The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected Italy’s request for referral in Marcello Viola v. Italy, making the judgement in the case final. The court, in June, held that Italy violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights by imposing an irreducible sentence of life imprisonment on Marcello Viola for Mafia-type activities along with murder, abduction, and other crimes.
Viola applied multiple times for prison leave but was rejected on grounds that he had not cooperated with judicial authorities, he had not broken off contact with the criminal organization, and that it did not appear that he was “engaged in critical reflection on his criminal past.”
Viola submitted to the court that this violated Article 3 in December 2016. The court focused on his lack of cooperation being used to deny him release, stating that it was inappropriate to equate this lack of cooperation with his dangerousness to society. He may have been noncooperative due to fear of endangering his own life of the lives of his family, and as such it is not always a free choice for people in Viola’s position to make.
Additionally, the court noted that there could be a situation where one cooperates fully but gives no signal of rehabilitation. Using the lack of cooperation in this way “gave rise to an irrebuttable presumption of dangerousness” depriving Viola “of any realistic prospect of release.”
The court stated, “it would be incompatible with human dignity … to deprive persons of their freedom without striving towards their rehabilitation and providing them with the chance to regain that freedom at some future date.” They found that Article 3 had been violated but noted that this violation does not provide for Viola’s imminent release.