The Principle of Due Process


The judgment of the Appeal Court in Palermo that convicted Palazzolo, and which forms the subject of the extradition application to the Republic of South Africa, was in clear violation of the principle of “due process” stipulated under article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This right to “due process” in the Italian legal system (introduced into the Italian constitution under article 11) is an absolute, irrefutable right.

Among the rights provided for is the obligation to specify the nature and the causes for the charges formulated against the accused. In other words, Palazzolo had the right to know of the fact being contested in its historical, factual and temporal context. This in order to avoid the exploitation of a so-called “bait charge” (which is used to draw in a further charge for a different fact further down the line). This principle was violated when, in Palazzolo’s case, the crime of association was contested on different occasions.

For the process to be conducted correctly, first of all, the judge has to be impartial, which he was not.

In Palazzolo’s case Dr. Salvatore Scaduti, the Judge President of the Appeal Court in Palermo had in fact judged Palazzolo before for precautionary measures (which provide a series of restrictions on the personal freedom of a person when they are deemed to be dangerous). The case in question was no. 3/1994 R.M.P. on the 22.12.1994.

So, even though Palazzolo had not lived in Italy since 1962, Palazzolo was considered by Scaduti to be a social danger. For which there could be no other reason than that he presumed Palazzolo was in the Mafia. Apropos of which, of the elements emerging from the previous Swiss and Roman proceedings, Scaduti said, “… they lead us to consider as circumstantial evidence not only that Palazzolo had been involved in the trafficking of narcotics, but that he actually belonged to the structure of the Mafia organisation”.

In essence therefore, the guilty judgment handed down in the conviction had been decided by the prejudice that Palazzolo belonged to the Mafia.

The decision taken by the Appeal Court Judges therefore had been preconceived. At which point, once again, under article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Palazzolo’s inalienable rights had been denied.