Italy: Court ruling on prison ill-treatment human rights complaint

Prison officers who ill-treated two detainees went unpunished due to a lack of adequate legislation in Italy, according to human rights judges.

In its 26 October judgment in the case of Cirino and Renne v. Italy (application nos. 2539/13 and 4705/13), the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

violations of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights, both as regards the treatment sustained by the applicants (substantive aspect) and as regards the response by the domestic authorities (procedural aspect).

The applicants in this case were Andrea Cirino and Claudio Renne, Italian nationals born in 1978 and 1975 respectively.  Cirino lives in Turin; Renne was detained in Turin until he died in January 2017. Following his death, the proceedings have been continued by his daughter. At the time of the events at issue, both applicants were detained in the Asti Correctional Facility.

As just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Italy was to pay Mr Cirino and Mr Renne’s daughter each 80,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 8,000 in respect of costs and expenses.

The case of Cirino and Renne v. concerned the complaint by the two detainees that in December 2004, they were ill-treated by prison officers of the Asti Correctional Facility, and that those responsible were not appropriately punished.

The court held that the ill-treatment inflicted on the applicants – which had been deliberate and carried out in a premeditated and organised manner while they were in the custody of prison officers – had amounted to torture.

In the court’s view, the domestic courts had made a genuine effort to establish the facts and to identify the individuals responsible for the treatment inflicted on the applicants.

However, those courts had concluded that, under Italian law in force at the time, there was no legal provision allowing them to classify the treatment in question as torture.

They had had to turn to other provisions of the Criminal Code, which were subject to statutory limitation periods.

As a result of this lacuna in the legal system, the domestic courts had been ill-equipped to ensure that treatment contrary to Article 3 perpetrated by State officials did not go unpunished.


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