New Decision on Italian State of Emergency Must Not Mean a Return to Anti-Roma Activity, Says ERRC

10 May 2012

Budapest, Rome, 10 May 2012: Yesterday, Italy’s Council of State accepted the Italian Government’s request to suspend the effects of its decision from last year, which declared the State of Emergency was illegal and unfounded. The new decision means that various contracts started under the State of Emergency can go ahead, which may have a negative impact on the housing situation of Roma and Sinti living in formal and semi-formal camps. The State of Emergency is not now in force, and the Court of Cassation, the highest court in Italy, will still consider the substance of the original decision at a later date.

The State of Emergency was first declared in a decree in May 2008 in Lombardy, Campania and Lazio and was later extended to Piedmont and Veneto. The State of Emergency defined the presence of Roma in Italy as a threat to public security and appointed Prefects as Special Commissioners for the Roma Emergency in the regions of Lombardy, Lazio and Campania in 2008 and Veneto and Piedmont in 2009. The State of Emergency was extended annually until December 2011.

State authorities used their powers to monitor camps and to carry out a census of residents (including children), taking photos and requesting documents to identify and record residents. The State of Emergency saw Roma forcibly and relentlessly evicted, excluded from education, fingerprinted, segregated, harassed and expelled. These actions brought about violations of the rights to adequate housing and education. The census also raised grave concerns about data protection.

ERRC Executive Director Dezideriu Gergely said, “In February this year, the Italian government adopted a National Roma Integration Strategy. Italian authorities should concentrate their focus and energy on implementing integration strategies and addressing discrimination, rather than unnecessary security measures and continuing with ill-considered, segregated and short-term housing plans.”

The ERRC began its legal case challenging the State of Emergency before the Italian courts in 2009. On 16 November 2011, the Council of State ruled that the State of Emergency was illegal. The Council of State established that the presence of Roma does not create an emergency situation in Italy. With the ruling, the decree of 2008 and the acts based on it were declared invalid, effective immediately. The Council of State acknowledged that some practices of the local authorities were discriminatory.

In February 2012, the Italian Government appealed the Council of State decision before the Court of Cassation. The Government also requested that the decision of the Council of State be suspended until the appeal is resolved, which was the subject of yesterday’s decision.

The ERRC is saddened by this decision but recalls that the State of Emergency is no longer in force and the effects of yesterday’s decision are very limited. Italian authorities should recall the limitations of the suspension and withdraw from any State of Emergency actions which are not in line with international human rights standards and the positive commitments it has made under its National Roma Integration Strategy.

For further information, contact:
Sinan Gökçen
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre


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