March 20, 2011

IV. Violence against Migrants and Italians of Migrant Origin

Instances of horrific racist violence in Italy have been widely reported on in the past several years. Some of the more notorious incidents include the October 2008 brutal beating of a Chinese man by a group of youngsters as he waited for a bus in Tor Bella Monaca, a district of Rome that has seen numerous attacks on immigrants. In this case, the attackers shouted racist insults, such as “shitty Chinaman.”[75] Seven teenagers were arrested hours after the incident.[76]

In February 2009, two adults and a 16-year-old attacked an Indian man in Nettuno, near Rome, beating him and then dousing him with gasoline and setting him on fire.[77]  All three were convicted without the aggravating circumstance of racial motivation.[78] In May 2009, a Senegalese actor named Mohamed Ba was knifed in the stomach as he waited for the tram in MIlan.[79] Ba’s aggressor has never been identified or apprehended, according to Ba and a close personal friend.[80]

The focus on of immigration issues for political ends in an increasingly diverse society has created an environment for open expression of racist and xenophobic sentiment. “A particular kind of language has been dusted off … making it so that openly racist expressions in everyday conversation don’t provoke any kind of concern,” according to Deputy Jean-Léonard Touadi.[81]  Francesca Sorge, a lawyer in a firm that represents victims of discrimination and racist violence, agreed, saying that “phrases like, ‘You foreigners go away,’ are taken as part of the common lexicon of normal urban rudeness.”[82]

A concerned Italian mother in Tor Bella Monaca listed comments she has overheard and experiences she has had that together paint a picture of widespread intolerance and prejudice against immigrants as well as against Roma (attacks on whom are discussed in Chapter V, below):

Many mothers complain, they say, ‘I only see black, everyone’s African now. They get a place for their kids in the local daycare center and I don’t,’ … A young man who said to me, ‘Romanians have stealing in their DNA. I work with a Romanian, but at night we’re enemies. If I see him, I beat him up,’ … I was talking to a Moroccan friend on the bus and someone yelled at me, ‘If you talk to them, they’ll never leave,’ … I have a Romanian friend who bought himself a bicycle so he wouldn’t have to ride the bus and hear all the insults … The guard at the supermarket told my daughter to stay close to me because there were gypsies about who steal kids.” [83]

The cases discussed below suggest that prejudice and intolerance can help inspire violent mob and individual attacks on those perceived to be foreigners.

Mob Violence in Rosarno, January 2010

The small town of Rosarno, in the southern region of Calabria, earned international infamy in January 2010 after two separate attacks on seasonal migrant workers on one day led to a violent protest by large numbers of these workers and further retaliatory attacks by local residents.  Authorities have responded with long-overdue attention to the exploitation and abuse of seasonal agricultural workers, but the racist dimension of the attacks has been consistently minimized.

Every winter, thousands of seasonal migrant workers come to Rosarno to harvest citrus fruits. Most are hired without legal employment contracts, and working conditions are often exploitative, including low pay, work without payment, and abusive treatment.[84] As documented by Doctors Without Borders and a local association providing direct assistance to seasonal workers, many live in abandoned buildings on the outskirts of Rosarno and in the neighboring countryside, with no electricity, no running water, and little protection from the weather.[85]

Events in Rosarno began with two separate drive-by shootings of African workers on January 7. A group of African workers organized protests against the shootings that evening and the following day, which turned violent as some protestors smashed storefront windows, damaged cars, and burned tires. In the most serious episode attributed to migrants, a woman and her children were forced out of their car, the woman was hit in the face with a rock, and the car was set on fire. [86]

Over the next two days, violence against African seasonal migrant workers escalated. During research in Rosarno in late January 2010, Human Rights Watch documented at least nine more targeted attacks on African migrants on January 8 and 9. On January 8, mobs of men wielding sticks and iron bars attacked six African migrants in separate incidents, both in Rosarno and the surrounding countryside, while two men were wounded in a drive-by shooting. Another African migrant was the victim of a drive-by shooting on January 9. A total of 11 African workers were seriously injured and required hospitalization. [87]

According to Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, a total of 21 migrants were injured. [88] Many others escaped harm in attacks, including two attempts to run migrants over with vehicles, and an arson attack on a house occupied by migrant workers. Eighteen law enforcement officers and 14 residents of Rosarno required first-aid treatment. [89]

Law enforcement personnel began removing African migrants from Rosarno by bus on the evening of January 8. According to official numbers cited in media reports, 428 migrants were sent to immigration detention centers in Crotone, 320 to centers in Bari, and 330 left the area on their own. [90] The majority of those transferred to detention centers had a legal right to stay in Italy and were released. Many others applied for asylum—and were granted permission to stay while their claims were being considered—while an unspecified number of others were given orders to leave the country. Justices of the peace in Bari annulled at least two expulsion orders on a variety of grounds, including in one case the prohibition of collective expulsions. [91]

In late January 2010, shortly after the attacks, Human Rights Watch interviewed nine of the eleven African workers who had been seriously injured. As far as we were able to ascertain, none had been involved in acts of violence committed by migrants. They were all granted one-year renewable permits to stay in Italy on humanitarian grounds.

Saibou Sabitiou is a 37-year-old asylum-seeker from Togo. He was the victim of the first shooting on January 7.

