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Amanda Knox case and Human Rights

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November 11, 2010 Crime And Trials, Cultural Musings, Politics 17 Comments

The Amanda Knox frenzy hasn’t finished. There is a lot more to come.

The Italian Justice system, like all systems, has its strengths and weaknesses. But the most important aspects to consider is “does the Italian Justice system have the confidence of the 60 million people that it serves?”, and following that, “does it adhere to international human rights”?

rron763h 300x244 Amanda Knox case and Human RightsThis case is not unique in many ways, and many parallels may be drawn between this case and that of Schapelle Corby, the Australian serving 20 years for drug trafficking in Indonesia. Many in the US feel that there should be an official intervention, but it would be wise to remember Prime Minister Howards response when directly appealed by Ms Corby. “My fellow Australians, if a foreigner were to come to Australia and a foreign government were to start telling us how we should handle [it], we would react very angrily to that.” Surprisingly wise words from a politician.

With regards to the credibility of the Justice system to Italians, primary consideration of Justice for Meredith Kercher should focus on treatment of both Rudy Guede and Raffaele Sollecito as Italian citizens. The Italian media and commentators must focus on these two individuals as their primary concern.

Amanda Knox has received the same treatment under Italian Law. She should be given the same rights as an Italian citizen, and the assessment of her case must adhere to generally agreed basic human rights principles.

Human Rights is a complex subject, that few understand in detail, but is of critical importance both to each and every individual, and to assessing justice internationally. According to a 2004 report from Amnesty International, only 5 countries “didn’t” violate at least some human rights significantly in 2003 (Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica). So judging the rights and wrongs of any case must be difficult if so many so called civilised countries violate some human rights.

Amy Lai, who has a PhD in gender studies from Cambridge, UK, and writes for various Legal Journals, has submitted a paper to us out of a personal interest in how this case has played out, specifically dealing with her expertise in assessing how Amanda Knox has been treated with respect to one model of human rights.

As specific as it is, we think it is worth publishing in full, for those who are interested in how to interpret this case without emotion and specific legal comparisons. Although the analysis and conclusion is purely that of Ms Lai, it supports the generally held view that the US is unlikely to intervene in this case at any official level.

For anyone interested in details on the evidence and sentencing as understood by the court in Perugia, we recommend that you refer to the official sentencing report which was translated from Italian by a group of volunteers.

A brief synopsis (taken directly from the paper)

This paper studies the case of Knox with respect to Charles Beitz’s human rights model. Part I describes Betiz’ idea of human rights as well as the mechanism of his two-level model. Part II employs Betiz’ model to illuminate why Clinton made the correct decision not to intervene in the Italian Court’s decision and why international organizations, such as the United Nations and Amnesty International, should do the same.  Part II contrasts the criminal justice system of Italy with that of the United States by showing how they are informed by different philosophical traditions. It also shows how Italy’s reformed criminal code produced a traditional inquisitorial system with adversarial elements. Because the Italian government abided by its law throughout Knox’s trial, it satisfied its responsibilities delineated in the first level of Beitz’s model and intervention by other nations or international organizations are therefore unnecessary and improper.  Part III shows how Knox’s trial and its controversy invite readers to revisit the theories of toleration in Beitz’ human rights model, to dismantle their implicit self-other dichotomy, and to push more room for introspection. While the United States and Italy are both “liberal societies” according to John Rawls’ definition, Knox’s trial urges readers, especially Americans, not only to study the Italian justice system but also to take an introspective look at the American justice system and to reform it so that it could perform a better role to safeguard human rights.

Click here to read the full paper in full

Amy Lai, PhD.

After obtaining her PhD in gender studies at Cambridge, U.K., Amy lectured on gender and sexuality in England and Hong Kong, and published two books on Asian writers in 2007 and 2009. She worked as a professor in media studies in a shipboard education program that took her around the world the semester before she came to Boston to attain a JD degree. In her first summer as a law student, she completed an internship at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and worked on immigration cases involving GLBT people.  She plans to continue to pursue her interests in gender and sexuality in an international human rights context by working with the International Bar Association in London.  She managed to write an article on health law, consent and assent in the case of savior siblings, which is forthcoming in the Journal of Legal Medicine.  She also actively sought to integrate her interests in law and gender studies by pursuing an eye-opening course, “Sexuality and the Law,” and writing a law review article on the constitutionality of gay-positive curriculum in public elementary schools in America.


