Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official website, in Italian; JURIST news archive] pledged Saturday to reform the country's judicial system, days after it was announced that he will stand trial for charges of underage prostitution [JURIST report]. Calling himself the "most persecuted man in the history of the justice system," in a released audio statement [audio statement and transcript, in Italian] and an unreleased conference call [Reuters report], Berlusconi outlined several improvements he plans to make in Italy, including reshaping the judiciary branch. He cited, in particular, the Italian Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian], which struck down [JURIST report] parts of a law [materials, in Italian] Berlusconi backed that would grant public officials temporary immunity from charges while in office.
As for future agenda, I summon the Council of Ministers to launch ... [a] special session on constitutional reform ... to ensure that Italy may finally have a fair justice and also a justice worthy of a modern country, that without those injustices, those delays and the inefficiencies that have discouraged foreign investors for years even to come to work with us. There are inequities, inefficiencies and delays ... which has increasingly become a political counter [that] overflows from the constitutional principles and that is always less efficient [rather than] just a public service, which, instead everyone would like it to be.In the conference call, Berlusconi revealed proposals that include, "a two-thirds majority on the 15-member court will be required to repeal a law." Opposition leaders declared this a sign of desperation.
Earlier this week, Berlusconi was the subject of protests [Reuters] by hundreds of thousands of women, calling for his resignation over his recent sex scandal. In January, hundreds of Italy's judges walked out of their courtrooms to protest the passage of legislation that placed strict time limits [JURIST reports] on the trial and appeals process, which would have allowed charges against Berlusconi to lapse. Italian prosecutors launched a tax inquiry [JURIST report] against Berlusconi in October for tax declarations he made in 2003 and 2004 relating to the commercial broadcast company Mediaset [corporate website, in Italian], which Berlusconi founded. The investigation is the fourth time Berlusconi has faced allegations of fraud in relation to his Mediaset company. In addition to the trial for abuse of power and underage prostitution, Berlusconi has three other pending judicial proceedings.