In Ferrara last week, on 22 January, a Department of Security disciplinary commission reinstated the four police officers responsible for the death of Federico Aldrovandi. Aldrovandi was a teenager when he was murdered on 25 September 2005 by being brutally beaten by the three men and a woman. All four can now resume their old jobs because, thanks to various cover-ups which slowed the case down, they have not been dismissed from the police force.
Over the years, Aldrovandi’s family has fought to obtain justice and clarity about Federico’s death. His mother and father, Lino and Patrizia, and all those people who share the family’s struggle simply could not believe last week’s news. Their lawyer was not allowed access to police records to understand what lay behind the officers’ six month suspension. Police chiefs told him this was because he was not, legally, ‘directly involved’.
Patrizia and Lino were not notified by the Ministry of the Interior about the outcome of the case: shockingly, they learnt the news through the media. This is surprising, considering all the various meetings between the family and politicians and members of Viminale (the Italian Ministry of Interior). This included the former Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri, who had promised exemplary punishments for such ‘rotten apples’ in the police force.
Federico’s parents are now exhausted and sickened both by the hypocrisy and by the impunity of the Italian police force. They ‘just hope never to see those people in uniform again.’
This is not the first time an Italian police officer has got off scot-free from a case of violence or homicide. Italy’s recent history is filled with the names of victims and those of their attackers who have walked free, as it happened in the cases of Federico Aldrovandi, Stefano Cucchi and Riccardo Rasman. Recent developments in the Genoa 2001 G8 cases have shown that the Italian police force has a great deal of leeway when it comes to violence and the abuse of power. It is fair to say that safety often takes a back seat.
Disturbingly, in Italy, citizens are not really able to defend themselves against police brutality as was shown clearly in independent reports about police violence during the policing of protests. Even after the Italian police’s violent and extraordinary violation of human rights during the Genoa G8 meeting, during protests they continue to employ a range of banned practices (beating faces, heads and spines) and weapons (stones, wooden clubs) as well as going in for punitive collective beatings of harmless protesters.
Almost no police officer has ever been found guilty of these illegal and shocking actions. It is very difficult to identify individuals as police officers do not have to wear identification numbers or anything similar, as is the case in most other European countries. What’s more, there are no efficient laws which would prevent such violence: the Italian criminal code still does not consider torture to be a crime.