EveryOne Group | 28.02.2009 10:38 | Anti-racism
A case of rape in Rome is exploited by politicians and racist patrols to approve racial laws and carry out acts of violence and camp clearances of the last Roma settlements.
For the careful attention of
politicians, activists and antiracist journalists.
We are sending you the findings of a counter inquiry carried out by EveryOne Group into the case of rape that took place in Caffarella Park in Rome. We are talking about a serious crime that has had a great echo in the press and resulted in many episodes of intolerance all over Italy. The case has paved the way for new discriminatory measures such as the “security laws”, the clearance of Roma settlements, expulsions and the new rules for Roma camps. While expressing our sympathies and solidarity to the young victims of this atrocious crime we believe there are serious doubts surrounding the resolution of this case and fear that the witnesses able to clear Racz and Istoika may receive further intimidation and maybe even undergo camp clearances. We are convinced that not even a transfer of the accused to Romania would protect them, as many of the Romanian authorities have proved unreliable when it comes to the protection of Roma citizens originating from their country. Since we began looking into this case, as we usually do when Roma citizens are involved – seeing their rights have been trampled on in the past, we have received a great deal of pressure, some of it extremely threatening. It is for this reason too that we are sending you the attached dossier containing considerations linked to the episode in Caffarella Park; the general situation of Roma rights and those of immigrants living in Italy; as well as the huge difficulties faced by activists working in such a hostile climate.
Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro, Dario Picciau EveryOne Group
Racism in Italy, criminalization of the Roma people and the rape in Caffarella Park in Rome
Rome, February 24th, 2009. Immediately after news got out about the brutal rape of a 14-year-old girl in Caffarella Park in Rome on February 14th, 2009, the Italian authorities handed out the description of the attackers supplied by the victim and her 15-year-old boyfriend. They were described as two dark-skinned people, one with long hair and a squashed nose, like a boxer’s.
According to the teenage rape victim, one of the men had two fingers missing from one hand, a description that fits neither of the accused. It is reported that the two teenagers first spoke of their aggressors having “an Arab accent” according to the witnesses who first came to their aid in front of a cafè, and as published online by Repubblica TV ( http://tv.repubblica.it/copertina/lei-e-piccolissima/29454?video)
Gianni Alemanno, the Mayor of Rome, on the other hand, spoke from Slovenia where he was on official business, and disclosed the fact (without quoting any source) that the rapists had spoken in an Eastern European accent. He reasserted that the men were dark-skinned, suggested they could well be Roma and informed the public that important clearance operations against squatter camps still present in the capital would be carried out the following day.
According to crosschecks carried out by EveryOne Group on the statements given by the two victims and the Rome Police Authorities, the two Romanians arrested do not match the description disclosed immediately after the attack. One of them has short, blond hair and is fair-skinned; the other is dark and starting to go bald. Strange then, that a video taken during a police inspection of the Roma camp in Primavalle not long before the crime shows him with short hair.
What is more, some Roma citizens living in Rome had already informed one of the activists of EveryOne Group (before the arrest of the two men accused of the rape) that the authorities had already arrested and locked up two other Romanians accused of the same crime. If this information were to be confirmed, we could suspect they were two “reserves” to be used in the event of the other arrested men proving incompatible with the account given by the victims, the Mayor of Rome, and the Italian authorities.
Alexandru Loyos Isztoika, nicknamed by the Italian press “Il Biondino”, was said to have confessed to the crime on the night of 17th February, supplying, according to the authorities a “horrifying” description of what happened: “The two young people were crying which only encouraged us to rape the girl” they are said to have told investigators according to the national press.
The authorities informed the public that they were in possession of incontrovertible evidence: the aggressors’ DNA , fingerprints, blood and body fluid samples described as “important” by many daily newspapers, along with two switched-off mobile phones in the hands of the two rapists - all found on the scene of the crime.
Karol Racz, however, pleaded innocent right from the start. He was also able to provide an alibi: at the time the rape was taking place, he was in the Torrevecchia Roma camp in the company of other Romania Roma. His version was confirmed by 7 witnesses, 4 of whom have already testified before the investigating magistrate.
