Europe: Rights watchdog slams Italian legal delays

Strasbourg, 26 March (AKI) - Europe's top human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, has expressed concern about what it calls the "dysfunction" of Italy's judicial system and its risks. The council said on Thursday that its committee of ministers had adopted a resolution concerning the excessive length of judicial proceedings in Italy.

"The dysfunction of the justice system, as a consequence of the length of proceedings, represents an important danger, not least for the respect of the rule of law," said the resolution which was adopted last week.

The resolution followed two others concerning the excessive length of civil and criminal judicial proceedings and bankruptcy cases in Italy.

"Given the substantial backlog in the civil and criminal fields - approximately 5.5 million pending civil cases and 3.2 million pending criminal cases - as well as in the administrative field, a final solution to the structural problem of length of proceedings still needs to be found," it said.

The council said there are currently 2,183 cases against Italy concerning the length of judicial proceedings.

It also said the average duration of civil procedures for filing a bankruptcy petition was 159 days in 2007, while bankruptcy proceedings took an average of 3,754 days.

In addition, a 2009 report entitled 'Doing Business' by the World Bank ranked Italy 156 out of 178 countries in the enforcement of commercial contracts.

The World Bank also found that Italy’s judicial system offered business investors less protection than the African country of Mozambique and that contracts were more difficult to enforce in Italy than Colombia in South America.

In a report published in the British weekly, The Economist, in early March, Italy's justice minister Angelino Alfano was reported to have said that it takes more than 31 months to bring a case to court.

Alfano's view was echoed by the head of Italy's supreme judicial court, Vincenzo Carbone who said in late January that Italy is ranked last in Europe in judicial speed and efficiency.

The council called on Italian authorities to adopt urgent measures to reduce the civil, criminal and administrative backlog and introduce reforms to speed up the processing of civil and criminal cases.


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