Terrorism, is it time for the laws to change in Italy?

Terrorism, is it time for the laws to change in Italy?
Terrorism, is it time for the laws to change in Italy?

The sentence against Luca Traini highlights the legal vacuum. White supremacism and lone wolves are not covered by national rules

Posts praise Luca Traini on social media

On April 29, the reasons for the sentence were presented which on March 29 confirmed the sentence of 12 years per massacre aggravated by racial motivations per Luca Traini. It was February 3, 2018 when Traini, leaving his home in Tolentino, in the province of Macerata, drove through the streets of the Marche city shooting at eye level at the address of anyone with black skin.

At the end of his tour Traini was injured six people. He also fired at the local office of the Democratic party and he said immediately and repeatedly over time that he had acted to avenge the murder of Pamela Mastropietro, the young Roman who died just five days earlier in Macerata at the hands of the drug dealer Innocent Oseghale.

Traini at the time of the events was 28 years old and after the massacre he became theidol of the far right online. An investigation by Simone Fontana on Wired and the podcast Black hole they explained that Traini has become source of inspiration for suprematists of all the world. The most striking example is perhaps that of Brenton Tarrant, the Christchurch bomber who had written the name of the Macerata massacre on the magazines of the weapon he used to kill more than fifty Muslims gathered in prayer in the mosque of the New Zealand city.

Although the act was aimed at indiscriminately killing anyone with black skin and strong ideological and political motivations, Luca Traini is not never been charged or tried for terrorism. The reason is simple: according to the Italian legal system, that of Traini it cannot be a terrorist act. But this creates an ethical and political problem, even before a legal one.

And terrorists are the internet

Over the past fifteen years the international terrorism it has transformed a lot. The role of subversive organizations has shrunk and the phenomenon of so-called has grown exponentially lone wolves, namely terrorists who act without affiliating with or receiving any kind of support from organized groups. Much of these changes can be traced back to dissemination of the internet and in particular of sites (for example imageboards) or applications (such as Telegram) that allow for anonymous individual or group communications and make it almost impossible to trace both what is said and the identity of the writer.

The Internet has made the so-called almost invisible path of radicalization, that is, the use of propaganda content that leads to the extremeization of the individual. While in the preceding decades the radicalization took place mainly within cultural circles, social centers or party sections (sometimes clandestine), today most of the terrorists receive online training, while connecting from home.

All this not only makes police operations hugely more complex, but has also determined profound changes in social relations within terrorist groups. Barbara Lucini, sociologist and researcher of the Itstime center of the Catholic University of Milan, explains a Wired that the internet has marked such a large turning point in the phenomenon of international terrorism that it has brought about one obsolescence of the regulatory system. “Italy experienced terrorism in a systematic way during the Years of Lead, and although it has been updated over time, the legislation is still very much affected by that historical setting.”, He observes.

The Italian legislation

Specifically, the Italian penal code atarticle 270 bis punishes with the imprisonment from seven to fifteen years “anyone who promotes, establishes, organizes, directs or finances associations that aim to commit acts of violence with the aim of terrorism or subversion of the democratic order“. It is also expected to damage the condemned confiscationof the things that served or were destined to commit the crime and of the things that are the price, the product, the profit or that constitute its use”.

As explained by a Wired the professor of criminal law at the University of Tor Vergata Paolo Iafrate, starting from 2016 in Italy the crimes of financing of terrorist activities and the so-called nuclear terrorism, and a new hypothesis of mandatory confiscation is envisaged for any crime committed with the purpose of terrorism. The previous year, in 2015, a decree-law had already been approved which was then converted into law which not only attributed to the National Anti-Mafia Directorate and to the national anti-mafia prosecutor the additional competences in the field of counter-terrorism, but has also introduced new types of crime. In particular the penalties for those who are trained they have also been extended to those who train themselves and the penalties for those who commit acts have been increased “through IT or telematic tools”. All this, explains Iafrate, “had the aim of punishing even the so-called lone wolves, and overall showed a certain political sensitivity towards the new terrorism”.

And the white supremacists?

However, the Macerata massacre seems to have highlighted a legislative vacuum. A strongly political act aimed at killing random targets has in fact managed to evade the legislation because, explains Iafrate, “organization is missing. That is, Traini was in no way a member of any organization nor had he enlisted or trained through material disclosed online or offline.”.

Lucini emphasizes that this “shows that we are still firm in the idea that a form of association is needed to create terrorism, when this is no longer the case. A lat the European level, there is no clear definition of terrorism, and still today each country uses different references“. Both in Italy and in Europe, anti-terrorism regulations began to be modified and strengthened in the aftermath of the attacks of Islamist origin. So the changes made have led to an exacerbation to the detriment of this type of terrorism but they seem not to have involved the violence of a supremacist nature, which instead more often than the Islamist one is completely free from pre-established organizations defined as terrorists.

For Lucini “in Italy there is one underestimation of far-right terrorism and we tend to think of terrorists only as religious extremists“. To give an example, the report of the year 2019 released by the Department of Penitentiary Administration (Dap) highlights the presence of some training courses organized for the fighting radicalization in prison. Of the six issues addressed during these courses, two are theoretical, one operational and three directly mention Islam or religious issues. “Even the manuals for the Italian police forces – adds Lucini – they speak of terrorism as a phenomenon linked exclusively to Islam”.

However, political and administrative underestimation does not coincide with investigative underestimation short. Sia i secret services that the prevention police in Italy are in fact very well aware of the danger represented by white supremacism, as the director of the prevention police Eugenio Spina also told in the podcast Black hole. And from here comes a strong contradiction: often the supremacists are under investigation by counter-terrorism, even if they are almost never accused of crimes related to terrorism.

To prove it there are the data. As of 31 December 2020, the Dap reported the presence of 79 people detained for crimes related to terrorism: of these 46 (i.e. 58%) are attributable to terrorism of an Islamist matrix, while another 32 are in jail for national terrorism (mainly people active during the Years of Lead) and only one for international terrorism. “These are data that demonstrate a political underestimation of right-wing extremism that could however be overcome with cultural tools – says Lucini -. After a cultural action, one could certainly imagine an adaptation of the anti-terrorism legislation that is more aware of the new forms of terrorism in the digital age”.

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