I was in Rosarno with a friend to buy our things to make African food. Then we walked back. We were near where we sleep, the abandoned factory, when I see a vehicle come out of a parking lot and come toward me. I received a call on my phone and then the shot, pah! I see two men in the car. I didn’t see their faces because I didn’t have the mind for it. It was the man in the passenger seat who shot me. It hit me, I see the blood. Some friends came to help and called the ambulance. We all saw the car, but we didn’t take the number. It was a big blue jeep, a Volkswagen. There was just one shot; it got me here [in the lower abdomen]. It feels like there’s still something there.
The police asked me if I was pissing in the street when it happened. I told them I am a Muslim; I use water to clean myself. This is not a question to ask me. Is it Italian law that if you see someone pissing in the street you take a gun and shoot them? I was just walking, talking on the street … The police are doing their work, but I don’t know if they will find the men. I used to cry, not because of the police, but because my mind had to remember what happened.[92]

A high-ranking police officer close to the investigations told Human Rights Watch in late January that the police intended to find Sabitiou’s attackers because they considered them “morally responsible” for everything that followed. [93] At the time of writing, however, no arrests had been made in this or any of the other drive-by shootings or mob attacks, although three people were convicted in relation to violence against migrants, and five African migrants convicted for the violence during the protests (discussed further below). [94]

Jacouba Camara , a 25-year-old from Guinea, was the victim of a drive-by shooting about 2 pm on January 7 as he was walking down the road after visiting with friends. He was hit once, on his left side, with a pellet shot. A man who was with Camara at the time of the attack was not hurt.

It was a big, black car, with two people in it. They came up from behind me and shot at me. I got back to the house and my friends called the Carabinieri. I didn’t understand what they [the Carabinieri] said. Then my friends called an ambulance.[95]

Godwin Onyebuchi, a 34-year-old Nigerian, was attacked and beaten with sticks in the early evening of January 8. He suffered cuts to his head requiring stitches and deep abrasions on his right arm. His left arm was broken in several places. The arm was improperly placed in a cast, and when Human Rights Watch spoke to him, he was awaiting an operation to reset the bone.

[T]wo cars came from behind and parked up ahead. Seven boys got out. They were smoking, and I greeted them when I walked past. I looked back and saw they had sticks. Then all seven came and started hitting me. I fell; they hit me on the head. I don’t know how long they beat me. They dragged me a ways, to the main road, near a house. I cried ‘help, help,’ and a woman opened the door, looked at me, and then shut the door. I fainted.
When I woke up, I crept to the orange farm and stayed there, with blood everywhere, until around 3 a.m. I walked toward the “fabbrica” [factory, an abandoned building where he and other migrants lived], and there was a police checkpoint on the way. The police made me sit and they called an ambulance. At first I couldn’t talk very much; blood was coming out of my mouth. But I told them where the attack happened, but they didn’t go there. [96]

Moussa Boussim , a 35-year-old from Burkina Faso, was attacked near the train station in Rosarno around 1 p.m. on January 8. He suffered internal injuries and has been operated on twice since the attack. Human Rights Watch spoke with him in Polistena hospital when he was awaiting the second operation.

There were 10 men or so, and maybe five others watching. They didn’t say anything; they didn’t ask me anything; they just starting hitting me. I saw their faces. They hit my head, my stomach, my back. A woman opened her door, but she saw and she panicked; she shut the door... There were big apartment buildings nearby with lots of windows, but nobody helped me. I don’t know how I got to the hospital.[97]

James Amankona , a 39-year-old from Ghana, was attacked by a mob on January 8 as he was coming home from work, around 3 p.m.

I saw 50 or so Italians. They called to me, but I ran and they chased me. I will never forget when I saw the crowd coming. I jumped on a fence to try to escape, but they grabbed me and pulled me down. They started beating me with the sticks and iron bars. I fainted. When I woke up, blood was streaming down my nose. I went to an orange farm. I could hear people shouting and talking, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I was too scared and I stayed there until for a long time, until it was dark. Then I stopped some Carabinieri in the road and they called an ambulance. They already knew what had happened; they didn’t ask any questions. They [the mob] broke my arm, it had to be operated on. They beat me so much on my head. They checked it in the hospital with a machine and it’s ok, but sometimes it hurts a lot.[98]

Ben Gyan , a 31-year-old asylum-seeker from Ghana, was attacked in the middle of Rosarno on the morning of January 8.

I left the house to buy something at the store. I met a group of about 15 Italians. One boy grabbed me, saying, “Where you come from?” Then they started beating with sticks. Five or six of them picked me up and threw me down. They broke my teeth and did this to my face [bruises on his face]. Then they ran away. It’s not a busy street, there was nobody around, but there are apartment buildings on either side of the street. A woman came out and called an ambulance.
The police came to the hospital and I told them I couldn’t recognize the boys who did this to me. Anyway, I can’t go back to Rosarno, so I won’t see them. I don’t know if the police are investigating. I’m not sure the police can find the boys, but if they do, I’m happy.[99]

Agry Kwame , a 26-year-old from Ghana, was attacked on the streets of Rosarno on the afternoon of January 8 by a group of men. He spent a week in hospital recovering from his injuries.

Four boys on motorcycle came and attacked me on the street, and more and more people came. I saw eight people. They said, “Where are you going?” at the beginning, but then didn’t say anything. All of them beat me. They beat me with sticks on my side, on my head, everywhere. There were other people around, watching but not helping me, not calling an ambulance. I saw faces in the windows of apartments, watching. I ran, but not in town for other boys to beat me. I ran for the bush and stayed there until it was dark. Then I went back to my house slowly, slowly, slowly. [100]

Three residents of the Rosarno area were arrested quickly in connection with violent acts and participation in the unrest. Giuseppe Ceravolo was convicted in June 2010 of attempted homicide for driving into an immigrant (who managed to escape serious injury) and sentenced to six years in prison. Both the public prosecutor and the trial judge excluded the aggravating circumstance of racist motivation. The judge concluded that Ceravolo’s act, which consisted of intentionally driving at an accelerated speed at a migrant worker walking alone down a street, “cannot be traced to feelings of racial hatred but rather to a punitive intent against those who at that time were reacting, through protests spilling over into violence and vandalism, to a regime of tyranny and exploitation that had lasted for years.” [101]

