The Court of Cassation confirmed, Tuesday, March 28, the rejection of the extradition of ten former far-left Italian activists, settled in France for a long time and claimed by Rome for acts of terrorism dating back to the years 1970-1980. The highest French court thus validates the decision of the Court of Appeal of June 2022 not to accede to the requests of the Italian State concerning eight men and two women.
The Attorney General of the Paris Court of Appeal, Rémy Heitz, appealed against this decision. In vain. He considered that the Court of Appeal should have ordered additional information to ensure that the extraditable persons would have benefited from the right to a fair and equitable trial upon their return to Italy. The investigating chamber had in fact based its decision on the fact that, despite additional information, the Italian courts did not offer the absolute guarantee of a new trial to the extraditable persons, most of whom were convicted in absentia. This is contrary to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which Rome has ratified.
Mr. Heitz also challenged, in another appeal, the decision of the investigating chamber based on Article 8 of the same convention, which guarantees respect for the right to private and family life. The appeal judges had considered that an extradition would harm him excessively, given the length of the stay in France of these activists and the family ties they had woven there. Several married French nationals, had children and even grandchildren.
In both cases, the Court of Cassation followed the requisitions of its own prosecutor, who advocated the rejection of Mr. Heitz’s appeals, which are rather unusual in extradition matters. “Considering that the reasons adopted by the judges, which fall within their sovereign discretion, are sufficient”, the Court of Cassation considers, in its press release, that “the negative opinion on the extradition requests is therefore final”.
This is the epilogue of a long sequence which began in the spring of 2021 with the arrest of several of these activists, now aged 62 to 79. The French executive, eager to relaunch the relationship with Rome under the Draghi government, then turned its back on the “Mitterrand doctrine”, an unwritten practice established in the 1980s which consisted in not extraditing former Italian refugee activists in France on condition that they abandon the armed struggle. It was Matteo Salvini, then Minister of the Interior of the League, who relaunched the extradition requests in 2019 at a time of strong diplomatic tensions with Paris.
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