Keywords: Viola; life sentence; human dignity; legal automatism; Italian Constitutional Court; article 3 ECHR.
In the Viola judgment of 13 June 2019, the First Section of the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy for its regulation providing for whole-life imprisonment (‘ergastolo ostativo’). The Court, following its previous case-law, stated that the substantial absence of a prospect to release, except in case of collaboration of the condemned, was in violation of Art. 3 of the ECHR. The key point of the Court’s argument is that the legal automatism between collaboration and prospect to release deprives of relevance any concrete assessment of the personal path of the condemned towards rehabilitation, thus infringing his human dignity. It is worth noting that this judgement occurs in a period in which Italian Constitutional Court has been progressively dismantling strict requirements concerning life sentence, as the very recent Judgment of 23 October 2019 seems to testify.