Sicilian Mafia – Part Seven

In the last article we explained how the mafia had reacted violently following the government crackdown in the mid-1980s.  Scores of non-mafioso were targeted, something which had rarely happened before.  After the Catholic church began to speak out about the crimes, two churches were bombed and a priest killed.

This wave of violence continued well into the 1990s.  Salvatore Riina was arrested in 1993,

The arrest of Provenzano

Provenzano, following his arrest

his place was taken briefly by Leoloca Bagarella and then by Bernardo Provenzano.  Provenzano understood the violence had to stop and initiated the pax mafiosi – the mafia peace.  Riina had embarked on the campaign of violence partly to intimidate mafia informants but the killing of informant’s families had not slowed this process down.  Provenzano saw that the best option was to use less violent means to persuade informants to retract testimonies and gradually the number of defectors began to slow down.

This period of violent upheaval and the battles with the Italian government had forced the mafia to take their eye off the ball in regard to their everyday businesses.  By the late 1990s the mainland rivals – the Calabrian Ndrangheta – has almost completely taken over the import of cocaine into Europe.

Provenzano himself was finally arrested in 2006 after 43 years escaping justice.  Among a number of senior bosses and many more mafia members, he remains incarcerated and is subject to the Article 41-bis Prison Regime.  This is a measure, first introduced in the 1970s to combat anti-government terrorism, but reanimated in the 1990s to restrict the amount of contact prisoners have with the outside world.

Examples of the types of restriction are a ban on mobile phones, limited contacts with any visitors, limited parcels (and only specific items) and a ban on all association or correspondence with other prisoners.  These conditions led, in 2002, to a hunger strike involving many different mafiaso in various different prisons.  Article 41-bis has also been criticised by the European Court of Human Rights and has been described by a U.S. judge as contravening some of the sections of the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

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