• British intellectuals take position against Berlusconi’s ad personam law

    By Angela Corrias on January 22, 2009

    London (Herald de Paris) – Thirty British intellectuals have signed a petition against the latest measure of the Italian government involving the judiciary system, approved by the Parliament last July.

    The law, named Lodo Alfano after its creator, the minister of Justice Angelino Alfano, grants the four highest offices of state, the Premier, the President and the leaders of lower and upper Chambers of Parliament, immunity from both political and penal investigations. The bill, however, is still under scrutiny of the Constitutional Court that has to determine whether it complies with the Italian Constitution or not.

    The centre-left party Italia Dei Valori, led by former judge Antonio Di Pietro, has questioned the legitimacy of the new bill and promoted a referendum to submit it to the citizens’ judgement. According to the Italian legislation it is possible to call for such action after collecting 500.000 signatures over a period of ninety days. According to MP Antonio Di Pietro, in fact, the Lodo Alfano clashes with the third article of the Italian Constitution, that states the equality of all citizens before the law.

    London-based group Energie In Fuga promoted the initiative with British academics, asking them to show their support against what they define “a danger for Italian democracy.” Among the signatories are the historian expert of Italian affairs Denis Mack-Smith, Manchester University Professor Norman Geras, LSE Professor Sebastian Balfour, King’s College Professor Raimond Gaita, London Metropolitan University Professor Stephen Haseler and UCL Professor John Foot.

    “I have signed this petition because it is clear that the law, granting the President, the leaders of the upper and lower chambers and the Prime immunity from investigation whilst in office, has undermined the rule of law in Italy,” says Raimond Gaita. “To many people, concern with law may seem prosaic compared to other political ideals, but nothing can flourish without its protection. Without it, all citizens live in fear.”

    Concern is expressed also by Sebastian Balfour: “I’m happy to lend further support to the referendum initiative over this totally retrograde and anti-democratic law, which seeks to curtail the accountability of politicians in the highest office. This proposed law would be unthinkable in most of Europe.”

    The group Energie In Fuga was founded by former candidate for Italia Dei Valori Manfredi Nulli, university lecturer Claudia Baldoli and Luca Zaini, bank director. “The truth is,” says Nulli, “that abroad people are stunned that in Italy a prime minister indicted under ongoing investigation can successfully introduce a law to stave him off his trials. To make this law unacceptable is its ad personam nature.”

    “How can we hope to teach our children to be responsible and follow the rules,” adds Luca Zaini, “when the examples before them are people who have acquired their positions by breaking all rules? The idea of this petition involving the British intellectual class is an effort to prove that not only are different political colours considering this law anti-democratic, but also intellectuals living in a foreign country, and so in a privileged position of objectiv observers, are astonished for such an arrogant legislation.”

    “The Lodo has been passed as an ordinary law, in order to protect a Prime Minister accused of corruption, bribery, and links with the Mafia,” says Claudia Baldoli. “Italians who live in the UK are always asked how that is possible, and are often regarded as coming from a backward country.”

    The petition has been welcomed also by the party promoter of the referendum. However, Dr. Massimo Bernacconi, from Italia Dei Valori, is more cautious: “The petition is very important because it shows how this is not just a mere legal matter, but a much more complex problem with the potential result of unsettling the Italian constitutional order. However,” he continues, “in our country the electorate is fragmented and this kind of initiatives are filtered through emotional factors, instead of rational tools. That’s why I think it won’t be possible to start immediately a serene debate, but the initiative itself will become an opportunity for careful consideration when we’ll have to deal with the many pieces of our collapsing system.”

    Italian Journalist Amgela Corrias reports from London.

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