Giuseppe Bono was sentenced in March 2010 to two years in prison for resisting a public official, but acquitted of attempted homicide for charging a bulldozer at a group of immigrants. The public prosecutor did not request the aggravating circumstance of racist motivation. [102]

Antonio Bellocco was sentenced in June 2010 to three years in prison for resisting a public official and assaulting an officer. [103] According to the verdict, on January 8, Bellocco drove quickly and closely past a migrant worker named Ibraime Tapily, who then threw a plank of wood at the car. Carabinieri officers already at the scene immobilized Tapily, who was bleeding from the head due to an injury sustained before these events. Bellocco got out of his car and attacked Tapily, at that point unarmed, and caused injuries to the Carabinieri officers attempting to shield Tapily from the blows. Bellocco was not charged with assault in relation to the attack on Tapily. [104]

Five African migrants were convicted and sentenced in late January for incidents during the riot that followed the first two drive-by shootings on January 7. [105]

Rosarno had been administered by an “extraordinary commission” of three prefects since December 2008, when the town council was dissolved by the central government due to concerns about infiltration by organized crime. Municipal elections were held in mid-December 2010, and the Democratic Party candidate was voted in as new mayor.[106] It is unclear whether ‘ndrangheta, the organized crime syndicate that operates in Reggio Calabria, was involved in the violence in Rosarno in January 2010.[107] Regardless of the level of involvement, if any, of organized crime, a culture of silence and fear of collaboration with justice appears to have worked against law enforcement identifying perpetrators of the attacks. Giuseppe Creazzo, a public prosecutor in Palmi, Calabria, told Human Rights Watch, “The police have not been able to give a face to the violence, unfortunately, here nobody will talk.”[108]

At the height of the violence, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni blamed the situation on excessive tolerance of “illegal immigration.” The criminal investigations by the prosecutor’s office in Palmi, Calabria, into the events of January 2010 have focused primarily on the exploitative working conditions, illegal hiring practices, and employment of irregular workers. In April 2010, police arrested 30 people on charges related to the exploitation of migrant workers in and around Rosarno. According to the police, 20 businesses and 200 agricultural areas were seized in the operation. [109] The police chief of Reggio Calabria, the regional capital of Calabria, said what happened in Rosarno “wasn’t an explosion of racism, but a rebellion by the foreigners against exploitation.” [110]  

Mob Violence in Rome, 2007-2009

In the last two years, Rome has been the scene of a number of disturbing acts of mob violence in the wake of brutal crimes attributed to foreigners.

Following the rape and murder of a 47-year-old Italian woman in late October 2007 by a Romanian man arrested immediately after the crime, two separate attacks targeted Romanians. A group of 10 to 12 people, reportedly including one woman, attacked a group of Romanians in a shopping mall parking lot in Tor Bella Monaca on November 2, 2007.[111] The individuals were wearing motorcycle helmets and were armed with bats and chains. Most of the would-be victims managed to escape, but four Romanian men were injured; three of them required hospitalization. At the time of writing, the Rome Prosecutor’s Office had not replied to our repeated requests for information about the investigation into the attack.[112]

The then-mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, condemned the attack in Tor Bella Monaca, calling “hatred and instrumentalization of any kind … alien to the values of our community.” [113]   At the same time, however, Veltroni made other statements blaming Romanians for an increase in crime in Rome. He complained that “people have been coming to this city in the past months from EU member states. These are not immigrants who come here to “get by,” but it’s another type of immigration that is characterized by criminality.” [114]

In a separate incident in Monterotondo, a town north of Rome, the store of a Romanian woman with the same last name of the man accused (and subsequently convicted) of the rape and murder of Giovanna Reggiani, was damaged in by a homemade bomb on November 5, 2007.[115]  The graffiti, “We’ll break your head” was scrawled on the wall, along with the Celtic cross, a symbol used by the extreme right.

On the night of February 15, 2009, a mob of some 20 men with their faces covered and armed with bats entered a kebab restaurant in the Porta Furba area of Rome and attacked those inside. Four Romanians were injured in the attacks, two of them requiring hospitalization. Later that night, not far away, a Romanian man was attacked by a similar group.[116] The attacks followed the rape of a 14-year-old girl in a nearby park on February 14; the press reported that the police were looking for two men with Eastern European accents. Current Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno was reported in the press as saying, “I’ve spoken with the police chief: It’s two persons with Eastern European accents, dark skin, probably Roma.”[117] Two Romanian men were ultimately arrested, tried, and convicted in October 2009 for the rape.[118] The extreme-right group Forza Nuova had held a demonstration in the area on February 15 to protest the rape, with a banner that read, “No mercy for you beasts.”[119] On the morning of the mob attack, graffiti was seen near the park where the rape occurred, signed by Forza Nuova, stating “Roma murderers, shame,” and “Eye for an eye.”[120] No direct relationship has been established between Forza Nuova and the two attacks in Porta Furba.

Mayor Alemanno condemned the attacks, calling them, “a negative and dangerous signal,” and stating that, “it is not even remotely thinkable to take justice into one’s own hands.”[121] At the time of writing, the Rome Prosecutor’s Office had not yet replied to repeated requests from Human Rights Watch for information about the investigation into these attacks.[122]

Individual Attacks at Various Locations in Italy

Abdoul Salam Guiebre, September 2008, Milan

In the early morning hours of September 14, 2008, Abdoul Salam Guiebre, a 19-year-old Italian citizen of Burkina Faso origin, went with two friends into a coffee shop (commonly called a bar in Italy) that looked open. One of the men, John Kilahu, would tell police later, “We came upon a bar where my friends John and Abdoul and I went in, and seeing as no one was there … Abdoul took two small packets of Ringo cookies, I took a small chocolate bar and Samir something small, I don’t know what … leaving we laughed and joked holding the cookies and chocolate in our hands.”[123] Minutes later, the 31-year-old son of the owner beat Guiebre to death with a metal bar.

