US-Italy friction as Italian police probed for raping American students

Francesca Astorri
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The United States’ State Department is said to be “taking very seriously” the allegations by two American students who have denounced two Italian police for sexual violence.

According to the US students, on Wednesday, September 6 night two Carabinieri officers offered them a lift home from a disco in Florence and then raped them in the building’s lift and stairway.

Diplomatic intervention has already been activated as the US consul-general in Florence, Benjamin V. Wohlauer, met with Florence police chief and with the Carabinieri provincial chiefs.

Italian Minister of Defense, Roberta Pinotti, defined the situation as of “extreme severity”, if the accusation of rape turns out to be true.

Florence shutterstock
Florence shutterstock

The two Carabinieri accused by the American students are now under investigation and both were suspended as one of the two militaries confessed of having had a sexual relation with one of the women while on duty, denying the violence.

Both the US nationals were under the influence of alcohol and one of them had also smoked cannabis, as confirmed by tests carried out on September 7 afternoon.

The fact that the two women were not in a state to act freely or take conscious decisions would worsen the Carabinieri’s position. Even if the alleged rapists were to object that consensual sex had taken place, the charge of rape would not only remain, but with aggravating circumstances.

According to General Tullio Del Sette, the despicable behavior of the two Carabinieri will compromise the image of the entire institution, damaging the prestige of the Italian military body.

Shocked public opinion

This highly disturbing event has already shocked the public opinion in Italy, but the possibility of a collateral damage to Italy-US relations is considered low, as extradition doesn’t seem like a plausible option.

“In this specific case it seems unlikely for the U.S to ask for extradition of the Carabinieri officers under investigation, as the subjects are Italian and the alleged crime was committed in Italy.” said Francesca Tardella, Attorney at American-Italian Law Firm in Rome, TLRT Law.

The relevant juridical elements when it comes to extradition are the nationality of the alleged criminals and the country in which the crime took place, not the nationality of the victims, according to Attorney Tardella.

“In case of an extradition request by the United States, the Italian Government would surely refuse to handle its militaries.” Tardella added, as the option remains not plausible.

“The only thing the United States could consider doing is to bring civil action in the criminal proceeding in Italy, so to ask for compensation” Tardella explained to Al Arabiya English.

The two US students received medical treatment and were interviewed at length by State prosecutors. They were also asked to look at photos of the Carabinieri officers on patrol duty that night, and biological samples of traces on their clothes were taken for comparison. One of the student managed to shoot a short video of the military during the alleged violence.

The ongoing investigation is being carried out by the Carabinieri themselves together with the police, raising concerns on the transparency and rigor of the process.

“I hope that the investigations will be carried out quickly, effectively and independently, by ensuring the responsibilities of those who should have no other role than to protect from violence.” Riccardo Noury, Amnesty International Italy spokesperson, said to Al Arabiya English.

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