Relatives of coronavirus victims in Italy have urged the European commission president to supervise an investigation into the deaths, as 100 new cases were submitted to prosecutors on Monday.
In a letter to Ursula von der Leyen, the legal commission of Noi Denunceremo (We Will Denounce), the group driving the investigation, said there appeared to be “signs of unspeakable crimes against humanity” in Lombardy, the region worst hit by the virus in Italy.
Last month, prosecutors in Bergamo, where the virus is estimated to have killed at least 6,000 people, questioned leaders of the Lombardy region and the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, over the failure by authorities to immediately quarantine the towns of Alzano Lombardo and Nembro, both in Bergamo province, and Orzinuovi, in Brescia, despite advice from scientists in early March.
Ten towns in the Lombardy province of Lodi went into lockdown on 21 February after Italy’s first locally transmitted case was confirmed, but Bergamo and Brescia were only quarantined with the rest of Lombardy on 8 March.
“Should prosecutors establish that the missed red zones pertain to the political domain rather than to criminal law, it will be clear how the decision not to contain the spread of the virus by following scientific advice was deliberate – a deliberate decision to sacrifice lives, tens of thousands of lives, to avoid the political repercussions of a lockdown in three economically productive towns in northern Italy,” Noi Denunceremo wrote in the letter.
The commission submitted the first 50 legal complaints in June and is expected to file around 120 more before September.
The groupgathered momentum after starting a Facebook page in April that now has 60,000 members, and it has inspired similar initiatives in the UK, US and France.
“We have so much support … this is a sign that people don’t want to forget what happened,” said Stefano Fusco, who founded Noi Denunceremo after his grandfather died from Covid-19. “They want answers, the truth and justice.”
Relatives say a regional decree approved on 8 March allowing hospitals to transfer low-risk coronavirus patients to care homes also contributed to the high number of deaths. In addition, they have asked prosecutors to investigate the alleged failure by authorities to sufficiently inform people of the risk of infection, as well as the lack of personal protective equipment in healthcare facilities and what they say was the lack of effective and timely medical assistance.
So far, regional and government leaders have blamed each other for the alleged failures. “The blame game has certainly provided evidence of wrongdoings no one wants to be held accountable for,” Noi Denunceremo wrote in the letter to Von der Leyen. “In the meantime, relatives of the victims seek justice. And they do so being aware that Italy is a country where the political establishment is particularly skilled in creating red herrings and scapegoats.”