Italy: Supreme Court strikes down anti-Roma policy for good

Italy’s Supreme Court yesterday declared an anti-Roma policy - the so-called “Nomad emergency” - unlawful and unfounded, a move Amnesty International has hailed as a key victory in the struggle to end discrimination against Roma communities around the country.

The court’s decision upheld a November 2011 ruling against the state of emergency declared by the government in May 2008, which has led to widespread human rights violations and increased discrimination against Roma people. 

Roma were targeted in an unlawful census based on ethnicity and deprived of safeguards against forced evictions, which resulted in thousands being made homeless in several Italian cities. They were also increasingly segregated in camps set up by the authorities.

Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International, said:

“The Nomad emergency ushered in an all-time low in Italy’s discriminatory treatment of Roma. We are delighted that the country’s highest court has finally upheld the rights of Roma people.”

The new Italian government must act on this decision and end forced evictions, segregation in camps and exclusion from social housing.”

In February 2012 the Italian government appealed against the November 2011 Council of State ruling, while also continuing practices which violated Roma’s rights. The Supreme Court’s latest decision brings this legal challenge to an end.
Amnesty urges Italy’s authorities to prioritise respect for and protection of human rights for Roma communities, and calls on the authorities to provide effective remedies for the negative impact of the implementation of the “Nomad emergency”.
On 21 May 2008, the Italian government used law 225/1992 to declare a state of emergency in relation to the settlements of “nomad” communities in Lombardy, Campania and Lazio and later extended it to Piedmont and Veneto.
The Council of Ministers claimed that the state of emergency was declared to address a “situation of grave social alarm, with possible repercussions for the local population in terms of public order and security”. Special powers were conferred on delegated commissioners to solve the emergency, including by derogating from ordinary laws.

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