Tension rises as government hesitates to join civil action in Attanasio case

Luca Attanasio and Vittorio Iacovacci

 ROME – The Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni’s office has not yet given the State Attorney's Office the mandate to become a civil plaintiff in the trial against two WFP officials, accused of omissions in the organisation of the trip during which Italian envoy Attanasio and the carabiniere Iacovacci were killed during an attempted kidnapping in Congo in 2021, as reported by Il Fatto Quotidiano.

 On February 22, the second anniversary of the death of the Italian ambassador to the Congo and the carabiniere who acted as his escort, Georgia Meloni said "Remembering Luca Attanasio and Vittorio Iacovacci is not only an institutional duty, but an act of justice and love. Towards their families (...) who can count on the support of the institutions to know the truth about those tragic events. Towards our Nation, which can proudly pay tribute to the sacrifice of two servants of the State...”

 The preliminary hearing of the Italian case will be held on May 25. Palazzo Chigi has a few days to constitute itself as a civil plaintiff, but according to Il Fatto Quotidiano, nothing has yet been communicated to the State Attorney's Office.

 Weighing in on the proceedings for Attanasio's death, however, could be a diplomatic issue concerning the immunity (or otherwise) of the two WFP employees, and the WFP's American allies might also cause problems.

 Next Thursday, the preliminary hearing will be held and the suspects are two WFP employees serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for whom the Rome Public Prosecutor's Office requested an indictment last November. They are accused of not having taken “due to negligence, imprudence and inexperience, every suitable precaution to protect the physical integrity of the participants in the mission.” When the public prosecutor's office registered the two officials, an issue of immunity was raised, but prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco ruled it out.

 The FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, is not of the same opinion. In the 'note verbale' of July 30 2021, the FAO reports on what they describe as a “serious incident” that took place on June 8 2021 in Rome when one of the two officials was questioned by the prosecutor. Summoned as a person with information on the facts, his position became that of a suspect. "The organisation," reports the note of 30 July 2021, "has the honour to recall the legal status of the WFP as a joint and subsidiary body of the FAO and the United Nations, the privileges and immunities that the programme and its officials enjoy..." It goes on to explain that the WFP agreed that the employee “would be heard solely on the basis of voluntary cooperation and without prejudice to any such immunities...”

 The note expresses “serious concern” about the Public Prosecutor's Office's initiative, which they say is “in clear violation of the agreements between the WFP and the Italian authorities.” It goes on to add: “The prosecutor's failure to respect these agreements risks damaging a long and positive tradition of cooperation and mutual support between FAO, WFP and the Italian government.”