“To Be, or Not to Be My Sister’s Keeper: Toward a New Legislative Framework Safeguarding the Welfare of Savior Siblings,” Journal of Legal Medicine 31.4 (2010).

“Critiquing the Model Act: Redefining ‘Consent’ and Implications of Intent-Based Parenthood for Posthumous Conception,” American Journal of Family Law 24.4 (2010).

“A Hegelian Study of Chinese People’s Pursuit of Human Rights in the Tiananmen Incident, Falun Gong, and the 2008 Beijing Olympics,” Criminal Justice Studies 23.2 (2010).

Tango or More?: From California’s Lesson 9 to a Gay-Friendly Curriculum in Public Elementary Schools,” Michigan Journal of Gender and Law 17.1 (2011).

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Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. hollyanna says:

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    Thank you for printing this article. However, ith respect to the researcher it does not appear that she has the understanding of the severity of the wrongs of the prosecutor and investigative team in the case.

    “One would reasonably expect that Knox would similarly have been arrested and
    prosecuted if the murder had taken place in the United States, although it remains uncertain
    whether she would have been convicted. Given that Knox took the initiative to approach the
    police, and that she was the only other person who stayed in the apartment when the murder
    occurred, the police would have found her suspicious enough to detain and arrest her. Given
    the substantive evidence, the prosecutor would unlikely have found it a weak case and
    therefore would likely have charged her with murder.”

    Really, “unlikely have found it a weak case? “substantive evidence”? “only other person who stayed in the apartment when the murder occurred”?

    These statements lead me to believe that this researcher is either biased or has relied on the false information in the press that has tainted this case from the beginning. I can’t say that it would hold up in the court of human rights but it is abominable travesty of justice nonetheless and two innocent people need to be set free!

  2. Quentin says:

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    It is disheartening when someone who wants to be a researcher of some note writes about something she obviously knows very little about. The case of Amanda and Raffaele is not about civil or human rights. It is about police and prosecutorial misconduct on a breathtaking scale. It is about a judge who lets personal friendships and relations with colleagues trump any sense of justice.

    The outward forms of justice were observed in the trial. The problem was that the prosecution case was built on misrepresentations, misstatements, atrocious forensics work, and at times, lies. It was, in short, as clear an instance of people being framed as any one of us is likely to see. The defense attacked this house of cards forcefully and not a bit of it was left standing. The fact that Knox and Sollecito were found guilty anyway shocks the conscience.

    By all means read Judge Massei’s sentencing or “motivations” report. It is an overlong. execrably written, self-contradictory piece of junk and an acute insult to the universal idea of justice. The judge engages in wild speculation and absurd leaps of logic. The most patently absurd prosecution arguments are accepted without irony while the most powerful of defense arguments are flippantly dismissed or just ignored.

    So, yes, by all means read this report. It is one of the best things the defense has going for it. Then make sure you also read the overwhelmingly powerful arguments made in the Knox and Sollecito appeals.

    • Harry Rag says:

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      You wrote:

      “The case of Amanda and Raffaele is not about civil or human rights. It is about police and prosecutorial misconduct on a breathtaking scale. It is about a judge who lets personal friendships and relations with colleagues trump any sense of justice.”

      You sound like a hysterical conspiracy nut.

      Do you have any evidence to support your wild-eyed claims that there has been police and prosecutorial misconduct?

      • guest says:

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        @Harry Rag. Prosecuter Mignini was tried for prosecutorial misconduct for another case while trying this one. The appellate court has ok’d the dna “evidence” which has been stated to be flimsy at best. Italy has a 50% overturn rate on appeal. The writing is on the wall.

        • Harry Rag says:

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          Mignini was found guilty of illegal wiretapping despite the fact that the phone taps were authorised and checked by the investigating judge.

          Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman agreed to allow another independent review of the DNA and forensic evidence. The original forensic investigation and tests were carried out by independent experts.

          There was an independent review of the forensic evidence in 2008. Dr. Renato Biondo, the head of the DNA unit of the scientific police, reviewed Dr. Stefanoni’s investigation and the forensic findings. He testified at Rudy Guede’s fast track trial in October 2008 and confirmed that all the forensic findings were accurate and reliable.

          Only 12% of appeal cases in Italy result in the verdict being overturned.

          The judges at the Italian Supreme Court who presided over Guede’s final appeal believe that Guede held Meredith whilst Knox and Sollecito stabbed Meredith.

          Judge Borsini and Judge Belardi, who presided over Rudy Guede’s first appeal, also believe that Knox and Sollecito inflicted the knife wounds.

