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Italian court fined for ‘perpetuating sexist stereoypes’ in rape case ruling

Europe's top rights court on Thursday criticised an Italian court for "playing down gender-based violence" after its ruling on a gang rape case referred to the alleged victim's sexuality, behaviour, and the colour of her underwear.

Italian court fined for 'perpetuating sexist stereoypes' in rape case ruling
The inscription "Justice" written in Latin is pictured on the facade of an Italian courthouse. Photo: Miguel MEDINA/AFP

The woman had accused seven men of attacking her in a car after a party in 2008 when she was a student. She said she was drunk at the time.

An appeals court in Florence in 2015 overturned the convictions of six of the men, citing inconsistencies in the woman’s account of the alleged attack.

The European Court of Human Rights did not challenge that verdict but considered whether the wording of the judgement violated the woman’s right to privacy, enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

READ ALSO: Anger in Italy as men cleared of rape because victim was ‘too masculine’

Concluding that her right to privacy had been violated, the ECHR said the “language and arguments” used by the Italian court “conveyed prejudices existing in Italian society regarding the role of women”.

“In particular, the Court considered the references to the red underwear ‘shown’ by the applicant in the course of the evening to be unjustified, as were the comments regarding her bisexuality, relationships and casual sexual relations prior to the events in question.”

The Strasbourg court also took issue with the Florence court’s referral to the woman’s “ambivalent attitude towards sex” and the questions it raised around the woman’s role in a film made by one of her alleged attackers before the alleged rape.

READ ALSO: Almost half of Italian women report suffering sexual harassment

The ECHR said it was crucial that courts “avoided reproducing sexist stereotypes” or “playing down gender-based violence and exposing women to secondary victimisation by making guilt-inducing and judgmental comments”.

It ordered the Italian state to pay the woman 12,000 euros ($14,600) in compensation.

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CRIME

Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

Italy commemorated the death of Italian judge Giovanni Falcone on Monday, thirty years after the brutal Capaci bombing.

Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

The entire country paid tribute on Monday to anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, killed by the Sicilian mafia 30 years ago in a car bomb murder that shocked the country.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese laid a wreath at the memorial at the site of the blast at Capaci, near Palermo, that killed Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort on May 23rd 1992.

Another ceremony in Palermo was attended by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, whose brother Piersanti, then Sicily’s regional president, was also murdered by the mafia.

In a statement, Prime Minister Mario Draghi hailed the legacy of Falcone, saying that thanks to his “courage, professionalism and determination, Italy has become a freer and fairer country”.

He said Falcone and his colleagues – one of whom, Paolo Borsellino, was killed by Cosa Nostra two months later – “dealt decisive blows against the mafia”.

“Their heroism had rooted anti-mafia values in society, in new generations, in republican institutions,” he added, saying the “relentless fight against organised crime and […] the search for truth” must continue.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogramme (1100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend. At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

READ ALSO: How murdered judge Giovanni Falcone shaped Italy’s fight against the mafia

On July 19th, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Falcone posed a real threat to Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by The Godfather trilogy, and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

He and Borsellino were later credited with revolutionising the understanding of the mafia, working closely with the first informants and compiling evidence for a groundbreaking ‘maxi-trial’ in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

“Thanks to Falcone and Borsellino, the Sicilian mafia became a notorious fact, not something that had to be proved to exist at every trial,” anti-mafia prosecutor Marzia Sabella told AFP.

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