London Times 
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Italy’s plan to fingerprint Roma children is being challenged by human rights organisations.
Italian MPs are coming under pressure from international agencies to refuse to confirm the state of emergency being used by the Berlusconi Government to bring in the fingerprinting. Amnesty International believes that the measures break at least two articles of the European Convention of Human Rights — the right to a private life and the right to non-discrimination.
But a case at the European Court of Human Rights would take years to reach a conclusion and the only immediate way of stopping the fingerprinting campaign would be to persuade Italian MPs to reject the Government’s security package when it is debated in parliament this month.
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The most outspoken pressure has come from the Council of Europe, the rights body set up after the Second World War, which runs the human rights court in Strasbourg. Thomas Hammerberg, its commissioner for human rights, visited a Roma camp in Rome last month and said that the authorities were using the same methods as Mussolini in the 1930s. “These are methods which recall measures adopted in the past and which led to the repression of Roma people,” he said. “The problem of Roma is widespread in Europe: housing, health, education, employment, political representation . . . But for a long time in Italy the Roma have been a symbol of something that is unwanted.”
A spokesman for the Council of Europe said it was concerned that Italy did not have an ombudsman for human rights, like the Children’s Commissioner in Britain, who could pass comment on legislation before it was adopted. “There is no independent ‘human-rights-proofing’ of the legislation in Italy like there would be in Spain or France,” the spokesman said. “Parliament has 60 days to approve the package so by the end of July they will approve or reject the proposals made by the Government.”
Amnesty International believes that the measures contravene Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Natalia Alonso, of Amnesty’s EU office, said: “The Italian Government’s decrees refer to cases of emergency; they should be reserved for natural disasters. It is discriminatory to use this to identify people who are mostly Italian anyway.”