ICJ alarmed at death threat against judge

The ICJ is alarmed that Magistrate Gabriele Verrina has received death threats after convicting and sentencing Giulio Andreotti, Italy’s seven-time prime minister, to 24 years in prison for the murder of an investigative journalist.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Palazzo Chigi
Piazza Colonna, 370
00187 Roma
Fax: 39 6 6798648

Dear Sir,

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) consists of jurists who represent all regions and legal systems in the world working to uphold the rule of law and the legal protection of human rights. The ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (CIJL), is dedicated to promoting the independence of judges and lawyers throughout the world.
We have received information that Magistrate Lino Gabriele Verrina received a death threat on 17 November a few hours after convicting and sentencing Mr. Giulio Andreotti to 24 years in prison for ordering the murder in 1979 of Carmine “Mino” Pecorelli, an investigative journalist.

We have also received information that you have allegedly criticized this ruling, contending that Italian judges are biased against conservative politicians and publicly indicating that this ruling should be overturned.

We are alarmed at these statements emanating from the highest quarters of Government which indicate profound disregard of fundamental international principles on the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary. Furthermore, utterances such as these encourage verbal and physical attacks on the judiciary which can ultimately culminate in their death.

We remind you of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary which state that,

1. …It is the duty of all government and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary.

2. The judiciary shall decide matters before it impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect form any quarter or for any reason.

4. There shall not be any inappropriate or unwarranted interference with the judicial process, nor shall judicial decisions by the courts be subject to revision.

Furthermore, we also remind you of the recommendations of Mr. Param Cumaraswamy, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of judges and lawyers further to his mission to Italy earlier this year. In his Preliminary Report, the Rapporteur recommended that:

The decisions of the courts must be respected by all. Though such decisions can be commented on and even criticized, the judges who make the decisions should not be attacked and subjected to any form of calumny by anyone or any institution. If decisions are perceived as incorrect, then the proper appellate machinery must be invoked.

In light of the above, we urge that your Government take all measures to provide security to Magistrate Gabriele Lino Verrina and that an immediate investigation be launched into the origin of the death threats against him. We also respectfully remind you of your obligation as head of the Executive to cease from criticizing the decisions of judges with which you may disagree, thereby endangering the rule of law.

Yours faithfully,

Louise Doswald-Beck

Mr. Roberto Castelli
Justice Minister
Via Arenula, 70
00186 ROMA, Italy
Fax (06) 68891493

Mr. Franco Frattini,
Foreign Affairs Minister
P.le Farnesina, 1
Foro Italico
00194 ROMA, Italy
Fax (06) 36916194

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