G8 police brutality victim calls for torture ban

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Mark Covell, a British activist and journalist, was severely beaten at a police raid on the fringes of a G8 summit in Genoa in 2001. Photo: Mark Covell
12:34 CEST+02:00
A British activist and journalist who was severely beaten at a police raid on the fringes of a G8 summit in Genoa in 2001 is now campaining for Italy to pass a torture law, in accordance with recommendations from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) published on Tuesday.

Mark Covell, who at the time worked for Indymedia, part of a global network of journalists who write about social and political issues, welcomed the ruling from the ECHR, which stated the events of July 2001 were "acts of torture" sustained by Italian police against activists.

"It marks the end of the final ultimate legal battle to clear our names, proves beyond doubt what had happened at Diaz and Bolzaneto, and will hopefully get compensation for all 250 victims," he told The Local.

The court's ruling was based on a suit filed by Arnaldo Cestaro, who was 62 years old at the time, and was bedding down for the night in the Armando Diaz school complex, along with dozens of other anti- globalization protesters, on July 21st 2001, when around 200 masked anti-riot police armed with batons and shields raided the complex shortly after midnight.

Although he raised his arms in surrender, Cestaro was attacked by officers, whose violent kicks left him with fractures and other injuries. Other victims suffered broken bones, were punched unconscious, spat on and sexually humiliated.

The ECHR awarded him €45,000 in damages from the Italian state, for what the court qualified as inhumane treatment under EU law.

Torture is not currently a crime under Italian law. The legal shortfall is blamed for the acquittal of the most serious charges against the policemen involved in Diaz raid.

But victims, campaigners and politicians have now stressed the urgency to make torture a crime in Italy.

"It is very important that Italy gets this new law so it can come into line with all other EU countries and be bonded in the universal law of ‘no torture’," Covell added.

Lower house of parliament speaker Laura Boldrini said the European ruling was a "black page" in Italy's recent history, which "the new law certainly cannot erase."

"It will, however, bring Italy into line on human rights," she said, adding that it would "finally fill a gap which European judges, like all Italian citizens, consider intolerable."

The bill, which was examined by the upper house last year, is due to be discussed by the lower house this week - but will then have to return to the senate before final approval.

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Covell said that if introduced, he hopes the law “goes on to protect and serve Italian citizens, EU citizens and migrants on Italian soil”.

"There are so many tragic stories that never see the daylight of a court room or have the media coverage as Diaz has." 

By Anna Pujol-Mazzini

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