Tortures alleged by migrants in Italy: compatibility and other medicolegal challenges



Ilenia B, Martina F, Valentina B, Pradella F, Carlo G, Francesca F, Vilma P.


Int J Legal Med. 2021 Jul 6. doi: 10.1007/s00414-021-02646-4. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Illegal immigration to Europe is a well-known phenomenon whose numbers are being steadily increasing in recent years. Most of the immigrants in Italy come from war zones, and many of them submit an asylum application supported by the complaint to have been victims of persecutory acts in their home countries. MATERIAL AND METHODS: One hundred ninety-six medicolegal reports are analyzed considering the different country of origin, the type of the lesions claimed, tools used, evidenced effects, location of the perpetration of the physical abuses, and the possible motivation of the alleged torture. RESULTS: Greater than 80% of the assessed asylum seekers are over 18-year males coming from African countries. Fifty-eight percent of migrants were tortured or abused in countries of transit, 95% in Libya. Economic, familial, politic, and ethnic reasons prevail in some countries of origin, while tortures or abuses perpetrated in transit countries are mainly linked to forced labor and detention. In the 42.2% of cases, no physical evidence of tortures was detected. The Istanbul Protocol resulted to have been only partly applicable and about 40% of the medicolegal reports are “inconclusive” about the compatibility of physical evidence with the alleged tortures. CONCLUSIONS: The medicolegal and forensic experts involved in torture and ill-treatment cases should seek specific education and training to lower the risks of underestimation and the rate of inconclusive reports. More extensive implementation of the Istanbul Protocol in daily practice should be pursued by the authorities in charge of asylum or protection releasement.

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Link/DOI: 10.1007/s00414-021-02646-4