Italy: Activists call for conscientious objection not to follow inhuman laws


Introduction by Movimento Nonviolento

Unjust laws and human rights violations force many people to flee their countries and risk drowning to reach Europe via passing through the Mediterranean Sea.

Saving the lives of those who are facing death is the first human duty. But now, the Italian law prevents NGOs from search and rescue activities of those people drowning in sea.

This inhuman situation is the result of a legislation called “security degree”, including two amendments in law strongly backed by the former interior minister Matteo Salvini, adopted in October 2018 and in July 2019 respectively.

Because of this context, a number of individuals from Italian civil society and academia launched an appeal that strongly encourages conscientious objection to this "security degree". This legislation must not be followed and implemented, because the superior law of nonviolence requires us to save humanity.

Movimento Nonviolento, Italian section of WRI, is one of the promoters of this initiative to save people from drowning.

Appeal for a new conscientious objection

Up until 2004, the Italian State asked its citizens to serve their homeland with weapons in their hands.  Tens of thousands of people, however, heard that as a call to go against their conscience, and they solemnly declared that they would never take up a weapon to kill another person, that they would not learn to use a weapon, that they ruled out the possibility of ever using violence to resolve any conflict and had banished it from their lives forever.

Today we can no longer remain silent.  On a day when some members of the State’s military are positioning themselves between the sea and the mainland in order to prevent – “in the name of the law” – human lives from being saved, we feel impelled by an urgent need to remember and renew that principle of conscientious objection.

We therefore solemnly reaffirm the value of conscientious objection to all laws, rules and regulations that – in flagrant disregard for the most basic human rights of every woman and every man – prevent human lives from being saved.  Whatever our occupation, in our public and private work and in our daily lives we will disobey any rules that prevent human lives from being saved, that bring death, that are selective in upholding the fundamental rights of all women and all men.

We appeal not only to all conscientious objectors to military service, but to all consciences, to affirm, now, their disobedience to all forms of violence – and most especially to State violence which, in the name of laws that are contrary to international law and are in any case contrary to our own conscience, prioritises the preservation of our homeland’s borders over the rescuing of children, women and men.

We appeal to all military personnel, law enforcement officers, public servants and private employees: if a superior gives you orders that are contrary to human rights – for example, an order not to register citizens from other homelands, thereby compromising the exercise of fundamental rights;  or an order to place yourself between a quay and the sea, thereby preventing the children of other homelands from being rescued – look deep into your own conscience and ask yourself: do I not have to disobey, and show that humanity prevails over unjust laws?

We are willing to face the legal consequences of our disobedience in this, because our goal is to change laws and change society in order to build a world that is more just.

Giancarla Codrignani, journalist, former parliamentarian
Andrea Danilo Conte, lawyer
Donatella della Porta, university professor
Bernardo Gianni, abbot
Lino Leonardi, university professor
Tomaso Montanari, university professor
Mao Valpiana, Movimento Nonviolento  (

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