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Court rules Italy police violated torture law in 2001 G8 raid

ROME (Reuters) - Europe’s top human rights court ruled on Tuesday that Italy had violated EU rules against torture at the 2001 Group of Eight summit in Genoa and ordered compensation for a protester seriously beaten by police there.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that Arnaldo Cestaro had been subjected to what amounted to torture or inhuman treatment during the raid on a school where members of umbrella protest group the Genoa Social Forum were sleeping.

Clashes between anti-globalisation demonstrators and police during the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa caused one death and hundreds of injuries, sparking accusations of police brutality in Italy and abroad and several judicial inquiries.

Cestaro was 62 years old when police beat him on the head, legs and arms with heavy truncheons, causing serious injuries. The court ordered 45,000 euros ($48,816) in damages for the beating, which it said qualified as torture under EU law.

After three years of investigations, the court noted that 28 officials were charged over the violence and 12 were sentenced in 2008 to between two and four years in prison.

But those directly responsible for Cestaro’s injuries had never been identified, it said.

The court regretted the inadequate official reaction and said Italian penal legislation did not appear to contain proper sanctions against torture or to have a sufficient dissuasive effect against similar acts in future.

It said Italy should ensure it had the means to punish acts of torture or other acts that violated human rights statutes.

Franco Vazio, a deputy from Italy’s ruling Democratic Party (PD) who has been working on a law against torture to be introduced into the Italian legislature, said in a statement:

“The sentence from Strasbourg reminds us that Italy has lacked a specific law against torture for too long and has not respected the principles of international legislation.”

A group of police officials were definitively convicted in 2012 for their role in the school raid, which was intended to root out so-called “black block” violent demonstrators.

Witnesses later said the occupants of the school lay on the floor without resisting, but police beat them with batons anyway. The statute of limitations saved nine officers convicted of causing serious injury from going to jail.

Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Tom Heneghan