Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1216

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1216

Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1217

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1217

Notice: Undefined index: et_template in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1218

ITALY: Italian NGO calls on government to address overcrowded prisons

Italian NGO calls on government to address overcrowded prisons

By Josephine Joly


Euronews (02.08.2021) – https://bit.ly/3C9TON3 – Italy’s prisons face serious overcrowding problems, with 53,637 people occupying space for 47,000, according to the annual report of Associazione Antigone, an Italian NGO working to protect human rights.


Of the 189 jails across Italy, 117 of them exceed a 100% occupancy rate. Some prisons like one in Brescia reached a record 200%.


In June 2021, Italian prisons had a “real crowding rate” of 113%. The government claims there is enough space behind bars for inmates, and some 4,000 cells are constantly being repaired or renovated.


Since the start of 2021, there have been 18 suicides in Italian prisons, in addition to the 62 in 2020 (one for every 10,000 inmates), the highest number in recent years.


Prisoners have been complaining of torture and there have been allegations of beatings. Some claim the conditions behind bars have directly contributed to the suicides.


“The situation is very bad because the prison system is still partially in lockdown mode. The social activities are very limited, access of external staff, volunteers, etc, is still limited in most of the prisons. Contacts with the families are limited, and this has been going on obviously since the start of the pandemic, so the situation is very heavy on the prisoners,” Alessio Scandurra, coordinator of Antigone’s Observatory on prison conditions, told Euronews.


Associazione Antigone is calling on the government to address this overcrowding problem by reducing the length of criminal proceedings, as people in pre-trial detention are over-represented in Italy’s prisons.


“We also have an over-representation of people detained for drug offences and in drug abusers, compared to other European countries. So a different approach to drugs in the legislation and in police practises, but also in social policies, could make a difference in prison overcrowding,” Scandurra added.


Lack of fresh and drinking water, Scandurra said, could be exacerbate problems during the summer months.



Prison guards arrested


A video showing guards brutally beating inmates at a jail near Naples last year was released in June, pushing Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to seek for the prison’s system to be reformed.


Fifty-two prison guards have since been arrested. But according to Scandurra, some of the guards seen on the video are not under investigation as it was impossible to identify them due to face masks and helmets.


“We need to introduce identification numbers for police officers. That will be very important, for instance, in cases like this one,” he said.


“Other measures, like the quality and the efficiency of the video recording system that proved to be so important at the Santa Maria Capua Vetere prison, are not always there in many other facilities. We have ongoing investigations of similar cases, in the similar period, for the same reason. But there was no video recording. Either the prison was not equipped or the system wasn’t working. And therefore we don’t have this very important evidence.”


Photo credits:  Piero Cruciatti / AFP

Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1216

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1216

Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1217

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1217

Notice: Undefined index: et_template in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1218

ITALY: Vatican vs Italy on new homophobia bill: why it’s a religious liberty issue

Vatican vs Italy on new homophobia bill: why it’s a religious liberty issue

The Vatican claims the new law would breach the Concordat between Italy and the Holy See, an international treaty. It is not about LGBT rights, it is about freedom of religion or belief.

By Marco Respinti

Bitter Winter (24.06.2021) –  https://bit.ly/3xOKpaN -The Italian Senate is now discussing the so-called “Zan bill,” named after its original drafter, MP Alessandro Zan, of the Democratic Party, which the House of Representatives approved on November 4, 2020. Those favorable to the bill claim that it merely extends to LGBT+ persons (and those with handicaps) the provisions of a 1993 law (known as “Legge Mancino”) against hate speech, and discrimination and violence because of race, ethnicity, religion and national identity, by adding also sexual orientation and handicaps to the categories protected by that law. But critics (among which, by the way, are also some prominent homosexuals, and feminist activists) mention some flaws in the bill, while approving the provisions against all kind of violence and incitement to violence against LGBT+ persons (unnecessary to say, this is also my position). There are two main objections.

