Series (special issue): When crime is legalised….

On September 6, 2023, the Italian parliament plans to vote on a law that is highly controversial even among judges, and which is described in Italian media as “self-absolution”.

Will the Italian parliament rape the Constitution on September 6? Foto: Eurojournalist(e) / CC-BY 2.0

(Kai Littmann) – Is Italy leaving the path of the rule of law? On September 6, the Italian parliament will vote on a bill introduced by “Fratelli Italia” (Giorgia Meloni’s party), the centrists of “Italia Viva/Azione” and “Forza Italia” (the party of the late Silvio Berlusconi), which in effect aims at a retroactive and future amnesty for high-ranking politicians, business leaders and judges, meaning that the countless cases pending against these individuals would be dropped. Since 2005, this would be the fifth (!) amendment to the law on statutory limitation, a sad “record” in Europe, since the ultimate goal is to ensure impunity for high-profile individuals involved in criminal cases. It is little wonder that Italian media speak of “self-absolution”.

Since 2005 and the Cirielli law, Italy has been searching for the right formula to protect these “upper class people” and, of course, organised crime from prosecution. The law had been reformed in 2017 (Orlando law), 2019 (Bonafede law), 2021 (Cartabia law), and now in 2023 the “Nordio law” is expected, as all these laws were named after the justice ministers who were in office at the time of these reforms. But what is it actually about? One practice of the judicial system in Italy is that cases involving either politicians, the judges themselves, the bosses of large companies and organised crime are dragged out. Cases are passed from one court to another, files are “lost”, judges are changed and replaced by “complaisant” judges, and so it happens that these cases are never completed and the statutory limitation means that at some point, the cases are dropped, the criminals are not punished and the victims cannot get justice.

Courageously, in 2019, the Minister of Justice, Alfonso Bonafede, had ended this statutory limitation, which was quickly reintroduced by his successor, Marta Cartabia under the Draghi government. On September 6, the Italian parliament is now scheduled to vote on the confirmation of this statutory limitation law, which would in effect seal the impunity of those concerned.

If the law is passed on September 6, the Italian parliament would exonerate high-ranking politicians, business leaders and judges involved in countless cases, some of which have been ongoing for decades, while at the same time inviting the judicial system to continue dragging out cases involving such individuals in order to ensure their future impunity.

Of course, not the entire judicial system in Italy is rotten and corrupt. Several hundred judges have signed a petition asking the elected representatives of the people not to confirm Law 103/2017, but to follow the intention of Alfonso Bonafede, who wanted “people from the upper class” to be held accountable for their actions like any other Italian citizen.

The Italian Constitution, like all constitutions of democratic countries, states “that everyone is equal before the law”. If parliamentarians were to actually confirm Law 103/2017 on September 6, this fundamental principle would no longer apply to those who commit crimes in a white collar. Although it remains to be seen whether this step is compatible with European laws, it must be said that Italy is preparing to leave the path of the rule of law. The European Union must follow this development with the utmost vigilance, because if this law is confirmed, criminality will become the norm in all projects involving European money. And Italy would become a banana republic at the service of criminality and the powerful.

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