At their trial, the owner and his son said they believed the men had stolen money from the coffee bar. According to judgment, the father, who was near his van on the street outside the coffee bar, saw the men leaving. He called to his son, who was at the time in the back of the coffee bar and had seen nothing, and they got in their van to follow Guiebre and his friends. According to the judgment, the bar owner and his son then attacked the men, shouting phrases like, “Dirty niggers!”, “You come to my home and steal from me?” and “Thieves, go back to your own countries.”[124] 

Following their confession, the two defendants were convicted in July 2009 of intentional homicide and sentenced to fifteen years and four months in prison.[125] The public prosecutor did not argue that the crime had been racially aggravated. The trial judge approved this decision, arguing in his reasoned judgment that everything indicated that the father’s “disproportionate reaction” was due in part to because he felt “particularly acute affliction by being robbed … by a foreigner. An attitude with its roots in a conservative vision of one’s cultural and territorial integrity, more than in a discriminatory theory of racial superiority.”[126] This reflects the narrow interpretation of the Mancino Law, by which it is only applicable where there is a clear motivation based solely on demonstrated racial hatred. 

Guiebre’s father expressed the family’s extreme disappointment with the sentence to Human Rights Watch:

It’s not enough … too little for the life of a 19-year-old. It’s racism, because if you compare it with other things, something doesn’t add up. If my son had had a different color of skin, they wouldn’t have acted like that. They killed him because he was black. My son is dead, but his mother, his brother, and his sisters and I die every day.[127]

Emmanuel Bonsu, September 2008, Parma

Eight municipal police officers in Parma are on trial at the time of writing for abuses committed against a 22-year-old Ghanaian man named Emmanuel Bonsu in September 2008. Two other officers were tried separately; one was convicted in May 2010 on charges aggravated by racial motivation and sentenced to three years and four months in prison while the other was sentenced in January 2011 to two years and ten months in prison for the assault without the aggravating circumstance of racial motivation.[128] According to the prosecution’s case, Bonsu was mistakenly arrested by the Parma municipal police on suspicion of drug trafficking on September 29, 2008. He was subsequently beaten during the arrest, showered with racist insults (including being called “monkey” when urged to confess), and forced to sit on a municipal police officer’s lap for a photograph.[129] Hours later, he was released from the municipal police station with an eye injury that required surgery and his documents in an envelope with the words “Emanuel nigger” written on it.[130] The municipal police claimed at the time that Bonsu had violently resisted arrest, and had written the offensive tag on the envelope himself. The public prosecutor has requested the aggravating circumstance of racial discrimination against two of the eight officers currently standing trial.[131] 

Ibrahima Mboup, February 2009, Rome

Mboup is a 40-year-old Senegalese who has been living in Italy since 2003. Before leaving Senegal, he was a percussionist with the Senegalese National Dance Company for six years. He is married to an Italian woman and has applied for Italian citizenship. On the morning of February 27, 2009, Mboup went to a street market in Rome to buy a pair of jeans.

I got to the stand—before you buy, you have to look, right? One of the vendors said, “What do you want?” I said I wanted jeans. And he said, “Drop the jeans, shitty Senegalese.” Then he said, “you’re agitated.” I said, no, I wasn’t agitated, but I understood that I couldn’t talk with him, so I turned to leave. Then I felt a punch on the right side of my forehead, and then in my mouth. They broke my right front tooth. I fell down.... The vendors stayed there until they heard the ambulance. The vendor of the stall in front told the ambulance workers it was his stand, to cover those guys.… At the market, just one woman gave me a handkerchief. That’s what hurt the most, that no one helped me. The place was full of people. [132]
I’m educated, I’m a musician, but that’s not written on my forehead.… I’ve asked to become an Italian citizen. I’m married to an Italian woman. But for them, I’m an animal.... I’d like to know why they did this. What did I do?  What, it was a stand where Africans can’t go?  Only Italians, only Americans?  Why? Because we’re black. But they’re wrong, I’m not a shitty Senegalese. I know what I’m worth. If they’re not stopped, they’ll go even further one day.[133]

Mboup reported the crime two days later to the Carabinieri station near where he lives. According to his lawyer, Mauro Notargiovanni, affiliated with ARCI, the Carabinieri quickly identified the two vendors; in September 2010, 19 months after the attack, the public prosecutor brought charges against one man for injuries and insults, with reference to the phrase, “shitty Senegalese,” and against a second man for insults. The prosecutor has not requested the aggravating circumstance of racial motivation.[134] Despite repeated requests, Human Rights Watch was unable to speak with the prosecutor.[135]

Mohamed Ali, March 2009, Tor Bella Monaca, Rome

Mohamed Ali, a 36-year-old Kashmiri, was attacked by a group of Italians in Tor Bella Monaca as he waited in his car at a traffic light. He told Human Rights Watch:

It was March 23, 2009, around 4:30 in the afternoon, I had gone shopping. I had stopped at the light, and five Italian boys said something to me. The second time they said something, I rolled down the window, like a normal person would, I thought they wanted to ask me something, I didn’t imagine this.… They came to open the door. “Do you have money?” they asked me, I said no, and they told me to get out. They opened the door and pulled me out. I don’t remember how they hit me.… I had blood all over my face, all beaten up.… Someone called an ambulance, but I didn’t want to go in the ambulance, I didn’t feel so bad just then. Some friends took me home, and my wife got a real shock when she saw me, she fell down. She was nearly three months pregnant, and she lost the baby. [136]

Ali went to the hospital that evening after he started feeling worse. Two days later he underwent brain surgery because of internal bleeding, and doctors kept him in an induced coma for almost two weeks. He required two-and-a-half months’ hospitalization, returning home only in mid-June. He says he suffers to this day from dizziness, forgetfulness, difficulty walking for long periods of time, and carrying weight with his right hand. [137] He told Human Rights Watch he was forced to close the shop he had opened in August 2008 because he could not keep it going while he was in the hospital. [138]

