19 July 2011

Italy: guards that beat women in the CIE

Speechless. Because violence against women hurts even more. All the more so if the beating is done by a man in uniform. Look at these photos. They were taken in the Centre for Identification and Expulsion (CIE) of Ponte Galeria, in Rome. You can see a young detainee, from Tunisia. There are evident bruises and signs of beating by truncheons on her back and her arm. As she herself recounts: ‘We were playing football, I kicked the ball and it hit a young Nigerian woman in the face, we started to insult each other and in the end we grabbed each other by the hair. Neither one would let go and after hearing the screams three men entered, two from the Guardia di Finanza and one plain-clothed policeman. They started to beat us with their batons to separate us, in front of all the girls who were watching the scene. I was beaten on my back, my arm and my shoulder. I complained several times with the nurses at the CIE due to the intense pain and asked to be accompanied to hospital. But they just kept giving me tranquilisers.’

These facts date back to the beginning of June. We’re publishing the photos only now because in the meantime the young woman was freed and does not risk retaliation. For security reasons and for privacy we would rather not disclose the identity of the victim of the aggression. As for the aggressor, we do not know his identity, otherwise we would gladly have disclosed it. Because behaviour like this is disgraceful.

Over the years, alas, we’ve grown accustomed to the unmistakeable violet stripes of truncheons on the bodies of prisoners in the CIEs. Remember the images from Bari and Gradisca? No one could, however, imagine that the same violence might someday be used against the women detained in the Centres for Identification and Expulsion.

But perhaps we’re guilty of naivety. Because in Milan something similar happened two years ago. No truncheons. The violence was of another type: sexual. It all happened the evening of the 13th of August, 2009. A young 28-year-old Nigerian woman was resting on a mattress in the middle of the courtyard, wearing only her underwear. When at a certain point a policeman sat on top of her and began to touch her. And it wasn’t just any policeman, but the chief inspector of the CIE of Milano, Vittorio Addesso. When she suddenly turned around and began to scream at him, he told her not to get so worked up, that he was only joking. A joke in extremely bad taste that Joy, this was the young woman’s name, wanted to report. Unfortunately the GUP (judge for the preliminary hearing) of Milano in charge of the case, Simone Luerti, did not find anything disagreeable and decided, on February 2nd 2011, to fully absolve the inspector.

Translated by Camilla Gamba