The main objection

First, current Italian laws already punish hate, discrimination, and violence against LGBT+ persons. In fact, when identified, perpetrators of hate crimes against anyone, including LGBT+ persons, are arrested, go to court and, if found guilty, serve terms in prison. This would seem to settle the question, but the “Zan bill” introduces a novelty. In addition to sex, gender, and sexual orientation, it also protects “gender identity.” Article 1, paragraph d, of the “Zan bill” defines “gender identity” as “the perceived and manifested self-perception of one’s gender, even if not corresponding to one’s [biological] sex, independently from having concluded a transition path” (“l’identificazione percepita e manifestata di sé in relazione al genere, anche se non corrispondente al sesso, indipendentemente dall’aver concluso un percorso di transizione.) But a “perceived gender identity,” critics of the bill argue, is not unanimously accepted and cannot be clearly defined, thus opening the way to arbitrary interpretations.

The risk, critics say, is that every expression of legitimate criticism of the notion of “gender identity” by anyone can be constructed as hate speech, curtailing freedom of expression. But there is more. Critics argue that in the case of priests and pastors, rabbis and imams, catechists or simple religious believers, every theological, philosophical, and moral criticism of any sexual behavior based on religion and theology could be labeled as “hate speech,” and the supposed trespasser brought to court. It is the case also for agnostics or atheists, who could be sanctioned if they express opposition  to a specific sexual behavior based on their own secular philosophy.

As a matter of fact, article 4 of the “Zan bill,” claims to protect freedom of expression in the field but, only if statements do not create a “danger of discrimination” (or violence). Critics are afraid that a priest, pastor, rabbi, imam, or lay preacher who would, for example, preach that those who have entered into a same-sex union should be censored from the relevant religious community, or lecture his or her flock against same-sex marriage might be accused of creating a situation leading to a “danger of discrimination.” The problem, critics say, is not whether we agree or disagree with such statements. It is whether a law should prevent religious believers from freely expressing them.

An ancillary problem is article 7, instituting May 17 as the National Day Against all Forms of Homophobia, to be celebrated in all schools. Critics of the bill fear that this may compel religious schools, and teachers who have alternative opinions about homosexuality based on their religion, to teach something they do not agree with, and be sanctioned if they don’t.

The Vatican response

Now, in an unprecedent move, the Vatican has asked the Italian government to reconsider some provisions of the “Zan bill,” because they may breach the Concordat between the Italian Republic and the Holy See, and thus religious liberty.

On June 17, Msgr. Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with the States (in substance, a Vatican Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs) delivered a “verbal note” (this is the technical definition) to the Italian Embassy to the Holy See.

The foremost Italian daily newspaper, Corriere della Serapublished the core sentence of that “verbal note”: “Some current contents of the bill under examination by the Senate reduce the liberty granted to the Catholic Church by Article 2, paragraphs 1 and 3 of the agreement revising the Concordat” (“Alcuni contenuti attuali della proposta legislativa in esame presso il Senato riducono la libertà garantita alla Chiesa Cattolica dall’articolo 2, commi 1 e 3 dell’accordo di revisione del Concordato”.)

The Concordat, also known as the “Lateran Treaty,” was signed by the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See on February 11, 1929. In 1948, it was received in the Constitution of the Republic of Italy at article 7, and in 1984 it was revised. Article 2, paragraph 2, of the 1984 revision grants the Catholic Church “liberty of organization, liberty of public worship, and liberty of exercising its episcopal teaching and ministry,” while paragraph 3 grants “to Catholics and their associations and organizations full liberty of assembly and manifestation of thought in words, texts, and every other way of sharing.”

It is important to note that, unlike the ‘intese” with other religions (a word also usually translated in English as “concordats”), the 1929/1984 Concordat with the Catholic Church was not stipulated between Italy and the Italian representatives of the Catholic Church. It is an international treaty signed with a foreign state, the Vatican, and as such, again unlike the “intese,” can only be litigated in international fora.

Why did the Vatican intervene, invoking international law? The Holy See is afraid that freedom of teaching their traditional doctrine on homosexuality may expose priests and lay believers to the serious penalties imposed by the law against those who create a “danger of discrimination.” Of course, within the Catholic Church, there are different positions about homosexuality. What the Vatican is trying to do is to protect the expression of all of them, conservative as well as liberal.