Ali did not tell the police who responded to the scene that he had been attacked; he said he had felt poorly, stopped the car, and injured himself falling out onto the street. He only acknowledged the attack when he went to the hospital. According to Ali, there were at least two witnesses to the attack. A friend of his was in the passenger seat of Ali’s car and watched the entire attack. Ali told Human Rights Watch a passer-by had come forward and had given the police a rough description of a group of young men who had attacked, but claims that the police did not take the name or contact information of the passer-by. It was unclear whether the police spoke with Ali’s friend at the time of the attack, and Ali said he was no longer in touch with him.[139]

From his hospital bed, Ali identified 10 young men in police photographs as his aggressors, including three between the ages of 16 and 17 who were at the time under investigation for a brutal attack on a Chinese merchant in Tor Bella Monaca in October 2008. By this time, investigators had determined that Ali had been the victim of extortion, forced to pay a certain amount of money by a gang of young men. On the most recent occasion before the attack, he had refused to do so. He identified one of his aggressors and two other men as those behind the extortion. One of the men identified by Ali, who was aged 22, was also identified through photographs by a Moldovan woman who witnessed the attack on her boyfriend of the same nationality by a large group of young men armed with rocks, bottles, and iron tubes in Tor Bella Monaca in May 2009.[140]

Proceeding at this point on the assumption that a group of extortionists was responsible for the assaults, the Rome public prosecutor in charge of the case ordered the arrest of the 22-year-old, who had been identified, and obtained warrants to conduct numerous house searches. However, in a police station identification lineup, neither Ali, the Moldovan man, nor his girlfriend was able to positively identify the man behind a one-way mirror. [141]

The prosecutor explained to Human Rights Watch that he dismissed the case at that point without ordering any further investigations. [142] The prosecutor, who specializes in financial crimes and was assigned this case because he was on call that day, took the view that there were no grounds for believing the attack was racially motivated. He explained, “In this case, the racist element didn’t come to the surface. We conducted a heavy-handed intervention, with house searches, to send a message. And it had a deterrent effect, given that we haven’t seen other episodes.” [143] The prosecutor was unable to say whether immigrants were particularly targeted by the gang for extortion because of their ethnic origin, or subject to particularly violent consequences for failure to comply. [144]

Ali and his wife moved to another part of Rome after the attack. “I would never live again in Tor Bella Monaca,” he explained. “The people there take it out on foreigners, every week something happens, somebody gets beaten up. There are these kids running around in gangs who do these things, I don’t understand why their parents don’t stop them. I don’t understand this violence, we came here to work, live quietly, and then go home.” [145]

Samba Sow, April 2009, Rome

Samba Sow, a 31-old Senegalese man, was attacked on the night of April 12, 2009, after going to a bar near where he lived to buy a phone card. When his car would not start as he tried to go home, a group of five or six men began to insult him and make fun of his car, saying things like, “Shitty nigger, look what a crap car you have.…”[146] Sow got out of his car when he saw someone he knew, and one of the men struck him in the face with a beer bottle. Sow permanently lost the use of his left eye in the attack. The prosecutor successfully argued that the attack was racially motivated within the meaning of the Mancino Law; the perpetrator was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.[147]

Sow expressed his concern about racism in Italy: “All of my friends are Italian. If you’re lost, you call an Italian and he’ll come get you wherever you are to take you home. But here in Italy, there are politicians who use foreigners and incite people to hurt others. You know it, you read the newspapers, always about foreigners, foreigners. But how many Italians live outside Italy? So many. It’s the politicians who give ignorant people these ideas.” [148]

Willy Lulua, July 2009, Rome

A Rome public prosecutor has charged one man with assault aggravated by racial motivation for the vicious attack on Willy Lulua, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, on July 2, 2009, as he was distributing flyers in a central neighborhood of Rome. [149] Three men armed with a bat, a sack of empty bottles, and a knife cornered Lulua in a building and beat him. According to Lulua, they repeatedly called him a “dirty nigger,” threatened to kill him, and said, “We’re doing the will of the government, we’re helping to chase out the Africans.” [150]   A preliminary hearing was scheduled for mid-March 2011.

Lulua told Human Rights Watch he hopes to see justice done. “I’ll never distribute flyers again, I’d be too afraid, who can I trust?  Justice must follow its course. It hasn’t just happened to me, there are many. But they don’t say anything because they’re afraid, they don’t have papers [legal residence]. If there’s justice, those that hurt people should pay.” [151]

Abdul Latif, August 2009, Tor Bella Monaca, Rome

Abdul Latif was attacked in Tor Bella Monaca in August 2009. Thirty-four-year-old Latif has been living in Italy since 2003. In the days preceding the assault, a woman had twice come into the food store where he worked in Tor Bella Monaca, and attempted to steal merchandise, asked for large sums of money, and threatened him if he did not comply. Latif refused to give her money, and stopped her on the first occasion from taking 11 bottles of olive oil without paying. According to Latif, the next time the woman came to the store, accompanied by a younger woman, she stole a bag of potatoes and two melons.

According to Latif, two days after the theft of the food, on August 5, four or five people, including only the younger woman from before, approached him as he smoked a cigarette outside the store.

They didn’t say anything, they just hit me on the head with a big bat. I ran away, I fell down in the street, and then I don’t remember anything.… When I got up, I walked a bit but I fell down again, and a boy came on a motor scooter and tried to run me over. Then he went off and I got to a bar and they called the Carabinieri.… I don’t know why they did this to me, but Tor Bella Monaca is dangerous for me and people like me.[152]

Latif had been stabbed three times in the side. The Carabinieri began investigating immediately, and arrested three men the next day. One of the men claims the attack was retaliation because Abdul had offended his daughter, the younger of the two women who had visited the store. The Carabinieri report seen by Human Rights Watch from that day says explicitly that the motive “could be related to … harassment against the foreigner for the purposes of extortion or for racial motivations.” 

