Trapani court rules: border protection prevails over human rights

June 24, 2023

At yesterday’s hearing in the case against iuventa-crew and others, the court of Trapani rejected the two requests previously filed by the defence of iuventa-crew. Hence, the court blocked the possibility to bring serious contradictions between fundamental rights’ protection and Italian legislation as well as EU directives before the competent higher courts.

The first decision concerned the constitutional complaint which disclosed serious violations of rights guaranteed in the Italian Constitution and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights imposed by §12 of the Italian Immigration Act and the EU Facilitators’ Package. Although the judge declared the complaint to be “unfounded”, his decision did not address the arguments submitted, but left them largely unconsidered.

Francesca Cancellaro,iuventa’s lawyer: “Today in court, border protection prevailed over the protection of fundamental rights. We wanted the High Courts to decide once and for all on the balance between border protection and the protection of human beings. But the judge denied iuventa and everyone this possibility. The decision is unsatisfactory as much for the outcome as for the arguments that support it but we will certainly not stop here, the challenging of the European and Italian discipline on facilitating irregular migration will continue in the courtrooms.

Moreover, the judge deemed some of the arguments as “irrelevant” to the iuventa trial. He based his decision on factual elements brought forward in the accusations against the defendants, anticipating assessments and decisions yet to be made. He therefore misunderstood his role within the framework of a constitutional challenge.

Allison West, Senior Legal Advisor at ECCHR: “The judge’s decision to dismiss the constitutional complaint is a missed opportunity for an urgent and necessary review of the crime of facilitation of irregular entry. In Italy and in the EU, the use of these frameworks continues to legitimise the criminalization of humanitarian assistance and solidarity.”

Elisa De Pieri, researcher at the Europe regional office of Amnesty International: “With so many people desperate enough to risk their lives to access protection and safety in Europe, it is urgent that a reform of the offence of ‘facilitation of irregular migration’ takes place, but also that there is an immediate end to its harmful and abusive application to people saving lives. Today’s decision is disappointing, but it is not final. We will continue to support the iuventa crew and their lawyers to achieve a systemic change to protect acts of solidarity.

The second decision of yesterday’s hearing was related to the inadequate translation of the case files. The judge adhered to previous case law and stated that in his opinion “everything is correct”. Again, he blocked the way to the ECJ, which would have been the competent court to examine whether Italian courts are in breach of EU law on fundamental fair trial issues.

Nicola Canestrini, iuventa lawyer: “Not surprisingly the Court missed again a chance to upheld fundamental rights: moreover, in denying translation of 95% of the prosecution evidence, Court didn’t take defendants’ point of view into consideration in assessing which documents should be translated. But we will go forward despite obstacles.