On February 20th Alexandru Loyos Isztoika also pleaded not guilty to the crime before Valerio Savio (the magistrate in charge of preliminary investigations) and claimed he had been forced to confess after receiving brutal treatment and a beating from the police. He supplied the same alibi as Karol Racz.
“I was forced to confess. Those statements were extorted from me at police headquarters on the night of February 17th through the use of physical violence and psychological pressure by the Roman police force.”
The investigating magistrate did not believe him and the two men were conducted to prison, motivated by “the risk of an attempt to escape, tampering with evidence; reiteration of the crime”.
Isztoika’s lawyer confirmed his client had withdrawn the confession and stated that the young victim had not recognised her assailant at first sight from the photo, but only after insistence from the investigators. It is to be noted that there was no direct confrontation between the aggressors and the victims, and identification was carried out only through photographs. After “Il Biondino” denied responsibility for the crime, the magistrate deemed Alexandru Loyos Isztoika’s new version of the facts unreliable. As for the beating he was subjected to, he stated that Isztoika “shows signs only of a reddening in the armpits” (to be noted that it is possible to beat someone up in such a way as to leave very little trace visible to the naked eye). However, he did not confirm the existence of any other evidence: DNA, blood samples, fingerprints, mobile phones, all suddenly put to one side and forgotten.
EveryOne Group believes that the rights of immigrants and the rights of Romanians in particular are not always respected when they are caught up in legal proceedings. During questioning it would be advisable to have representatives of human rights associations present considering the numerous reports of beatings, threats and the frequent distortion of the accused’s testimony (often through the use of unqualified interpreters).
An example of a failure to respect the rights of a citizen under investigation is the Giovanna Reggiani murder. In this case too investigators claimed they were in possession of the aggressor’s DNA and witness accounts, but in the end Romulus Mailat was sentenced to 29 years’ imprisonment based solely on the testimony of a woman suffering from a serious mental disorder, a fact certified by long periods spent in psychiatric clinics. On February 22nd of this year the interpreter who translated Mailat’s statements and that of the “super witness” was attacked and beaten up by a stranger in the Pietralata area of Rome.
(Report of the attack on the interpretor: “Il Messaggero” Monday 23rd February, pages 1 and 9.)
Again on February 22nd, 2009, four Roma from the Torrevecchia camp in Rome gave a voluntary statement to the investigators concerning the position of Karol Racz, one of the men accused of the rape in Caffarella Park. They confirmed the accused’s story: on the evening of February 14th, 2009, while the crime was taking place, Karol Racz was with them and other people in the camp situated near Santa Maria della Pietà “from 5 in the afternoon until about nine o’clock”.
(testimony of the four Roma “Il Messaggero” February 23rd, 2009, page 9)
The rape took place at 6.30 in the afternoon. The investigators are now trying to establish whether there are any family ties between the witnesses and the accused in order to invalidate their courageous testimony. There are, however, other Roma who can confirm Racz’s statement. Another error by the investigators was the failure to hold an identity parade. The girl was merely shown photos of the two Romanians after their arrest. In spite of her description of the two men as being dark-skinned, with black hair (one with long hair) and well-dressed, the girl – more than likely due to the shock suffered after her horrifying ordeal – “recognised” two poorly-dressed men with short hair, one of them with fair hair and fair complexion.
Following the rape in Caffarella Park and the subsequent media campaign directed at criminalizing Roma and Romanian citizens (in violation of the laws according to which responsibility for a crime is to fall solely on the individual and must never be extended to an entire social or ethnic group) dozens of attacks have been made on Roma, Romanian and foreign citizens. On February 15th and 16th alone, 18 assaults were reported. On the evening of the 15th in Rome, a “patrol” of about 20 racists armed with clubs and wearing balaclavas carried out separate attacks on five Romanians Roma (two of whom are in hospital with serious injuries); a Romanian citizen; a young Roma mother with her young child; two young Roma boys. Shortly after a fire broke out a Roma settlement in Pisa destroying ten makeshift huts where a group of Roma had been living.