Yet the commander of the Carabinieri station, Major Giorgio Palazzotto, gave a statement to the press excluding racism “decidedly.”[153] The older of the two women was arrested later. Two of the three men were convicted in June 2010 of attempted homicide, among other charges, and sentenced to 14 years in prison, while the older of the two women was sentenced to six years for extortion and threats. The third man is being tried separately.[154] The public prosecutor did not request the aggravating circumstance of racial motivation.

Attack on a Bengali-owned bar, March 2010, Rome

On March 14, 2010, a group of 15 to 20 people attacked a bar owned by two Bengali brothers in the Magliana neighborhood of Rome. Four people were injured in the attack, including Mahbub Miah, one of the owners, who was beaten with wooden bats in the head and the face and suffered a puncture injury in his arm. [155] He had to have stitches in his mouth, head, and arm. One customer’s nose was broken and another suffered a head injury.

Within a few days, the Carabinieri had arrested at least six people in connection with the attack, many of them under the age of 18. Rome prefect Giuseppe Pecoraro said on March 16 that “it has been ascertained [that the episode] was not racially aggravated, but [rather] a phenomenon of bullying.” [156] The Rome juvenile court prosecutor has charged three teenagers with crimes, including assault, with a racial aggravation. [157] At the time of this writing, the central Rome prosecutor’s office had not replied to our repeated requests for information about the investigation into alleged adult perpetrators of the attack. [158]

The Miah brothers are not strangers to racism. In 2004, Mahbub Miah was attacked late one night as he returned home from work. Three men called to him, “Hey ugly nigger, wait,” and then beat him and stamped on his shoulder as he lay on the ground. They stole his wallet and watch. “I yelled for help and they fled. Someone called an ambulance. I stayed at home for 26 days. I still feel pain if I sleep on that shoulder. I filed a complaint with the Carabinieri the next day, but I don’t know what happened, I never heard anything.”[159] In the summer of 2009, someone slashed the tires and broke the windows of Mohamed Massoum Miah’s car (Mahbub’s brother and co-owner of the bar). According to Mohamed Miah, the perpetrator also scratched into the car door the Italian words “negri merda infame” ( “niggers shit foul” The words was still visible at the time Human Rights Watch visited in March 2010.[160]

Mohamed Massoum Miah experienced the March 2010 attack as an act of racism. “Some say it wasn’t racist. But this bar all smashed up, what is that?  My brother and clients bleeding, what is that? The writing on my car, what is that?”[161] 

Marco Beyene, March 2009, Naples

Marco Beyene, a 23-year-old Italian of Ethiopian descent, was attacked by two men in the early morning hours of March 6, 2009, in Naples. He explained what happened to Human Rights Watch:

A friend and I had come out of a club, we were just walking around, talking and laughing, when these two guys came up. First they tried to provoke me, then they started pushing me. One took off his belt and struck me repeatedly in the face, calling me a “shitty nigger.”  My friend tried to intervene but he was also pushed. Then we managed to get into a rotisserie restaurant, and when we came out, the two guys were gone. It was in an area with lots of people around, no one intervened. At first that surprised me, but thinking about it objectively, it all happened so fast.”[162]

Beyene told Human Rights Watch that he then went to the police station near his home to report the crime, but found it closed. According to Beyene, he had to take himself to the hospital for treatment–he had cuts below the eye and on his lip, and his face was swollen–and returned to the police station the following day.[163] 

Beyene said the police showed him pictures that same day, but he did not recognize anyone. The case was subsequently transferred to DIGOS, and an officer called Beyene back in to look at pictures a few days later, and then again a few weeks after that to take part in a station identification lineup. Yet neither he nor his friend could positively identify the man.

Beyene is unaware of any developments in the case since then. He emphasized that in his view, “the police were worried, because this was the first time something like this had happened in Naples, and committed to finding those responsible. I saw that they were working at it.”[164] An assistant to the chief prosecutor in Naples informed Human Rights Watch that prosecutors were unable to provide us with information about the status of the case because “investigations were ongoing.”[165]

Beyene expressed his fears about growing racism in Italy:

I’m black and I’m Italian, but there is racism in Italy, due in part to government policies: he law criminalizing immigrants, the push-backs of refugees, declarations that Italy isn’t a multicultural country, all of this can legitimize certain actions. The government is preying on people’s fears at a time of economic crisis. The climate in Italy is changing, and I think it’s really worrisome.[166]

[75] “Roma, cinese malmenato da un gruppo di ragazzi italiani,” La Repubblica, October 2, 2008, (accessed February 15, 2010); Human Rights Watch interview with Daniela Pompei, Community of St. Egidio, Rome, December 17, 2009.

[76] Human Rights Watch was unable to determine the outcome of the criminal investigation in this case.

[77] Carlo Bonini, “Immigrato picchiato e bruciato; Confessono 3 ragazzi, uno ha 16 anni,” La Repubblica, February 1, 2009, (accessed February 15, 2010); Human Rights Watch interview with Daniela Pompei, Community of St. Egidio, Rome,December 17, 2009.

[78] “Nettuno, bruciarono un indiano,” La Repubblica, February 23, 2010, (accessed December 13, 2010); ODIHR, Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region – Incidents and Responses, Annual Report for 2009, (accessed December 13, 2010), p. 51

[79] ”Milano, accoltellato attore senegalese,” La Repubblica, June 2, 2009, (accessed May 10, 2010).

