Italy complicit in US torture programme

Italy is among the many countries that was complicit in the US government torture programme, according to a report released on Tuesday, although it is also the only country where officials involved in the CIA programme have been convicted.

Italy complicit in US torture programme
22 CIA agents were convicted by an Italian court over the kidnapping in Milan of ex-imam, Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, better known as Abu Omar. Photo: Khaled Desouki/AFP

The report is based on an in-depth investigation by the US Senate, and was led by US Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Although many parts of the report are redacted, or have code names instead of countries, reporters and analysts have combined other information to glean details of which countries were actively supporting the US in its programme of secret prisons around the world, where torture was allegedly carried out by the CIA on a routine basis.

There were levels of cooperation in the programme. At the top were five countries with secret CIA-run prisons, including Afghanistan (four sites), Poland, Lithuania, Romania and Thailand.

Several other countries ran proxy prisons, where suspects were routinely tortured on behalf of, and with the active cooperation of the CIA, who often rendered the suspects into their custody.

They include Egypt, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco, Gambia, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

At the bottom of the list is a large group of countries which passively supported the suspected torture and known illegal rendition operations, including European countries such as Italy, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Spain, Germany and the UK.

One of the most high profile cases was the 2003 abduction in Milan of Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, better known as Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric who had been given asylum in the country.

In a joint operation by the CIA and the Italian secret service, he was then allegedly taken to the Aviano US air base in northeast Italy, flown to a US base in Germany, and on to Cairo, where he said he was tortured.

Despite opposition from Washington, an Italian court later convicted, in absentia, 22 CIA officers and a US Air Force pilot to at least five years in prison for the kidnapping.  The agents have never been extradited, while the pilot was pardoned by Italian President Giorgio Napoletano.

Meanwhile, Abu Omar was last year sentenced by an Italian court to six years in prison for criminal association for international terror.

Prosecutors said he collaborated with 13 militants between 2000 and 2003 "with the aim of carrying out acts of terrorist violence in Italy and abroad."

Abu Omar's lawyer Carmelo Scambia said his client denied the charge and had only "adhered to a political-ideological course for his faith".

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What does the US’s new risk classification for Italy mean for American travellers?

The US State Department has changed its advice on travel to Italy as well as dozens of other countries with improving Covid infection rates. What does this mean for Americans who want to come to Italy?

What does the US's new risk classification for Italy mean for American travellers?
Photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP

The US has downgraded Italy from its “do not travel” list (level 4) to “reconsider travel” (level 3). 

The decision by the US State Department and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention means that Ital yis no longer in the highest risk classification for travel. 

However, according to the State Department’s advice for level 3 “reconsider travel”, “US nationals should avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security”. 

“Make sure you are fully vaccinated before traveling to Italy. Unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to Italy,” reads the CDC website.

However, Italy’s entry rules for Americans remain unchanged since May 16th.

As the US remains on Italy’s travel ‘D list’, entry is allowed for any reason but all arrivals from the US are subject to a mandatory 10-day quarantine period unless on a special Covid-tested flight.

People arriving on other flights, including those who must travel for essential reasons, must provide negative test results as well as facing the quarantine requirement on arrival, under rules which are currently set to stay in force until at least July 30th. (However, it’s possible that they may be dropped earlier – or extended beyond that date.)


There is currently no exemption to the Italian travel restrictions for people who have been vaccinated.

However, Italy’s government said on Wednesday that its long-awaited travel ‘green pass’ or health certificate would be ready for use in the coming days.

The pass will be available to anyone who has either been vaccinated, has tested negative for coronavirus within the past 48 hours, or has recently contracted and recovered from Covid-19.

Authorities did not clarify whether the pass would be made available to non-EU citizens immediately. Find more details here.

Other countries that are no longer classified as “do not travel” by the US are France, Spain, Japan, Greece, Switzerland, Canada and Mexico. You can find out other countries’ classifications here

The CDC said it had also updated the criteria it uses to determine these risk levels “to better differentiate countries with severe outbreak situations from countries with sustained, but controlled, Covid-19 spread”.

The US State Department uses the CDC’s recommendations to set its own travel advice but also considers other factors such as Covid restrictions and terrorism in other countries.

All returning US citizens require a negative Covid-19 test result before boarding their plane back, the CDC added.

Stay up to date with Italy’s travel rules by following The Local’s travel section and checking the Italian Health Ministry’s website (in English).