In Turin an 18-year-old Peruvian boy was beaten up by a gang of racists wielding metal bars. Three Romanians were beaten up in Sassari. In Sesto San Giovanni (Milan) a “patrol” of racists beat up some Roma. In Sacrofano (Rome) a gang of eight racists armed with clubs beat up three Romanian Roma. In Ancona gangs of racists beat up a 19-year old Roma, then a Romanian Roma of 36. On February 21st, a gang threw two petrol bombs (which then exploded) into a shop run by Romanians. However, episodes of abusive language, threats and beatings have been reported in cities all over Italy. In the meantime the authorities have taken advantage of the climate of intolerance to carry out camp clearances of more Roma settlements (more than 40 in Rome between 15th and 16th of February) and arrests of Roma and Romanians as part of their operations “against petty crime”.
In Pesaro, a leaflet appeared bearing the slogan “Adolf Hitler taught us, it’s not a crime to burn gypsies. 10, 100, 1000 patrols”. In the same city staff at Caritas (the Christian “charitable” association) insulted a young Roma boy with racist language and some citizens chased two Roma women out of a shopping centre without cause.
We must reflect on the following crimes which received a lot of attention in the press and on TV:
- the murder of Giovanna Reggiani, for which Romulus Mailat was charged and sentenced on the testimony of an unreliable witness and without proof.
- the attempted kidnapping of a young baby from an apartment in Ponticelli (Naples), for which a young Roma girl of Romanian origin, Angelica V., was arrested and sentenced without proof.
- the arrest and “conviction by the media” of Karol Racz and Alexandru Loyos Isztoika who do not fit the description given by the victims, who have pleaded innocent and who have an airtight alibi (with clear testimonies given before the magistrate in the case of Karol Racz).
All three crimes took place just a few days before the approval of new “safety-laws” which contain numerous xenophobic and racist measures. What is more, in all three cases the authorities sounded the serious “social alarm” and pointed their fingers at Roma, Romanians and foreigners. These are disturbing coincidences confirmed by evidence and witness accounts that give rise to serious doubts. We know that during the years of the racial laws the SA and the SS staged hateful crimes and allowed the blame to fall on Jews and Gypsies which justified arrests, pogroms, deportations and persecutory operations. We also know that there are groups in Italy who preach racial hatred, xenophobia and the superiority of Italians over immigrants. And we also know that such groups have reached positions of absolute power in politics, communications, the military, the police force and the media.
These considerations, combined with the observation that the Italian authorities are carrying out systematic persecution against the poorer immigrants, as well as the numerous cases of police and legal abuse being carried out against the more vulnerable ethnic groups, lead us to harbour serious doubts about many of the crimes Roma and foreigners citizens are accused of and convicted for in Italy.
As for the media campaign being carried out by the authorities and reported in the media, several inaccuracies must be pointed out. First of all, the fall in the number of cases of sexual violence (according to the statement made by Prime Minister Berlusconi) is not corroborated by facts: the data contained in the Istat report for 2007 shows that the figures are practically unaltered, as is the percentage of rapes carried out by foreigners against Italian women. This is less than 3% of the total cases, or 6% if we take into account the cases of rape that take place within the immigrant community. 92% of the cases of sexual violence are to be attributed to Italians
In recent times, however, the media has been highlighting only those cases of sexual abuse committed by foreigners, or attributed to foreigners. Nine out of ten cases of rape committed by Italians remain unreported in the press, or receive little attention, even when they are particularly brutal crimes such as gang rape, sexual abuse carried out by adults on small children and violence committed by Italians taking advantage of the poverty of their female victims. Special mention must be given to the repeated rape of a four-year-old child by her adoptive father, the rape of a little girl of nine, the long segregation and violence committed by a man from Milan towards a girl from Mozambique, the constant abuse carried out by Italian men against Romanian children and young girls - whose trust is often won over by the simple offer to buy them a meal. The Romanian authorities however, like those of Mozambique, remained discreet during the investigations, also to safeguard the victim’s privacy. If the authorities and media had carried out xenophobic policies, public opinion would probably have come out against the Italian local communities, fomenting racial hatred. However, there remains a serious threat that the Nationalist movements of the Member States and countries outside the EU will take inspiration from the “Italian model”, leading to a new era of “hunt the foreigner” and a new wave of racist and xenophobic sentiments. Such an event is bound to affect Italians living abroad, breathing new life into the stereotypes that have accompanied our fellow countrymen throughout the world.