[80]Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Marco Rovelli, author and close friend of Mohamed Ba, Italy, May 24, 2010. Mr. Ba declined to discuss any aspect of what happened to him with Human Rights Watch.

[81] Human Rights Watch interview with Jean-Léonard Touadi, Rome, May 28, 2010.

[82] Human Rights Watch interview with Francesca Sorge, lawyer, Rome, March 25, 2010.

[83] Human Rights Watch interview with Chiara (pseudonym used upon request), Tor Bella Monaca, May 28, 2010.

[84] Doctors Without Borders, I Frutti dell’Ipocrisia, March 2005, (accessed December 12, 2009) and Une Stagione all’Inferno, January 2008, http://www. (accessed December 12, 2010); Human Rights Watch interview with Giuseppe Pugliese, Osservatorio migranti di Rosarno, January 22, 2010.

[85] Ibid.

[86] “A Rosarno la rivolta degli immigrati,” Il Corriere della Sera, January 8, 2010, (accessed December 10, 2010); “I sindacati a Rosarno in difesa del lavoro,” L’Unità, May 1, 2010 ( (accessed December 10, 2010).

[87] Human Rights Watch interviews with Doctors Without Borders team, Rosarno, January 21 and 22, 2010, and Giuseppe Pugliese, Osservatorio migrant di Rosarno, Rosarno, January 22, 2010.

[88]Interior Minister Maroni speech in Italian Senate, January 12, 2010, Resoconto stenografico, 309a Seduta, 12 gennaio 2010, Senato della Repubblica, (accessed December 9, 2010), p. 5

[89] Ibid.

[90] “Su Rosarno Egitto protesta, Maroni replica ‘lo Stato c’è’”, Il Sole 24 Ore, January 12, 2010, (accessed January 20, 2010).

[91] Ordinance 945/10 of June 11, 2010, Justice of the Peace Rita Calvi. On file with Human Rights Watch; Ordinance 812/10 of May 22, 2010, Justice of the Peace Maria Tuozzo. On file with Human Rights Watch.

[92] Human Rights Watch interview with Saibou Sabitiou, Rosarno, January 21, 2010.

[93]Human Rights Watch interview with high-ranking police officer who requested anonymity because he did not have authorization to make public statements, Calabria, January 22, 2010.

[94] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Giuseppe Creazzo, public prosecutor, Palmi, October 18, 2010.

[95] Human Rights Watch interview with Jacouba Camara, Riace, January 22, 2010.

[96] Human Rights Watch interview with Godwin Onybuchi, Polistena, January 21, 2010.

[97] Human Rights Watch interview with Moussa Boussim, Rosarno, January 21, 2010.

[98] Human Rights Watch interview with James Amankona, Polistena, January 22, 2010.

[99]Human Rights Watch interview with Ben Gyan, Polistena, January 22, 2010.

[100] Human Rights Watch interview with Agry Kwame, Rosarno, January 21, 2010.

[101] Sentenza No. 316/10 R.G., of 28 June 2010, registered 3 August 2010, Tribunale di Palma, Ufficio dei Giudici per le Indagini Preliminari, p.13. On file with Human Rights Watch.

[102] Sentenza No. 195/10 R.G., of 31 March 2010, registered 4 May 2010, Tribunale di Palma, Ufficio dei Giudici per le Indagini Preliminari. On file with Human Rights Watch.

[103] Sentenza No. 2010/60 R.G.N.R., of 15 June 2010, registered 23 July 2010, Tribunale di Palma. On file with Human Rights Watch.


[105]Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Giuseppe Creazzo, February 1, 2010.

[106] “Elezioni comunali di Rosarno: Elisabetta Tripodi è il nuovo sindaco,”, December 13, 2010, (accessed December 14, 2010).

[107] In comments after a massive anti-mafia operation in July 2010, Interior Minister Maroni said ‘ndrangheta “has its base still in Calabria…[and is] today the most powerful, aggressive and…most modern” organized crime syndicate in Italy. “’Ndrangheta/Maroni: Lotta prosegue, non guardiamo in faccia nessuno,” Apcom, July 14, 2010, (accessed December 13, 2010). Forty-nine town councils in Reggio Calabria, including  Rosarno and four neighboring towns, have been disbanded since 1991, when the law allowing the central government to take this measure went into effect. “Comuni sciolti per infiltrazioni mafiose: i dati e le riflessinoi di Vittorio Mete,”  November 24, 2010, http;// (accessed December 13, 2010).

[108] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Giuseppe Creazzo, October 18, 2010.

[109] “Rosarno, 31 arresti per sfruttamento di manodopera clandestina,” Reuters, April 26, 2010, (accessed April 30, 2010).

[110] “Rosarno: 30 arresti per caporalato,” Il Sole 24 Ore, April 27, 2010, (accessed April 30, 2010).

[111] “Spedizione punitiva contro quattro rumeni, Il Corriere della Sera, November 2, 2007, (accessed August 2, 2010).

[112]Human Rights Watch requested information on this and other cases from the Rome prosecutor’s office by fax on October 20, 2010. We renewed this request via fax on October 28, 2010, in emails on November 3, November 23, and December 9, 2010, as well as in phone calls on October 29, December 10 and December 15, 2010.

[113] “Spedizione punitiva contro quattro rumeni,”Il Corriere della Sera, November 2, 2007.

[114]Sicurezza, Veltroni contro la Romania,” La Repubblica, October 31, 2007, (accessed July 31, 2010).

[115] “Monterotondo, bomba carta contro negozio romeno,” Il Giornale, November 5, 2007, (accessed August 2, 2010).

[116] “Roma, raid nella zona dello stupro: quattro romeni picchiati in un locale,” Il Corriere della Sera, February 15, 2009, (accessed August 2, 2010).

[117] Ernesto Menucucci, “Alemanno: forse sono rom, subito gli sgomberi a sorpresa,” Il Corriere della Sera, February 15, 2009, (accessed December 9, 2010).

