865.00/7–1946: Telegram

The Chargé in Italy ( Key ) to the Secretary of State

us urgent

3257. Deptel 1454, July 16.61 We are not of the opinion that general amnesty decree of new Italian Republic (Presidential decree No. 4, June 2262) is contrary to interest of US in assuring that Fascists and Fascist institutions are eliminated from Italian political and economic life.

Briefly decree which grants amnesty for common crimes within certain limits also grants amnesty for political crimes. Amnesty for this latter category of crimes may be divided into two parts: (1) political crimes committed after liberation of Italian territory and (2) amnesty for certain “other political crimes” except those committed by persons of “high civil political and military functions” or where political crimes involve violence or political crimes committed for profit. Amnesty affecting the first class has been compared with general amnesty granted by President Johnson after Civil War to ex-Confederates since it applies to Italian citizens guilty of collaboration with Germany or rebel Mussolini government etc., after Italian surrender September 8, 1943. The second class covers political crimes committed earlier [Page 926] but excluding crimes committed by persons in important posts of command and for crimes involving serious physical violence or profit. In decree there is also provision for pardon and commutation (as distinct from amnesties of penalties for political offenses excluded from the operation of the general amnesty). Briefly there are: death penalty commuted to life imprisonment, life imprisonment commuted to 30 years, all other sentences of imprisonment over 5 years reduced one-third.

Covering letter to draft decree when submitted to President Council of Ministers referred briefly to established Italian practice of granting amnesty for common offenses on historic dates such as founding of republic and said with regard to amnesty for political crimes that “A political and social peace is necessary” for Italy and that new republic must meet this need; that amnesty should not, however, apply to more serious offenses or in cases where political crimes were committed by persons in high public, political or military office; that for these cases, the persons involved must suffer their full punishment; and in conclusion that at this critical moment of Italian national life, present amnesty will contribute to creation in country of new atmosphere of unity and harmony necessary for economic and political rehabilitation of Italy. It is reported that decree was largely drafted by Togliatti, Communist leader and then Minister of Justice. In any event, draft decree emanated from Justice while Togliatti was Minister.

In letter dated July 8 to AFHQ on decree, chief commissioner reported that in his opinion shared by chief legal officer and political advisers there is nothing in decree which transgresses Moscow declaration on Italy or long armistice terms. Full text of decree and related papers by airmail.

Repeated Paris 444; sent Dept 3257.

  1. Not printed; it asked the views of the Embassy on the possible effect of the amnesty on the U.S. Government’s desire to see Fascists and Fascist interests extirpated from Italian life (865.00/7–1646).
  2. For text, see Gazzetta Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana, June 23, 1946, p. 1489.