Italians resist for their constitution

Protests in London - Pizza Politics - click on the picture to see other photos of the protests

After success of pro-women manifestation Se non ora quando?”, one million Italians took the streets to protest in favour of the  Italian Constitution last Saturday.

According to Articolo 21 website, which promoted the event, about one million Italians in 100 Italian cities and abroad protested against the way in which Berlusconi’s government is threatening the Italian Constitution (see London’s protests photos).

The protests were the response to last Berlusconi’s proposal for a constitutional law that would make up the reform to Italy’s Justice system. The law is unlikely to pass because, being constitutional, it requires a two-year path in the Parliament  (Berlusconi’s government could fall before) ending with a popular referendum (last Saturday’s events have already showed the Italians’ opinion).

Though the law was born dead, a quick analysis of its main points reveals why so many Italians decided to take the streets to protest against Berlusconi’s  government.

Political disciplinary court

As a consequence of the separation of career paths for judges and prosecutors, magistrates will be  tried no more by the “Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura”, an organ whose composition (2/3 of members nominated by all Italian magistrates and 1/3 by the Parliament) ensures a balanced treatment. Instead, they’ll be judged by a High Disciplinary Court, with 1/2 of its members nominated by the Parliament and 1/2 by magistrates.

How could such a highly politicized organ guarantee the independence and security of magistrates?

Liable magistrates

In order to preserve the efficiency and independence of magistrates, the Italian constitution says that when a magistrate makes a mistake (when he wrongly limits one’s freedom, for instance), the State, rather than the magistrate, is to be considered responsible. With Berlusconi’s proposal of law, the liability of magistrates will play down the delicate importance of their role as they will be compared to all other professions.

Acquittals can’t be appealed

Let’s say that Berlusconi was found innocent in one of his many trials. According to the current constitution, the acquittal could be appealed by the prosecutor twice. However, Berlusconi’s law destroys the three-proceeding-set system. But only in the case of acquittals. This means that if he was convicted of fraud in one of his four trials, he could still appeal the conviction. But if he was found innocent, the prosecutor wouldn’t have the possibility to appeal the acquittal. The trial wouldn’t go further. It would stop. Kaput.

A fair treatment, isn’t it?

Goodbye mandatory prosecution

Actually an Italian magistrate is obliged to start an investigation every time he receives a crime notification. This is the mandatory prosecution. Berlusconi’s law replaces it with a Parliament’s decision: the Parliament decides what offences magistrates should investigate. Guess what offences the Parliament will ask Italian magistrates to investigate: those minor offences politicians are usually not tried for. Indeed.

Berlusconi was right when he said that this reform is with no doubt “epochal”. Indeed, never before since the end of WW2 had a European state been deprived of the most fundamental democratic principle: the separation of powers.

The Italian Constitution, the outcome of collaboration between non-fascist parties after the end of WW2, has been a landmark for the whole West since 1948. However, its principles are not inviolable and its content, though incredibly actual and balanced, can be changed or, even better, improved as Italy has deeply changed since 1948. There’s no doubt the Italian constitution can be modified. But not by a man who’s tried in four trials; not by a prime minister who represents no one but himself.

The constitution, the outcome of non-fascist Resistance, must be protected at any cost. The Italians must resist. Once again.


About Ruggero Galtarossa

I'm a BA Journalism and Sociology student at City University London. I was born in Padova, Italy.I cover Italian politics and society from the angle of an Italian part-time exile. You can find me on the Huffington Post UK. View all posts by Ruggero Galtarossa

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