          All the documentation from Guede’s various hearings have been introduced into the appeal trial of Knox and Sollecito. Journalist Andrea Vogt described this as a “serious legal setback” for Amanda Knox.

  3. Patrick King says:

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    I have to agree with the other commenters here. It does seem that the researcher has done a very rudimentary job of researching the Kercher murder case. The backbone of the case against Knox & Sollecito is mitochondrial DNA, the discovery of which was unorthodox and improbable, the processing of which was inaccurate, Mitochondrial DNA is never a positive ID of anyone, it’s a potential ID. Therefore, reasonable doubt is clearly in evidence. So why were they convicted? If you read Judge Massei’s motivational document, which is available in English, you’ll see he makes sweeping conjectures regarding when it’s appropriate for Amanda Knox to shower and wash dishes. As she doesn’t shower and wash dishes at the time the judge finds appropriate, he sees this as an evidence she committed homicide. Before the discovery of Ms. Kercher’s remains, Ms. Knox tried to reach her by phone and called her English cell. The judge concludes she used that number because she knew it hadn’t been discovered by police yet, but he has no evidence for this conjecture. It is more likely that Ms. Knox knew Ms. Kercher never turned that phone off as she was always expecting word about her mother’s health concerns, so would be more likely to reach her on that phone than on her Italian cell.

    I know this sounds absurd. You really must read the document to understand the full breadth of conjecture, supposition, and manipulation of facts that really convicted these two people. I don’t see any way that, if this crime occurred in the US, Amanda Knox would have ever been treated as anything but a witness. There is no evidence connecting her or Sollecito to the crime. As Donald Trump said, “It not ‘maybe she did it.’ She didn’t do it.”

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    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Injustice in Perugia, The Rome Journal. The Rome Journal said: New article, Amanda Knox case and Human Rights – http://ow.ly/1rsdpo #rome #italy #travel [...]

  5. Eva says:

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    I am confused. Why is everyone talking about something that isn’t the point of this article at all? This piece of research did not set out to challenge the validity of the sentencing report. It looks at the Knox/Sollecito case from the angle of Human Rights, and frankly, I am not sure how you could say that this isn’t an important or valid perspective.

    The article is based on the facts stated by the official sentencing report, and the above commentators seem to think that anyone who takes the official sentencing report seriously must be part of a conspiracy. That seems a little ironic, because it is usually those who are fighting against the official version who are seen as the conspirators, and it remains up to them to prove that their point of view is valid.

    In contrast, this is a rational application of a human rights model to this controversial case. The above commentators contend that the article is “biased” because it bases itself on the sentencing report. But as is good scholarly practice, the author makes her claims conditional, stating that her conclusion presupposes that “all the facts are correct as per the official sentencing report”.

    For those interested in the actual paper, it offers a differentiated explanations of the differences between the Italian and US justice systems, highlighting that both systems are committed to ensuring a fair trial. It finds that in terms of Beitz’ model of justice, the Italian Court fulfilled its responsibilities, because it abided by its law, and therefore concludes that “scholars and critics are correct in saying that the public outcry against the trial and conviction of Amanda Knox was often not based on intelligent discussions of substantive Italian law or the procedural rules governing the trial” (p. 11). I found this to be a novel and sound explanation of the public handling of the case.

    I really enjoyed reading this paper. I have followed the court case and anyone who has studied the evidence in depth will agree that this evidence is compelling and unusual. It is refreshing to see scholars picking up the case and examining it from a new angle.

    • Karen says:

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      “…the author makes her claims conditional, stating that her conclusion presupposes that “all the facts are correct as per the official sentencing report”….”

      It’s the “official sentencing report” that is false.

      From that point on the law was applied, sometimes questionably, but it was acting upon false information. The judges pandered to the prosecution and left the defense at a disadvantage. Authorities should have investigated the investigators immediately and I believe the protocol is in the Vienna Convention allowing our legal systems to mesh.

      It is the duty of the higher courts to correct false information and the Appeal did so in 2011, now we shall see if the Supreme Court lets that ruling stand.

      Italy and the US could model how to apply the legal systems to correct mistakes, but what of the potentially innocent?? Why should two innocent university students spend years in a prison system when their involvement in the murder was questionable? Surely the courts could impose lighter sentences for detainees whose guilt is built upon questions.

      The Betiz Human Rights model should be applied to false reports and questionable imprisonment. It would be interesting to see the results of the Knox/Sollecito Case and other cases all over the world.

