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EU Court Blasts Torture by Italian Police in 2001 G8 Raid

(CN) - A nighttime raid of a shelter used by protesters during the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa - and ensuing brutality by Italian police - culminated in an inadequate investigation and punishment of the officers involved, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday.

Following two days of clashes between police and anti-globalization protesters at the July 2001 G8 summit in Genoa, a riot squad stormed a shelter set up for the protesters by city leaders in a midnight raid.

Arnaldo Cestaro, then 62, was inside the shelter at the time, sitting with his back to the wall and his arms raised. Police kicked and struck him several times with their truncheons, breaking bones throughout his body and inflicting wounds from which he has never fully recovered.

The raid touched off three years of investigation by the Genoa district attorney and eventually resulted in 28 arrests. In 2008, an Italian court sentenced 12 officers to between two and four years in prison and ordered them to pay restitution to the victims - of which Cestaro received over $48,000.

Cestaro lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in 2011, alleging torture and inhuman and degrading treatment by Genoa police expressly prohibited by the EU's human-rights constitution.

In a ruling issued Tuesday, the Strasbourg-based court noted that Italy's highest appeals court had found that the officers had raided the shelter with "a punitive aim, an aim of reprisal, seeking to cause humiliation and the physical and mental suffering of the victims."

Furthermore, the 7-judge panel of the human rights court found that Cestaro did nothing to warrant the level of force used by the officers, particularly since the raid was supposedly launched only to gather evidence and identify which protesters had ransacked the city during the summit.

Police instead used the raid to make well-publicized arrests and to justify adopting "operational methods that did not comply with the need to uphold values as required under the human rights convention or relevant international law" - amounting to torture under the convention, the court found.

Italian authorities compounded the problem by never identifying the officers who attacked Cestaro and allowing them to go unpunished, thanks in large part to a lack of cooperation by the Genoa police department until the statute of limitations had run out.

"The court deplores the fact that Italian police had refused, with impunity, to provide the competent authorities with the cooperation necessary for the identification of officers that might have been involved in acts of torture," the court said.

Cestaro will receive another $48,000 in damages from the Italian government, and the human rights court urged lawmakers to make changes to Italy's penal code that would better enable courts there to punish perpetrators of acts of torture.

The court's judgment was not made available in English.

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