Italy can step up, do more to fight racism, discrimination, U.N,-backed panel says

Written by on September 1, 2023

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GENEVA (AP) — U.N.-backed human rights experts focusing on racial discrimination urged Italy’s government to do more to eliminate violence, hate speech, stigmatization and harassment against Africans and people of African descent, and expressed concern that no legal cases have been brought to punish fans and others for racist acts at sports events.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, a panel of independent experts that works with the U.N.’s human rights office, also said it regrets that Italy’s government hasn’t provided it with an updated number of complaints and cases of racial discrimination that have been investigated and prosecuted, among other concerns.

Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku walks on the pitch in front of a ‘no to racism’ banner during the training session prior the Europa League round of 16 soccer match between Inter Milan and Getafe at the Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. (Lars Baron/Pool via AP)

The findings released Thursday were part of the committee’s periodic look at efforts by governments of U.N. member states to crack down on racial hatred and discrimination. Other countries under the panel’s scrutiny in this round were Croatia, Namibia, Senegal, Turkmenistan and Uruguay.

Italian soccer has a longstanding issue with Black players being racially abused by fans, and incidents in which players including Kevin-Prince Boateng in 2013 and Romelu Lukaku this year felt they were not adequately supported by match officials and soccer bodies.

The committee noted Italy had adopted laws and other measures to fight racial discrimination, including hate speech in sports. But it said it was “concerned that cases of racist acts during sport events, including physical and verbal attacks against athletes of African descent, continue” in Italy and “legal proceedings to punish those responsible are not initiated.”

Italy also has been a major thoroughfare and destination for Africans and other migrants who make dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean to reach Europe, where peace and economic opportunity may be greater than in their home countries.

The panel urged Italian authorities to do more to protect the human rights of migrants and asylum-seekers, as well as ethnic minorities. It expressed concern about “persistent and increasing use and normalization of racist hate speech” against ethnic groups in the media and on the internet.

Italy’s diplomatic mission in Geneva did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment about the report.

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