Accusations to the Vatican of interfering with Italian politics are growing, but this is a false problem. The Concordat is an international treaty, not a part of Italian domestic law. When Italy signed this treaty, it guaranteed to bishops, priests, and lay Catholics an immunity from prosecution when they teach what the Vatican believes to be part, or within the boundaries, of Catholic doctrine, no matter whether these teachings are unpopular, or not shared by non-Catholics (or even by a portion of the Catholics).

It is not about the Vatican’s power, and it is not even about LGBT rights. It is about religious freedom. The “Zan bill” is about homosexuals, but other bills may prevent religions from creating a “danger of discrimination” against their expelled ex-members, or politicians who may be excommunicated from promoting certain laws, or from criticizing the laws of the state on a variety of matters, from social policies to immigration. While the Concordat is unique in its nature as an international treaty, other religions may have domestic remedies based on their “intese,” or on the general principle of freedom of religion or belief, which is protected by the Italian Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. The Vatican’s statement, in this sense, may be beneficial also to non-Catholics.

Photo : Mgr. Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with the States (credits).

Marco Respinti is the Editor-in-Chief of International Family News. He is an Italian professional journalist, member of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), essayist, translator, and lecturer. He has contributed and contributes to several journals and magazines both in print and online, both in Italy and abroad. Author of books, he has translated and/or edited works by, among others, Edmund Burke, Charles Dickens, T.S. Eliot, Russell Kirk, J.R.R. Tolkien, Régine Pernoud and Gustave Thibon. A Senior fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, a non-partisan, non-profit U.S. educational organization based in Mecosta, Michigan, he is also a founding member as well as Board member of the Center for European Renewal, a non-profit, non-partisan pan-European educational organization based in The Hague, The Netherlands, and a member of the Advisory Council of the European Federation for Freedom of Belief. He serves as Director-in-Charge of the academic publication The Journal of CESNUR and Bitter Winter: A Magazine on Religious Liberty and Human Rights in China.


Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1216

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1216

Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1217

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1217

Notice: Undefined index: et_template in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1218

Burial of aborted fetuses causes outrage in Italy

Women take legal action over fetus graves marked with mothers’ names in so-called Fields of Angels.


By Hannah Roberts


POLITICO (15.10.2020) – https://politi.co/2HitsR9 – At the Prima Porta cemetery, hundreds of white wooden crosses mark the burial plots of aborted fetuses. On each cross is written the name of the woman who terminated the pregnancy.


Until recently, the existence of the cemetery was unknown to many of the women, who say they consented neither to a burial nor to being named. Now that they do know, more than 100 have come together to pursue legal action demanding those responsible be identified.


In Italy, where women still struggle to access abortion four decades after legislation permitting the procedure was passed, the discovery of the burial site has resulted in an outcry. It has also focused attention on dozens of similar sites across Italy — known as “Fields of Angels” and created with the involvement of anti-abortion, ultra-conservative associations.


For opponents, such burial grounds stigmatize abortion and undermine the legitimate choices of women at a time when conservative groups globally are attempting to push back reproductive rights won decades ago.


The Prima Porta site stands out because it names the women.


Its existence came to light earlier this month after Marta Loi made inquiries about what happened to her fetus. Writing on Facebook, she described the “anger and anguish” at discovering a burial plot with her name on it, and that “without my consent, others have buried my child with a cross, a Christian symbol, which does not belong to me.”


Silvana Agatone, president and founder of LAIGA, the Italian association for doctors who carry out abortions, told POLITICO that the burials were “the most serious violation of privacy. Many women do not tell relatives or friends about the procedure.”


“It is a way of punishing the women by creating a sense of guilt,” she said. “To have a tomb with your name on implies that you are as good as dead.”


Monica Cirinnà, a senator in the Italian parliament, told POLITICO: “Every woman who terminates a pregnancy has the right to choose if and how to bury the fetus and according to which ritual. These are deeply personal decisions that cannot be brought into question.”


The issue is a reminder of the global pushback against women’s rights, Cirinnà said. “Even today, women’s bodies are battlefields. Attacks on women’s freedom, regarding the choice to become or not to become mothers, are now coming from everywhere, continuously undermined by small, silent but insidious procedures like this one.”


