Lawfare has a guest post by Chris Jenks (recently LTCOL Jenks, USA) about Italy’s highest court affirming the 2009 criminal conviction, in absentia, of “22 CIA operatives and a US Air Force officer, then Lt Col Joseph Romano, stemming from the 2003 extraordinary rendition of Abu Omar.” The post includes this key paragraph:

Abu Omar’s abduction has (appropriately) received considerable attention and criticism. But as discussed in the earlier piece, Italy’s in absentia prosecutions were hardly a human rights victory. And in Romano’s case, missing from the rhetoric is Italy’s violation of the NATO SOFA.  Article VII of the NATO SOFA provides that the military authorities of sending State, here the U.S,  “shall have the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over a member of the force [like Romano]…in relation to… offences arising out of any act or omission done in the performance of official duty.”

8 Responses to “Italy’s in absentia conviction of a US Air Force Colonel”

  1. Charlie Gittins says:

    I’ll bet the Colonel will not be vacationing in Italy any time soon, regardless of the SOFA.  Can you really trust the administration or the military leadership to enforce the SOFA?  I think not.  

  2. Mills says:

    Sad day in the NATO history.  One of the most basic parts of the treaty is completely disregarded.  Thanks to CAAFLog and Lawfare for placing a spotlight on this issue. 

  3. WestCoastDefense says:

    I’m not familiar enough with the NATO SOFA or State practice since but I wonder what is meant by “the primary right to exercise jurisdiction?”  It would seem to suggest there exists a secondary right to prosecute if the sending State chose not to exercise its jurisdiction.  It sounds similar to OCONUS military justice practice, or, for that matter, CONUS military justice practice to a certain extent, when dealing with civilian law enforcement officials.  From what I know of the case, which isn’t much, it sounds like the U.S. was never even given the option.

  4. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    One thing is for sure from this conviction, I win the wager Super Grover and I had almost three years ago on this case (here).  I suggested the Italians would find some concurrent jurisdiction loophole and they did. I don’t think this is all that surprising considering the US took 6 years to assert jurisdiction (under the previous administration) and then only asserted jurisdiction (in the current administration) when the trial was nearly over.   Anyone have a copy of the decision (translated preferrably), would like to see where exactly the decision landed.

    See more of our discussion of the trial (here.

  5. Mills says:

    Primary right to jurisdiction was explained very well in the blog note and the 2010 article cited in the note.  It is not comparable to CONUS and dealing with local law enforcement.  The NATO SOFA was almost rejected by the Senate because the opponents envisioned situations such as this.  Article VII of the NATO SOFA has a detailed process.  Our Ally blew right throught that process.  The Lawfare note and the 2010 article do a great job of explaining the situation and should be read by anyone interested in the issue.  Should also be read by any military member being assigned to a NATO country. 
    Mr. Navarre is correct in that the delay (although my count is four years vice six) in asserting jurisdiction did not help the situation.  Politics was mot likely at play in the delay.  Regardless, the issue was clear under the NATO SOFA.  And the Italian High Court blew it.  I can’t say it any better than did Mr. Jenks did in the final two paragraphs of his note. 

  6. WestCoastDefense says:

    am wishing I was able to read Italian…

  7. Jason Grover says:

    No Man, I concede. Interesting how close my prediction for waiting 3 years was though! My faith in the Italian appellate system is shattered. And it was so strong after Amanda Knox! So, where do you want to go to lunch? Any DC-area readers are welcome to join us!

  8. Mills says:

    Amanda Knox had the PR machine.  Under scrutiny, the Italian judicial system crumbled.
    Colonel Romano had … cricket…cricket…