Italy: Carabinieri keep tabs on carabinieri association that opposes the war in Iraq



On 1 June 2004, the Articolo 21- Liberi Di website (www.articolo21.com) posted a leaked document that was drafted by the provincial command of the Rome carabinieri, showing that members of the Unione Nazionale Arma Carabinieri (UNAC, National Union of the Carabinieri Force), an association of members of the Italian paramilitary police force, have been placed under surveillance in relation to their contacts with Green party MPs, and their opposition to the war in Iraq. The document was sent to the carabinieri general command and to the regional commands in Lazio, Sardinia, Apulia and Sicily. It is a "reserved" special information report dated 22 March 2004 concerning the activities of this association, which outlines the issues discussed in a meeting held in a hall in the Camera dei Deputati (Parliament, lit. Chamber of Deputies) building in Rome on 19 March, and their activities during a peace demonstration on 20 March 2004.

The report outlines the purpose of the meeting (to present a draft law prepared by UNAC on the recognition of trade union rights for members of the armed forces and paramiltary police bodies) and names its participants (the Green party MP Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, UNAC president Antonio Savino, and UNAC representatives for Sardinia, Antonio Garau, and Sicily, Michele Oliva, as well as two lawyers "whose identification is underway"). It also summarises the intervention by Pecoraro Scanio, who offered to support the draft law on trade union rights and to promote a parliamentary commission to investigate the security conditions that military personnel posted in Iraq are experiencing, and on the causes that led to the conflict. It must be noted that the Italian contingent in Iraq has been involved in clashes with Iraqi resistance, who carried out a car-bombing on 12 November 2003 that resulted in the death of 19 Italians, including 12 carabinieri, and an attack on Italy's base in Nassiriya, in southern Iraq on 14 May 2004.

The report notes that UNAC's president, marshall Antonio Savino, spoke at the meeting criticising the military intervention in Iraq and the use of carabinieri units in the conflict, announcing that a UNAC delegation would take part in the anti-war national demonstration to withdraw Italian troops from Iraq. He also supported the right to trade union association in the armed and police forces, spoke of the problem of "mobbing" (a form of work harassment), which he claims has resulted in the suicide of 20 members of the armed forces in the last year, and made reference to the diseases that Italian soldiers intervening in areas of armed conflict have been suffering, particularly cases of leukaemia linked to exposure to depleted uranium. Savino also criticised the "inadequate" and "useless" security measures adopted to counter the threat of similar terrorist attacks to those perpetrated in Spain, and announced the publication of a "white paper" on these issues.The surveillance report also outlines the behaviour of Savino and other six UNAC members ("whose identification is underway", including three women) in the anti-war demonstration on 20 March. Their position in the demonstration was alongside the Green party militants, including the MP Pecoraro Scanio, they gave interviews to radio and media broadcasters, and carried a banner with the association's name and logo on it.

UNAC issued a press statement to express concern over the "intimidation" that carabinieri belonging to the association are suffering, including being followed "even in the Camera dei Deputati". The restricted document that surfaced is evidence that "a serious attack against constitutional rights and democracy" is underway, which is motivated, according to UNAC president marshall Antonio Savino, by the "fear in the higher ranks that [carabinieri] returning from Iraq may talk, as has been happening in UNAC offices in these days". UNAC also noted that it had presented a complaint in the past, when a videocamera was installed so as to identify all the people who entered a conference. Articolo 21 spokesman Giuseppe Giulietti said that:

"as an organisation that is concerned with the right to association, expression and information ... we consider this situation to be a cause for concern because, if the secretary of a party can be subjected to this special kind of attention, it is perfectly legitimate to suspect that this could happen to dozens [tens in the original] of associations, movements, MPs, Internet websites, universities that deal with issues of freedom of information, against censorship and particularly [about] the role played by media lies in the conflict in Iraq."

Full-text of the Rome carabinieri special information report (22.3.2004): available (in Italian) on: www.articolo21.com/notizia.php?id=515
Articolo 21-Liberi Di, press statement, 1.6.2004, available on: www.articolo21.com/notizia.php?id=513
UNAC press statement, 20.5.2004, available on: www.unionecarabinieri.it/speciali_detail.asp?id_spec=31
Reporter Associati, 3.6.2004; Unità 1.6.2004.


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