by de Gondi
Sat Jul 5th, 2008 at 08:01:45 PM EST
The Italian National Association of Magistrates has declared a state of permanent agitation by a large majority against a series of government decrees that would gravely compromise the judiciary's capacity to fulfil its constitutional role. The ANM (Associazione nazionale magistrati) is considered the parliament of the judiciary branch. Their decision closely follows the heavy criticism launched by the National Council of Magistrates - the governing body of the Judiciary Branch - and a petition by eminent constitutionalists against those same decrees last week.
The decrees and bills in question could be the finishing blow against the Italian judiciary system, already gravely crippled by the so-called Castelli reform and various laws, expressly contrived to block trials and investigations involving the then prime minister, passed during Berlusconi's previous five-year tenure. The two-year Prodi interlude under the guidance of Clemente Mastella as Minister of Justice did nothing to correct the situation, thus sanctioning the rift between a totally incompetent political class, bent on self-preservation, and the judiciary branch.
The decrees and prospected bills would arbitrarily block all trials for facts precedent to June 2002 for one year; further reduce resources by blocking up to 40% of finances earmarked for the judiciary; grant temporary immunity to several of the highest offices in the nation; render the authorization of wiretaps all but impossible for crime of any nature.
By blocking trials for one year, the judiciary system will be forced to waste scarce resources to put the law into effect only to be swamped by those same trials, calculated at over 100,000, once the year has ended.
It is notoriously well known that the law would block the Berlusconi-Mills trial which is nearing conclusion after only two years. David Mills is accused of having taken payment for making false testimony during the previous Berlusconi SME trial involving judiciary corruption. Mills signed a statement acknowledging the fact but then adopted the defensive line that he had been "bullied" into signing by investigative magistrates. Similar defensive lines have invariably proved disastrous for defendants. Berlusconi has asked that the judge be recused for having signed a petition against a law passed by the Berlusconi parliament in 2004.
Funds for justice have always been reduced beyond the minimum. Such basic essentials as gas, electricity, heating, computer hardware or even paper are often lacking. A mafia boss in Puglia once beat the rap because Castelli's ministry had not provided government paper for the trial's transcript despite repeated requests. A court ruling established that trial transcripts cannot be done on plain paper. The facile accusation that justice is slow and inefficient in Italy rarely takes into account routine sabotage by a hostile ministry and parliament.
The incumbent prime minister is well known for his loose attitude towards law. The temporary suspension of his trials or indictments through immunity is unique. Contrary to his over-publicized contentions, no other nation grants blanket immunity to its prime minister. Temporary immunity is only granted by the constitutions of Greece, Portugal, Israel, and France for the sole office of the Presidency.
The bill that would all but outlaw legal wiretapping is marketed as a sign of civilization against the intolerable invasion of a citizen's privacy. The bill ignores illegal wiretapping, a hallmark of Berlusconi's previous government, that involved the Italian secret services (SISMI), Telecom and a galaxy of private "security" agencies. The present laws on legal wiretapping in Italy are regarded highly by international standards.
The new law in its present form would establish prison terms and heavy fines for any reporter, director or editor that publishes transcripts, synopses or information derived from wiretapping even after they are in the public domain. In theory a person could be under investigation, indicted or even on trial, yet it could not be reported. The law would be a grave assault on freedom of the press and the public's right to know.
At present there is a highly publicized scandal based on wiretaps between Berlusconi and the head of RAI fiction, Augustino Saccà. The nature of the conversations has led to speculation and gossip over Berlusconi's sexual philandering and chemically assisted prowess.
Apart the well-grounded argument that public figures have no right to privacy, the press campaign is misleading.
The bill despite its over-publicized pretention to combat organized crime is designed to facilitate organized crime. The vexing formalities and ridiculous time limits set on wiretap authorizations practically allow complex criminal organizations to use telephones or convene in hideouts without serious concern of being eavesdropped. Wiretaps may only be granted for grave crimes such as "terrorism" or "organized criminality," charges that are rarely pressed for the manifest difficulty in proving them let alone arguing them at the outset as an investigative premise. Bernardo Provenzano would never had been caught were this law in effect at the time. The present head of the mafia, Matteo Messina Denaro, the fifth most wanted man in the world according to Forbes, can take it easy once Berlusconi's parliament shoves this bill through.
Berlusconi's present attitude characterized by his obsessive slandering of the Italian magistracy is leading to an unprecedented institutional confrontation. He was elected on sugary promises to get Italy back on its feet. As of now he has done nothing but seek to resolve his own problems. And those of his backers.