The trial of Nicolò Govoni, President of Still I Rise, has been postponed due to delays caused by the current Covid-19 pandemic. He is being charged with allegedly using fireworks without the required permits. The allegation refers to events that occurred on the 6th of August, 2019 on the Greek island of Samos. That evening, there was a party celebrating the first anniversary of Mazì, the non-profit organization’s education center for teenage refugees who live in the hotspot. The trial was set for May 27th, 2021.
"The allegations were made by a Samos police officer, from the same police force that I have publicly criticized for years about their abuse of power and acts of violence against young refugees. But this is a false allegation: I was reassured that no permit was needed after the police officer spoke with the owner of the store. Then, the same officer made the accusation," stated Nicolò Govoni. "Before the party at Mazì, I personally went to see the island’s firefighters and then, together, we went to the police station to ensure that it was possible to use those fireworks. The officer spoke by phone directly with the shopkeeper who sold us the fireworks, who explained that since 2014 Greece had adopted EU legislation which indicates that the fireworks we purchased did not require any permit to be used."
Still I Rise has been active on the island of Samos since 2018 and in 2019 the organization filed a criminal complaint against the authorities of the hotspot for the violation of the human rights of unaccompanied minors at the public prosecutor's offices in both Samos and Rome.
While the case is at a standstill in Greece, in 2020 the case was passed on from Italian public prosecutor Maria Monteleone to Eurojust and to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The preliminary investigation judge gave the case– which is currently closed due to lack of jurisdiction – the possibility to "arrange for the forwarding of the complaint to the judicial authority of Greece, in order to ascertain if the allegations are true, in terms of the systematic nature and diffusion of the criminal acts, of repeated crimes against humanity as described by article 7 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court."
The judge simultaneously suggested to "arrange the transmission of the emails sent to the office of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to undertake any necessary measures to guarantee the protection of Nicolò Govoni.
"The same complaint also reached the European Parliament, where in 2019 two parliamentary questions were presented – signed respectively by Pietro Bartolo and by Rosa d’Amato, Isabella Adinolfi, and Laura Ferrara – asking for the current situation of unaccompanied minors in the Samos hotspot to be investigated.
Following other complaints filed by Still I Rise, in January of 2020 the European Court of Human Rights ordered the immediate transfer of 12 unaccompanied minors to a safe location, therefore recognizing the possible violation of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which refers to the ban on torture and inhumane treatment.
Placed in this context, the allegation brought by the Samos police department against the President of Still I Rise appears to be clearly baseless. Nicolò Govoni shares: "The content of the allegations reveal its premeditated nature, and the officer lied in his deposition. However, we have witnesses: our lawyer says he is very confident about the illegitimacy of the allegations and therefore about the outcome of the trial, but I’m still afraid of a fraudulent conviction. Still, I want to trust the justice system: that justice will be served and that truth will be restored."