Italian police tortured and abused migrants who refused to be fingerprinted, Amnesty report claims

Several migrants allege they were electrocuted and one man says his testicals were pulled by pliers 

Will Worley
Friday 04 November 2016 01:24 GMT
Some migrants claimed they were abused by police after they refused to be fingerprinted
Some migrants claimed they were abused by police after they refused to be fingerprinted (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi)

Italian police officers used torture on some migrants while trying to process them, an Amnesty International report has claimed.

The rights watchdog also said it had received “consistent accounts that arbitrary detention, intimidation and excessive physical force” had been used to force migrants – survivors of the treacherous Mediterranean crossing – to give their fingerprints to the authorities for processing.

The Italian authorities have strongly denied the allegations.

Fingerprinting is used to identify where migrants first entered the EU and can be used prevent them from moving to different countries. Out of 170 migrants in Italy interviewed by Amnesty, most voluntarily gave their fingerprints and reported no problems, but 24 people alleged having been subjected to ill-treatment by police.

Several others said unnecessary or excessive force had been used to make them give their fingerprints, the group added.

A man named only as Adam, a 27-year-old from Darfur, Sudan, told Amnesty that policemen beat him and subjected him to electric shocks with a stun baton after he refused to provide his fingerprints.

Adam claimed the officers then made him take off his clothes and pulled on his genitals with a tool. “They held me from shoulders and legs, took my testicles with the plier, and pulled twice,” Adam said. “I can’t say how painful it was.”

The report said such treatment amounted to torture within the definitions of the United Nations Convention Against Torture. It also said some people were detained arbitrarily, a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The assessment process for arrivals in the hotspots, aimed at selecting asylum seekers from those considered irregular migrants, was also criticised.

"People, often exhausted and traumatized from their journeys and without access to adequate information or advice on asylum procedures, have to answer questions with potentially profound implications for their futures," it said.

Senior Italian police officials were quick to reject the allegations of beatings, electric shocks and sexual humiliation.

"I categorically deny that violent methods are used on migrants both during identification and during repatriation," said Italian police chief Franco Gabrielli. He added that his officers, who work alongside EU officials and human rights groups in the migration centres, had shown enormous responsibility in dealing with the crisis.

Nearly half a million migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, have reached Italy by boat. Thousands have died attempting the journey in 2016 alone.

Reuters contributed to this report

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