Italy: UN rights expert voices concern over changes to criminal procedure code

9 August 2002

The United Nations human rights expert on the independence of judges and lawyers has written to the Italian Government voicing concern over proposed changes to the country's judicial system which could provide an excuse for prominent politicians in Milan facing criminal charges to delay proceedings against them.

Special Rapporteur Dato' Param Cumaraswamy wrote to the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs late last week to call attention to potential delays in justice caused by the proposed changes, the UN announced today.

Under the amended Code of Criminal Procedure, trials could be transferred to a different court on the basis of "legitimate suspicions" that a case could be compromised by serious local circumstances. The Special Rapporteur warned that these changes could add to the long delays that already characterize the Italian judicial system, and could be used by accused persons to further delay trial proceedings.

Mr. Cumaraswamy, who visited Italy earlier this year, said he feared that if the changes were adopted and applied retrospectively - a proposal under consideration - then prominent politicians facing charges before Milan courts could take advantage of the amendment to further delay due process in their cases.

Those politicians, he stressed, "should not be seen as delaying that process." He added that "because they are in positions of power, delaying the judicial process in their cases would be perceived with suspicion and could be detrimental to the integrity of the justice system."


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