ITALY: Governmental decree on security potentially hampering freedom of assembly, social movements

(European Civic Forum on CIVICUS Monitor) A governmental decree on security is currently being discussed in the Italian parliament. The decree covers a broader range of policy areas from migration to terrorism. It foresees the tightening of several regulations concerning public security, including some that might negatively impact freedom of assembly. For example, the decree imposes imprisonment from 2 to 12 years for a roadblock, if carried out by more than one person, a technique used in the past by some social movements as a form of protest.

The lawyer Claudio Novaro commented:

“ We are faced with yet another crackdown that will produce more imprisonment for members of social movements, who will have to deal with repression made more intense and effective by rules like this one. […]

In the case of the new roadblock offence, it is possible to impose prison sentences, as mentioned above, from 2 to 12 years, much higher than those provided for offences which, according to the collective conscience, indeed appear more serious.” (Translated from Italian)

The decree also aggravates the penalties for individuals who occupy buildings to 3 years and from 2 to 4 years if more than five people commit the act. The penalty for promoters and organisers is also increased.

According to La rete dei numeri pari, a network of Italian CSOs and social movements working on poverty and inequality in Italy, those movements that use mutualism to raise the issue of the right to affordable living had witnessed a reaction from authorities that is becoming progressively more aggressive. The network wrote:

“ Housing occupations are emblematic places […] representing forms of struggle sanctioned over time in an increasingly aggressive way: Article 5 in 2014 [introducing] special surveillance measures against activists, the Minniti decree with its article 11 in 2017, the circular Salvini of September 1 and now the security decree being converted into law. If we add to this the court sentences condemning the Ministry of the Interior […] for the failure to clear the occupied buildings […] it is clear the level of attack against a movement that through the practices of repossession intended to affirm a denied right such as housing, and indirectly also that to income.” (Translated from Italian)

UPDATE: The Decree on Security and Immigration was approved – It reintroduced the crime of “street obstruction”, punished with imprisonment from one to six years, also in cases of spontaneous gatherings of people in public spaces.