[118] “Stupro della Caffarella, condannati due romeni,” Il Sole 24 Ore, October 5, 2009, (accessed December 9, 2010); “Stupro Caffarella, confermata in appello la condanna a 11 anni e 4 mesi per Gavrila,” Adnkronos, May 31, 2010, (accessed December 9, 2010).

[119] “Roma, raid razzista contro locale,” Il Gazzettino, February 15, 2009, (accessed December 10, 2010). Forza Nuova, founded in 1997, has an eight-point platform including stopping all immigration and activating humanitarian returns of immigrants in Italy, as well as the repeal  of the Mancino law.

[120] Ibid.

[121] “Assalto razzista a Porta Furba,” Il Corriere Romano, February 16, 2009, (accessed February 2, 2010).

[122]Human Rights Watch requested information on this and other cases from the Rome prosecutor’s office by fax on October 20, 2010. We renewed this request via fax on October 28, 2010, in emails on November 3, November 23, and December 9, 2010, as well as in phone calls on October 29, December 10 and December 15, 2010.

[123] Sentenza, Tribunale ordinario di Milano, July 16, 2009, proc. n. 33568/R.G.N.R and proc.n. 7337/08 R.G. G.I.P., p. 4.

[124] Ibid., p. 14. In Italian, the men called them “sporchi negri.”

[125] Ibid., p. 18

[126] Ibid., p.14.

[127] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Assane Guiebre, Milan, July 16, 2010.

[128] Maria Chiari Perri, “Caso Bonsu, tutti a giudizio, Frattini condannato a 3 anni e 4 mesi, La Repubblica, May 20, 2010, (accessed July 12, 2010). ” Parma/Condannato uno dei vigili responsabile del pestaggio a Emmanuel Bonsu,” January 25, 2011, (accessed February 2, 2011).

[129] Giacomo Talignani, “Parma, dieci vigili indagati per il pestaggio di Emmanuel,”  La Repubblica, November 12, 2008, (accessed July 12, 2010); Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Lorenzo Trucco, counsel to Emmanuel Bonsu, October 7, 2010.

[130]“Parma, dieci vigili indagati per il pestaggio di Emmanuel,” La Repubblica, November 12, 2008.  In Italian, the envelope was marked “Emanuel negro.”

[131] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Lorenzo Trucco, counsel to Emmanuel Bonsu, October 7, 2010.

[132] Human Rights Watch interview with Ibrahima Mboup, Rome, March 26, 2010. It is unclear how the vendor knew Mboup was Senegalese; Mboup says he did not know the vendor. In Italian, the vendor said “lascia i jeans, senegalese di merda.”

[133] Human Rights Watch interview with Ibrahima Mboup, Rome, March 26, 2010.

[134] Human Rights Watch interview with Mauro Notargiovanni, lawyer, Rome, March 24, 2010; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Notargiovanni, December 14, 2010.

[135]The prosecutor did not respond to emails requesting an interview sent on July 20, July 23 and October 8, 2010. Reached by telephone on October 15, 2010, the prosecutor declined to speak with Human Rights Watch over the telephone.

[136] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamed Ali (last name omitted upon request ), Rome, March 25, 2010.



[139] Ibid.

[140] Human Rights Watch interview with Andrea Mosca, public prosecutor, Rome, July 27, 2010.


[142] Ibid.

[143] Ibid.

[144] Ibid.

[145]Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamed Ali, March 25, 2010, Rome.

[146] Human Rights Watch interview with Samba Sow, Rome, May 25, 2010.  In Italian, the men said, “Negro di merda, guarda che macchina di merda che hai…”

[147]Human Rights Watch interview with Roberto Staffa, prosecutor, Rome, July 29, 2010.

[148] Human Rights Watch interview with Samba Sow, Rome, May 25, 2010.

[149] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Francesco Polino, prosecutor, Rome, August 4, 2010.

[150] Human Rights Watch interview with Willy Lulua, Rome, March 26, 2010. In Italian, the men called Lulua “sporco negro.”

[151] Ibid.

[152] Human Rights Watch interview with Abdul Latif, Rome, May 27, 2010.

[153]Fabrizio Caccia, “Banda aggredisce un cittadino Bengalese,”  Il Corriere della Sera, August 7, 2009, (accessed August 3, 2010).

[154] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Federica Sorge, lawyer for Abdul Latif, Rome, October 12, 2010.

[155] Human Rights Watch interview with Mahbub Miah, Rome, March 25, 2010.

[156] Claudio P ompei, “’Razzismo? Sono bulletti di periferia,’” Il Giornale, March 17, 2010, (accessed April 2, 2010). Each province of Italy has a prefect, a representative of the central state with public order and safety responsibilities.

[157] Human Rights Watch interview with Claudio De Angelis, head prosecutor, Rome Juvenile Court, October 28, 2010.

[158]Human Rights Watch requested information on this and other cases from the Rome prosecutor’s office by fax on October 20, 2010. We renewed this request via fax on October 28, 2010, in emails on November 3, November 23, and December 9, 2010, as well as in phone calls on October 29, December 10 and December 15, 2010.

[159] Human Rights Watch interview with Mahbub Miah, Rome, March 25, 2010. In Italian, the three men said, “brutto negro aspetta.”

[160] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamed Massoum Miah, Rome, March 25, 2010.

[161] Ibid.

[162] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Marco Beyene, Italy, July 29, 2010. In Italian, the man called Beyene “negro di merda.”

[163] Ibid.


[165]Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Mrs. Palma, office of the Naples Prosecutor Giandomenico Lepore, Naples, December 15, 2010. Human Rights Watch requested information about this case in emails dated November 4, November 23 and December 9, 2010.

[166] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Marco Beyene, Italy, July 29, 2010.