ECJ verdict hits Italy deeply: leniency for inflexible mafiosi?

              Saturday, October 12, 2019
                By Andrea Affaticati, Milan

Mafia boss Giovanni Brusca was arrested in 1996 and sentenced to 30 years in prison as "Collaboratore di giustizia".
(Photo: picture-alliance / dpa / dpaweb)

              The ECJ urges Italy to abolish life imprisonment. The majority of Italians want to hold on to it. Without the risk of being permanently behind bars, some of the most ferocious mafia bosses would probably never have worked with the judiciary.
              The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights deeply shocked the Italian public. On Tuesday, the judges in Strasbourg announced that the sentencing to life imprisonment was inhumane and called on Italy to abolish it. The majority of Italians responded indignantly to the verdict. So now, mafia bosses who have been brutally murdered and tortured, who have seen anyone who has stood in their way, shot, strangled or blown up, told of the State of Mild? And that without any consideration? On May 23, 1992, Giovanni Falcone was killed by a car bomb near Palermo, together with his wife and three bodyguards (photo: picture alliance / dpa) In Italian law, the punitive measure is "Ergastolo ostativo", which means unconditional, life imprisonment. It was introduced at the end of 1992 after the bomb attacks, which killed the mafia hunters Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. The two prosecutors had made the fight against the mafia life's goal. The Cosa Nostra therefore declared war on the state. The Italian Penal Code offers an alternative to life imprisonment: imprisonment of up to 30 years. The person concerned may, with good leadership, also expect benefits over time, for example working outside the prison during the day, and in some cases being released prematurely. The condition for this is that the convict cooperates with the investigators and becomes a "Collaboratore di giustizia" (staff of the judiciary). It is precisely this way that has enabled the security authorities over the years to provide important information and advice about the Mafia system collect. Nevertheless, the Cosa Nostra is still far from being defeated. And among the approximately 1,250 prisoners who have been sentenced to life imprisonment, there are still 957 mafiosi in addition to terrorists and sex offenders who have shown no remorse and denied any cooperation with the judiciary. But the number of mafiosi who changed their minds has grown steadily. Today, there are 1150 "Collaboratori". Important instrument for fighting mafia Maria Falcone, the sister of the murdered prosecutor, was particularly critical of the Strasbourg verdict. In an interview with the daily La Stampa, she pointed out that nowhere else so many public servants as in Italy have lost their lives in the fight against organized crime. From the early 1970s to the turn of the century, there were about 200, including the politician Piersanti Mattarella, the brother of the current head of state Sergio Mattarella. Without the alternative to life imprisonment, the judiciary would never have been able to drive a wedge between the Mafia clans, Maria Falcone is convinced. "This law has made the real turn in the fight against the mafia." An analysis shared by Italian Minister of Justice Alfonso Bonafede. The judges in Strasbourg therefore promptly let him know: "Our system is a cornerstone in the fight against the mafia and it will not be shaken." The Sicilian Saverio Lodato, publicist and author of numerous books on the Cosa Nostra, evaluates the judgment particularly critical , If the life sentence were really cut, that would mean "never getting rid of the mafia." And, of course, the question arises: why, in the future, should a mafioso work with the judiciary if, like any other convict, he had a right to relief and possibly even early release? For example, would Mafia boss Giovanni Brusca have worked with the judiciary, giving her essential insights into the mafia system, if he was unaware that he would otherwise face life imprisonment? There was no house arrest for 150 killers. It was Brusca in this one Week caused a further stir. For 23 years he sits in the security wing of the Roman prison Rebibbia. He confessed to 150 murders. It was he who detonated the explosives in the Falcone attack. And it was Brusca, who had murdered Giuseppe Di Matteo, only 13, in retaliation for his father, Santino, to collaborate with the judiciary. The boy was kidnapped by order of 23 November 1993, held in hostage for 799 days, and strangled on January 11, 1996. Thereafter, his body was dissolved in hydrochloric acid. With this murder, the last iron rule that the mafia had always upheld, was not to touch women and children. The attacks on Falcone, Borsellino and the cruel end of the little Matteo have drawn the Italian society. Therefore, responded to the majority of the population also with displeasure at the news that the now 62-year-old Brusca has made over his lawyers again the application, the rest to serve his total 30-year prison sentence in house arrest. Originally he was due to be released in 2022, but the Rebibbia goals will probably open for him a year earlier. As the previous applications were rejected by the Court of Appeals, Brusca's lawyers approached the Court of Cassation. However, the high judges also concluded that in this case it was not enough to have worked only with the judiciary. The prisoner also had to show himself deeply remorseful. And this had not happened in the case of Brusca. Since the mid-19th century, the mafia plague is rampant. But only for a few decades, not only the Italian state, but above all the public seems to want to resist this. Precisely because of this, the judgment of the Strasbourg judges encounters the misunderstanding that has been affected.

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