The Italian Government is also about to present the Romanian Government with a dossier that demonstrates how widespread Romanian crime is in Italy. The dossier, which we have seen a copy of, will belie the official data, which shows the incidence of crimes committed by Romanian citizens to be within the proportional norm.
It must also be noted that in a democratic and tolerant country there should be no discrepancies between the ethnic percentages of the population and that of the inmates in jail. It has been confirmed by sociologists, anthropologists and criminologists that there is no nationality genetically programmed to commit crimes more than any other and that only social inequality can lead to a substantial variation in criminal behaviour. The 2008 SAPPE report compiled by the Prison Wardens’ Trade Union shows just the opposite, that in Italy (where foreigners represent just 8% of the population) 46% of the prison population has foreign citizenship. If we consider just the resident population, 36% of the inmates are foreigners.
Just as interesting is a figure that would dispute the “security fears” raised by the Government: both in 2007 and 2008 there was a clear reduction in the number of crimes committed against the person, in spite of the entrance of the berated Romania into the EU. But in spite of this, on February 23rd, 2009, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini, reasserted the different treatment Italy is reserving for Romania compared to other Member States: “Italy wishes to clear up once and for all that we welcome and will continue to do so the Romanians who work and obey our laws, but at the same time we will be firm when dealing with Romanians who break the law”.
It is an important step for European civilization to eradicate the reappearance of a violent racist and xenophobic phenomenon, a phenomenon resulting in an organized movement reminiscent of groups in favour of ethnic cleansing and racial persecution such as the Ku Klux Klan, the National Socialist Party, the Arrow Cross Party in Hungary, the Ustaše, the Blackshirts, the National Party of South Africa.
It is advisable to reassert wherever possible (in order to prevent the persecution of the Roma in Italy being carried out among total indifference or with the tacit approval of the EU) the grave warnings spoken by those who experienced in first person the persecution and massacre motivated by racial hatred.
“The Roma in Italy are persecuted exactly the way we Jews were in the years of the racial laws”.
Piero Terracina on witnessing the pain of persecuted Roma families in a settlement in Rome.
“We gypsies are at the bottom of the social hierarchy for schooling, employment and before the law. The Holocaust never ended for us”.
Goffredo Bezzecchi, Italian Roma, survivor of the Samudaripen
“That’s how it started for us Jews too. The authorities and newspapers started to accuse us of terrible crimes: rape, infanticide, conspiracy against the Aryan people, greed, the practice of depraved rituals. The SA and the SS staged brutal crimes and allowed the blame to fall upon innocent Jews, even rabbis, thus triggering off terrible progroms and stirring up sentiments of hatred and suspicion in the European people against the Jews as a whole. The Roma are still today the victims of this racist strategy, because some of the wealthiest countries in the EU, starting with Italy, prefer to eliminate them physically, year after year, instead of helping their integration. The condition of the Roma in Italy is the same as that of the Jews in the ghettoes of Lithuania and Poland during the Nazi period. I feel very close to the Roma and sympathise with what they are going through”.
Tamara Deuel, survivor of the Holocaust in Lithuania.
“This is an historical truth. A bitter, tragic truth. We ourselves, we Jews have often experienced for ourselves – resulting in the most terrible persecution of all: the Holocaust – the consequences of being unshakeable foreigners, then parasite foreigners, complotting foreigners, the murderers of Christian children, and therefore human beings to deport, persecute and exterminate. We Jews are well aware what it means to be victims of prejudices which are transformed into “purifying” hatred and violence. We know what it means to be pointed out as an “Evil” to be eradicated. It is as a Jew, as well as a citizen who believes in democratic ideals, that I feel close to a community, the Roma community, which cannot, must not become the victim of new pogroms.”
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