rights to equal treatment before law enforcement authorities and the courts, freedom of residence within the country, housing, education, and access to public accommodations and services.

ERRC's concerns with regard to Italy's compliance with the Convention are illustrated with concrete cases providing evidence of recent and repeated violence and discrimination against Roma.

In view of the serious deficiencies addressed by the submission, ERRC recommends that the Italian government should establish an office staffed with qualified personnel with responsibility for publicising anti-discrimination norms, and for investigating and prosecuting violations of anti-discrimination law; abolish racial segregation in housing and eliminate its attendant effects in other fields; discipline
and prosecute police and others for racially-motivated violence and other crimes against Roma; and at the highest levels, speak out against racial discrimination against Roma and others, and make clear that racism will not be tolerated.

The CERD is a United Nations body charged with responsibility for overseeing compliance with the Convention. It was ratified by Italy in 1976. Composed of eighteen internationally-recognised experts, the CERD reviews state implementation of the Convention through a reporting procedure which obliges governments to submit reports on a periodic basis. The March session marks the first time since 1995 that the Committee reviews reports submitted by the Italian government. The full text of the ERRC written comments to the CERD concerning Italy, is available HERE or from ERRC upon request.


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