Italy: Deployment of armed forces to guarantee security in cities

On 29 July 2008, a decree was signed by the interior minister, Roberto Maroni of the Lega Nord, and the defence minister Ignazio La Russa of the Partito delle Libertà, authorising the deployment of armed forces personnel as of 4 August 2008, which was already envisaged in amendments included in the conversion into law of the law decree of 23 May 2008 on urgent measures in the field of public security. Their duties will include the surveillance of sensitive sites, of detention centres (re-named identification and expulsion centres) and patrolling the streets in major cities, with 1,000 soldiers to be made available for each of these three tasks. The exercise will last six months, involving personnel from the army, navy, air force and carabinieri with military duties, operating in co-operation with the police. The 1,000 armed forces personnel responsible for the external surveillance of detention centres will be deployed in Agrigento (70 men), Bari (115), Bologna (60), Brindisi (25), Cagliari (40), Caltanissetta (70), Catanzaro (30), Crotone (100), Foggia (80), Gorizia (90), Milan (80), Modena (40), Rome (60), Siracusa (50), Turin (70) and Trapani (20). Those involved in the surveillance of sensitive sites, will be deployed in Rome (797 men), Milan (174) and Naples (29). Finally,a further 1,000 will be available to the prefetti (heads of police) in nine cities (Bari - 90 men, Catania - 90, Milan - 170, Naples - 150, Padua - 45, Palermo - 50, Rome - 195, Turin - 80, and Verona - 75) for patrolling duties, alongside a further 55 who will have command and control duties.

Amendments inserted in the decree allow the deployment of military personnel as part of joint patrols (with police and carabinieri) in the streets of major cities (preferably carabinieri with military duties or specially trained volunteer soldiers), granting them powers to identify and to seize people or vehicles on grounds including to prevent or impede behaviour that may endanger people or sites subjected to surveillance, and subsequently take them to carabinieri stations for checks and any judicial police tasks that may required. Their deployment is subject to authorisation for "specific and exceptional crime prevention requirements when greater control of the territory may be desirable". The "sensitive sites" to be subjected to surveillance include consular and diplomatic offices, metro and train stations, as well as administrative offices such as those responsible for migrants' documentation.

Far from suggesting that a degree of soul-searching was required to deploy soldiers on the streets of major cities, minister La Russa denied that the measure involved a "militarisation of cities", arguing that rather, it was "an initiative arising from the need to give citizens a greater perception of security and of presence of the State". Moreover, he added that "No decent person has ever been scared of a police officer, a carabiniere or a [member of the] miltary. Only criminals need be scared". This fits in with the current government's understanding that the police and carabinieri were victims of events in Genoa in 2001.


Summary of the decree on the deployment of armed forces personnel
(interior ministry, pdf)
Breakdown of the military staff to be made available for detention centres for migrants [pdf]
Breakdown of the military staff to be made available for the surveillance of sensitive sites [pdf]
Breakdown of the military staff to be made available for joint patrolling duties [pdf]

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