Since June 8, Italy and Brazil have been involved in a high-tension dispute over a volatile issue raised by its judicial system. The Brazilian Supreme Court recently ruled to deny the extradition of the accused Italian terrorist Cesare Battisti, granting him political refugee status. On June 10, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini, recalled his country’s ambassador back home for consultations. In Rome, Minister Frattini and Italian Ambassador Gherardo La Francesca met to discuss Italy’s position on the purported violation of its 1989 Bilateral Treaty of Extradition with Brazil. The two discussed whether they should move forward in finding an appeal before the International Court of Justice.
As a member of the guerilla group the Armed Proletarians for Communism, Battisti assassinated four people in Italy in the 1970s. Afterward, he escaped from an Italian prison in 1981 and traveled first to Mexico and then to France. He then fled to Brazil in 2004, where he was found and detained in Copacabana in 2007, thanks to an investigation launched by Italian and French authorities. The Italian suspected terrorist then spent the last four years in a Brazilian jail, until his release on June 9.
Rome has repeatedly called upon Brazilian authorities to extradite Battisti back to Italy. In December 2010, during his last days in office, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva refused yet another extradition request from Italy.
Minister of Youth Policies, Giovanna Meloni, has declared this judicial decision a slap in the face for Italy. The topic has unified Italians across the entire political spectrum, and generated a nation-wide sense of sorrow for the victims of terrorism and their families. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano expressed his indignation towards Brasilia’s decision, saying that Brazil’s disregard for the long friendship between the two countries and its failure to comply with their extradition agreement represents a set-back in the war against terrorism.
In Italy, families of the victims and other supporters of the struggle against terrorism have called for a boycott of Brazilian products in protest of Brasilia’s decision to resist Italy’s pleas. Some have even gone so far as to demand the withdrawal of the Italian soccer team from the 2014 World Cup competition to be held in Brazil.
Italian politicians are united in turning to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). “What we have failed to achieve through the national judicial route we can achieve through the international judicial route,” said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. The ICJ is a defender of equity and impartiality, but the path to justice is still long and often tortuous. And, lamentably, there is no assurance that Brazil will emerge free of the lingering odor of judicial decay.
Written By COHA Research Associate Roberta Verardi
For more by this author please refer to the article U.S. Export – Import Bank scheduled for upgrading.