  6. Beau Bloomer says:

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    I believe with my whole heart and with the evidence that two innocent people are sitting in prison for no reason. I have never gotten involved in criminal case until this one when I found out about it and have not been able to go away. Because it is so sad on how they convicted Amanda and Rafaelle. I just pray that these two will be free on their appeal.

  7. Patrick King says:

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    I think you’re missing my point, Eva. It’s all well and good that Italy has it’s own way of doing things, but the evidence in this case would not be evidence in most modern societies. It’s one thing to have different ways of doing things. It’s another thing to have police and prosecutors who publicly state they don’t need evidence because they understand the psychology of the accused by their behavior. This statement was actually made by Edgardo Giobbi, head of the Rome Forensics Team, shortly after he put Amanda Knox’ picture up on his “Wall of Shame” along with the mafia dons he’s prosecuted. He did this 48 hours before she was formally accused of murder. If they threw Amanda Knox in a river to determine her innocence on whether she sank or floated, I suspect we’d agree there is a problem. I don’t see much difference in this case. Giobbi’s interview in which he makes this claim is on YouTube. Please watch it.

    Railroading suspects and kangaroo courts ARE human rights issues, and in this case Italy is guilty of both offenses. Kick over a few stones and I think you’ll find a lot more. The European Court of Human Rights should already be investigating the conviction of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.

  8. Eva says:

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    Patrick – I think that I understand very well what you are saying, but since this article is not about the question of her innocence, it doesn’t speak for all the commentators who automatically chime in, alerted by the name Amanda Knox in the headline, to disseminate their views about her innocence regardless of what the article is actually about. So, in this point, we certainly disagree.

    But we disagree in other points as well. I find it interesting, if irritating, how some people are very certain that she is innocent, and often they are those which selectively present information about the case, as you have done above. Of course, you have left out the DNA evidence, as well as all the compelling circumstantial evidence, because it doesn’t fit into what you believe to be true. Some experts have publicly said that they believe the evidence is solid, while others have said the opposite. Of course, it remains to be uncovered which ones of these experts have been bought, which ones simply feel sorry for Amanda Knox, etc. Since her family have managed to hire a PR team, it can’t be assumed that they haven’t hired an “expert” as well. Surely, it must be hard for many to accept that a beautiful all-American girl like her could have any hand in a senseless murder – but reality as well as intelligence should help us look beyond our biases.

    I am not an expert, but after reading much about the evidence and court proceedings – a lot of which was never even translated into English – the trial seemed pretty fair to me and a lot of the evidence compelling. It is telling, too, that Amanda Knox has never told the truth about that evening, changing her story all the time, when her alleged innocence could have freed her very easily.

    In this sense, you people would be wise to inform yourselves about the trial and evidence without being blinded by your biases. Why not leave room for both possibilities – both her innocence and her involvement, because – as you rightly pointed out – the European Court of Human Rights is not investigating the case, Hillary Clinton hasn’t come to rescue her, and Donald Trump and Maria Cantwell have stopped talking about her. Do you really think that this would have happened if all these people truly believed that the evidence against her was insignificant?

    All this crazy talk from her “supporters” may have a negative impact on public opinion in Italy and will not help her appeal – certainly her lawyers are unimpressed – so wise up, examine your biases, and stay critical and informed.

  9. Keith says:

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    A general response to comments.

    The facts of the case are not of interest here. As I have indicated above and in previous comments on other articles, it is important that the Italian justice system treated all three parties fairly and equally in the eyes of Italian Law.

    The equality of treatment is for Amanda Knox and Merideth Kercher’s benefit. As it stands, being played out in the Media, blogosphere and politically, either one or the other will be seen to get justice. Very sad for the other and their families.

  10. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Amanda Knox case and Human Rights | The Rome Journal…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

  11. Kathleen Cole says:

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    Do we know the nature of evil and where it resides? Evil lives in ignorance, superstition, including religious superstition. Evil is a grown, educated, privileged man characterizing a young woman as a witch, a “she-devil.” However mistaken Amanda Knox may have been, the Court has not met its burden of proof. Now it allows an Inquisition to proceed? This has me hoping they won’t get their auto da fe.

  12. Uxo says:

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    OJ Simpson free, Clinton KO because of a blowjob, Bush election against Gore “clean”, are you sure you have the moral and intelectual right to look down on Italy’s legal system?

    Well, at least, even if things go wrong for Foxy Knoxy, we can be sure she won’t get a DEATH PENALTY…

    Bye, and please take your US flag off your eyes before looking at facts

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