Toto Riina, the brutal former head of the Sicilian Mafia, known alternately as “the boss of bosses” and “Beast,” has been in prison since 1993, convicted of more than 100 murders. But on Monday night, Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation rejected a decision by the Probate Court in Bologna to keep Riina locked up as his health deteriorates.
Riina, 86, last year requested a deferred sentence — or alternately house arrest — as he suffers from multiple serious diseases. The parole board rejected the request, reasoning that the constant supervision of prison doctors, coupled with the possibility of admission to an outside hospital if necessary, was sufficient to make Riina’s detention compatible with his health needs.
Late Monday, however, the Supreme Court said that was only part of the story. Riina, like any human being, has a body that must be safeguarded in its fundamental right to health and care. While the lower court’s decision was perhaps adequate to ensure the appropriate care for Riina’s physical body, the Supreme Court argued that he also has “dignity.” And, like anyone else, he must be guaranteed the right to die in a dignified and respectful way.