Medical objections


Although abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978, it has been fiercely opposed from the start by an alliance of religious and political conservatives. There are similar situations in many other countries, but campaigners say the extent to which the Catholic Church remains embedded in Italian institutions means it has been particularly effective in frustrating the implementation of abortion rights.


The majority of doctors qualified to carry out an abortion refuse to do so on ethical grounds — that’s an average of 69 percent across the country, rising to 80 percent in the south, according to the health ministry. That means access is limited and delays common.


Junior doctors often fear their career will be damaged if they don’t join the ranks of objectors, and department heads refuse to hire non-objectors, said Agatone.


The rise among Italian doctors of conscientious objectors does not constitute a problem, according to the health ministry, because the number of abortions is falling while the number of objectors remains stable.


Elisa Ercoli, president of Differenza Donna, an advocacy group representing 130 of the Prima Porta women, said the Fields of Angels “are emblematic of the obstacles to women exercising their right to an abortion in Italy.”


“The level of objectors is so high that the health care guaranteed by law is not accessible,” she said.


Most of the women, Ercoli added, had degrading experiences in hospital, with some medical staff refusing to help them even though they were in pain: “These women feel betrayed by the state. There was a total violation of their legal rights and privacy.”


According to a 1990 law, women can request the aborted fetus and bury it within 24 hours. But if they don’t, the local health service is responsible for arranging transport and burial. Over the past two decades, Catholic associations have increasingly stepped in, relieving the local health authority of the cost and trouble of burying aborted fetuses.


The most prominent group doing this, Difendere la vita con Maria, has 3,000 members and says it has carried out over 200,000 burials. It solicits donations for funding on its website, which says: “For only €20 you can bear the cost of burying an unborn child.”


Spokesman Stefano di Battista said the group does not work in Rome at present. But in the cities that it does work, it collects the fetuses, usually once a month, from the hospitals with which it has agreements, before burying them after a short ceremony. The group never identifies the women, he said, adding: “Anonymity is a guiding principle for us. We do not do this practice to battle against abortion rights. We are not interested in crusades. We believe it is at the basis of civilization to bury with dignity and piety the children that never came into the world.”


Church ties to the right


Catholic associations might be responsible for the Fields of Angels, but they wouldn’t have been able to proceed without political sympathizers at regional and national levels.


In 2007 in Lombardy, a center-right/conservative administration introduced new regulations stipulating that all fetuses had to be buried in specific areas within cemeteries. Le Marche and Campania have approved similar laws.


Last year, an attempt to introduce similar legislation by the hard-right Brothers of Italy party in Lazio was defeated. The liberal Italian Radicals party condemned it as “psychological violence against women.”


“It is in [the political right’s] nature to try to bring back a patriarchal culture, before women’s liberation,” said Ercoli. “But it is not just about political parties, it is a larger cultural discussion. Since 1978 women have been fighting to try to win the actual implementation of the rules.”


It is not clear who bears responsibility for the naming of the women at the Prima Porta cemetery. The section where the fetuses are buried contains only those aborted after the 20th week of gestation, when the procedure is permitted only on health grounds, according to Agatone.


The hospital involved, San Camillo, said responsibility for transport management and burial lies with Ama, a company that manages cemeteries on behalf of the city of Rome. Ama said in a statement that it had no contact with patients and followed the rules of the health system.


Italy’s privacy watchdog has opened an investigation into the burials, and Health Minister Roberto Speranza has been called to speak about the case in parliament.


Politicians on the left are pushing for a change in the law. A group of leftist councilors in the Lazio region proposed a new regional law on transport and burial of fetuses, with clear consent required from the woman. The current law is too ambiguous, said Councilor Marta Bonafoni: “It must not leave any space for doubt or uncertainty.”


But for some, the cemetery case has merely highlighted the need for more general reform. The obstacles to abortion have been tolerated because it is a woman’s problem, said Ercoli. “After 40 years the struggle is not over. We must be alert and we must be united.”

Photo credit: IPA/Sipa USA.

Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1216

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1216

Notice: Undefined index: et_header_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1217

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1217

Notice: Undefined index: et_template in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1218

CHINA: Suffered repeated arrests and fled to Italy

HRWF (26.08.2020) – Mr. Zhiwen (pseudonym) was born in 1972 in Jiangxi Province, China. Already as a youngster he followed his mother in her Christian faith. He joined The Church of Almighty God (CAG) in 2000. On many occasions, the CCP tried to arrest him. The following arrest attempts and torture activities caused a fractured ankle and head injuries. In 2015 he felt forced to flee China and seek asylum in Italy. The following is a description of his experiences as shared with Human Rights Without Frontiers.


Church demolished twice


“We attended meetings of a house church and were often harassed by the CCP government. Officials of the township government would periodically burst into our meetings to restrict the topics of our sermons, as well as telling us where we could spread the gospel. They also forced us to become part of the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Church. After we refused to do that, our church was demolished. We rebuilt it but the government tore it down again, arrested the preacher of our church, and put him in prison.”


First arrest attempt


“In August 2000, I accepted The Almighty God’s message. Because I often spread the gospel, village committee officials and police officers repeatedly asked me to renounce my faith. They warned me that if I carried on believing in God and spreading the gospel, I would be sentenced to prison. One day, several officers from the local Police Station forced themselves into the home of my family without showing their credentials and searched it without a warrant. Our house was completely turned upside down. Seeing that I was not at home, they took my mother instead. Since then, I dared not go back home. I started a life on the run, moving from place to place.”


Fractured ankle during escape from second arrest


“One day in June 2005, while I was preaching the gospel in an apartment, five to six policemen suddenly arrived and surrounded the building. Desperate as I was, I broke the wooden window frames of the restroom and escaped out of the window, letting myself fall down from the second floor. Several policemen blocked my way and one of them grabbed me by my clothes. I got myself lose and kept running, with the three policemen not far behind me. I ran through a paddy field and rough terrain. I then hid myself for some time in some thatches. I later hitched a ride to the hospital. The whole ordeal took long to recover, and to this day I cannot stand, or walk for a long time, or carry heavy objects.”


Police brutality caused serious injuries


“One day in the winter of 2012, I went to preach the gospel to a brother’s relatives. Soon four policemen showed up. They shouted at us loudly and condemned our gospel-preaching activities as disturbing the social order. Meanwhile, the police called up dozens of others to surround and attack me. When they caught me, they beat me with wooden sticks that were more than three feet long and three inches thick. I was pulled by my hair, struck near my temples, and hit in the chest. I was in shambles and fainted. The police car soon arrived and I was taken, without them showing their credentials. I had been beaten so badly that my head seemed to explode.


At the police station, I was interrogated about church information. But my pain was excruciating and my body shaking all over; I foamed at the mouth. Then I was taken to the county Public Security Bureau. As they were getting me out of the car, I could not even stand, and I fell on the ground. When they realized I was about to die, they left me in front of the gate. Later, a brother took me to hospital to give me the medical attention I needed. The recovery lasted more than a year. However, I still have sequelae of the injuries incurred, as I remain having dreadful headaches.”

Fleeing from a third arrest attempt


“While I was recovering, two brothers with whom I had spread the gospel were arrested by the police. The officers had found a notebook with my name and address in it in their possession. I was warned by other brothers and sisters that the police were out to find me. I fled before I was arrested.”


Fleeing to Italy, but no safety yet


“Between 2013 and May of 2015, I had moved house a total of thirty different times. But wherever I went, there seemed no way to avoid arrest or persecution. In China there was nowhere safe for me any more and the only way to remain free was to flee. In 2015 I managed to get a passport and to reach Italy where I sought refuge.


Unfortunately, in December 2018, my application was rejected by the Italian Territorial Commission. In the meantime I filed for appeal. I am now deeply concerned that I might be sent back to China one day.”

Notice: Undefined index: et_footer_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1261

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1261

Notice: Undefined index: et_footer_layout in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1262

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1262

Notice: Undefined index: et_template in /home/hrwfe90/domains/hrwf.eu/public_html/wp-content/plugins/pdf-print/pdf-print.php on line 1263