Bepi Pezzulli
International counsel & foreign policy adviser

Party brings lawsuit in defense of Liliana Segre

The Italian Republican Party has filed an amicus curiae brief with the Public Prosecutor’s Bureau of Milan for the crime of threats aggravated by discrimination and racial hatred against five individuals who published insults and death threats against Senator Liliana Segre, a Holocaust survivor. Anti-Semitic remarks and phrases glorifying the Nazis and its concentration camps were posted on her Facebook wall after Senator Segre, renowned as a Holocaust educator, received the first of the two-shot vaccine against Covid-19 at Milan’s Fatebenefratelli Hospital on Thursday.

The Italian Republican Party’s leader Corrado de Rinaldis Saponaro denounced the anti-Jewish animus on social media against Senator Segre stating, “Racial hatred not only offends the Italian people, but also the values of the Italian Republic. Anti-Semitism is unacceptable. It’s time to take drastic measures: indifference to racial hatred is incompatible with the defence of human rights and irreconcilable with the application of the Republican Constitution. There can be no place in Italy for racism, discrimination, intolerance and hatred. This wave of anti-Semitic rhetoric must be addressed immediately.”

The prominent defence lawyer Fabio Garaventa, who acts as the Italian Republican Party’s General Counsel, prepared the brief. He invoked the application of Article 415 of Italy’s criminal code that punishes with imprisonment of six months to five years whoever publicly instigates the dissemination of racial hatred.

Meanwhile, the specialised cyber-crime unit of Italy’s national police opened an investigation in order to identify the IP addresses and the account owners of those who engage in hate speech on social media.

On the first day of Covid-19 vaccinations aimed at those aged 80 and above, Senator Segre alongside Governor Attilio Fontana and Deputy Governor Letizia Moratti, engaged in an awareness campaign in the northern region of Lombardy.

“As a 90-year-old grandmother, I tell my ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ who reach this age to not be afraid and take the vaccine,” said Segre.

Against the backdrop of the bizarre anti-vaccine movement storming the peninsula Segre unequivocally stated, “I’m not afraid of the vaccine, I’m afraid of the illness.”

Despite its lip service vis-à-vis combatting anti-Semitism, Italy unfortunately continues to struggle with deep-rooted hostility against Jews and Israel. Recently, the country failed to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism in its entirety. It opted to omit illustrative examples – seven of which relate to Israel. Periodic questions as to the country’s genuine commitment in fighting anti-Semitism seemingly creep to the surface repeatedly.

The latest wave of anti-Semitic comments on social media following Segre’s attempt to encourage her peers to receive the anti-Covid-19 vaccine may just be what the doctor ordered however. It provides Italy with an opportunity to up its ante and adopt a much needed zero tolerance policy against anti-Semitism.

About the Author
Bepi Pezzulli is a Solicitor specialised in International law and a foreign policy adviser covering Israel, the UK and the US. In 2018, he published "The other Brexit" (Milano Finanza Books), investigating the economic and geopolitical implications of Brexit. Currently, he is Editor-in-Chief of La Voce Repubblicana; a columnist for the Italian daily financial newspaper Milano Finanza; and a pundit for the financial TV channel CNBC. He received degrees at Luiss Guido Carli in Rome (LLB), New York University (LLM), and Columbia University (JD).
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