THE GUARDIAN - No Justice in Genoa


Saturday 15 November 2008

No Justice in Genoa
The G8 protesters were brutalised, yet the Foreign Office showed complete indifference
Matt Foot

Rich Moth and Nicola Doherty had waited a long time for the verdict. But, seven years on, they have been sorely disappointed. On Thursday night, some of Italy's highest-ranking police officers, accused of masterminding a savage attack on peaceful G8 protesters, including Moth and Doherty, in 2001, were cleared of the charges against them.

More than 60 people were taken to hospital after the raid, several in comas. Yet none of the officers who carried out the beatings was even a defendant in the trial. All were masked, and none wore names or numbers during the raid. Only one has ever been identified.

In July 2001, Moth and Doherty travelled to Genoa to join 300,000 protestors in the huge anti-globalisation demonstration against the G8 meeting taking place there. On the Saturday night they decided to stay at the Diaz school, which the local council had given over to people travelling from out of town. But, as they were zipping up their sleeping bags, riot police battered down the front door and streamed in, lashing out indiscriminately.

The pair fled upstairs but there was no escape. As a riot squad walked down the dark corridor, methodically beating those cowering there, Rich lay on top of Nicola to protect her. Officers took it in turns to hit them with batons and kick them, leaving Rich covered with bruises and with a serious gash to the head, while Nicola sustained a fractured wrist.

But this week, after four years of legal wrangling, justice has not been done, The three judges handed out sentences of up to four years to some of the operational commanders, but none of them will have to go to jail, because their offences will expire under a statute of limitations early next year. So what was the verdict on this appalling episode of police brutality?

The five Britons injured in the attack, including Mark Covell, who was almost killed, Dan McQuillan and Norman Blair have tried to move on with their lives, but this decision leaves them without closure. The British government harps on about victims' rights but at the same time shows complete indifference to the plight of these people. Foreign ministers have ignored their letters and the current incumbent has refused to meet them. Presumably these are not the right sort of victim.

Back in July 2001, from the luxury of the yacht where the G8 summit took place, the then foreign secretary Jack Straw reminded us of the need to uphold the rule of law and insisted that he was certain the Italian judicial system would see justice done. These have proved hollow pronouncements.

During the byzantine trial process, the victims of this astonishing episode of police brutality have three times had to brace themselves to recount in court their dreadful experiences - each time the evidence given through tears. They even had the ignominy of facing serious charges that they themselves had been involved in violent disorder, allegations which were later found to be trumped up. The court has made a political decision which reflects more Silvio Berlusconi's return to office than the truth.

Anyone who spends two seconds looking at the video of the police riot at the Diaz school can see that it must have been ordered from on high. It is inconceivable that separate police squads from different parts of the country poured into Diaz school at the same moment and starting beating people without prior briefing and orders.

Rich Moth described the scene in the school that night with bleeding bodies strewn around as like the Crimean war. The sadness and travesty of this latest decision can only confirm the trusted phrase - no justice no peace.

Matt Foot is the solicitor for both Richard Moth and Nicola Doherty