ARTICLE 19 Europe raises its concern over the newly-elected Italian government’s introduction of decree law no. 162/2022. The so-called ‘anti-rave law’ has been criticised for its excessively wide scope, which will curtail the right to peaceful assembly and to protest in Italy.
The Italian anti-rave decree law was adopted as law on 30 December 2022 – with substantial changed. The below is ARTICLE 19’s update on the ongoing concerns with the law.
Article 434-bis, which, in very broad and vague terms, criminalised organisation of, as well as participation in, ‘gatherings of more than 50 people that could be perceived to be posing a danger to public order, safety and health’ has been abandoned. In its place, we now have Article 633-bis, which makes it a crime against property and estate, rather than public safety.
The scope of the prohibition has also been narrowed to refer specifically to musical gatherings or other gatherings ‘with an entertainment aim’. The criminal provision will apply only when someone arbitrarily invades a public or private estate for the purpose of those gatherings, violates laws on sales of illegal drugs or laws on security and hygiene of shows or entertainment public events, and when with such invasion comes a concrete danger to public safety or public health.
The law still raises concerns around the compliance with international and regional human rights standards on freedom of assembly and association and freedom of expression. If fundamental rights are restricted, such restrictions need to be carefully balanced against Italy’s human rights obligations. This includes a requirement that restrictions on the right to assembly should be “content neutral” – that is not be related to the message or issue conveyed by the assembly.
The provisions of the law are way too vague to meet these criteria set in international human rights law. For instance, it is not clear what ‘gathering with an entertainment aim’ means or how ‘danger to public safety and health’ will be interpreted for this provision.
A rave party, in and of itself, does not necessarily imply an arbitrary invasion of a public or private space, nor the violation of norms on health and safety. If those conditions are not met, such raves would fall outside the scope of Article 633-bis.
On 31 October 2022, a new decree law restricting gatherings was approved by the Italian Council of Ministers. The decree law introduces a new crime in the Penal Code (Article 434-bis) that punishes anyone who organises, on public or private terrains or buildings, gatherings of more than 50 people that could be perceived to be posing a danger to public order, safety and health. For this crime, the decree provides for a prison sentence of between three and six years and a fine of up to 10,000 euros. The decree also criminalises the simple act of participating in those gatherings, establishing, in such cases, a reduced sentence. Finally, the decree law provides for the possibility to apply surveillance measures to suspects. This new crime constitutes a bold restriction to the fundamental right to freedom of assembly, as protected by article 17 of the Italian Constitution, as well as Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees people’s fundamental right to gather in public space to express their views or dissent and share ideas.
ARTICLE 19 emphasises that the decree law is an exceptional instrument that must be used only in cases of extraordinary necessity and urgency. We argue that in the case at stake the use of this instrument is unjustified and it subtracts from the Parliament essential discussions about the limitations of constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental rights.
Furthermore, we warn that the formulation of the new crime is vague and overbroad, allowing for the potential criminalisation of a wide arrays of gatherings, such as musical events, school and university protests, and political, environmental or civic demonstrations, which constitute the core of the constitutionally-protected freedom of assembly. Additionally, the possibility to apply surveillance measures to suspects is unnecessary and extremely invasive of people’s rights to, among other rights, free movement, privacy and private communications.
Echoing concerns raised by opposition parties, civil society and judges in Italy, ARTICLE 19 Europe urges the government to immediately repeal the decree law.