On June 27, 1980, in the sky over Ustica, an Itavia DC-9 was shot down, taking with it the lives of 81 innocent citizens. “The incident occurred as a result of military interception action … the DC-9 was shot down … the lives of 81 innocent citizens were ended with an action which was primarily an act of war, a de facto unreported war … an international police operation … against our country, whose borders and rights were violated … No one has given the slightest explanation about what happened.”
This is the truth according to the investigation led by Judge Priore, which we must constantly have before us, seared into our consciences on this 40th anniversary of the Ustica Massacre.
Today we must demand that the whole truth be revealed, and that the explanation of what happened be brought to light, for the memory of the poor victims and for the dignity of our country.
And there is only one way to do it: to make every piece of documentary evidence on this massacre available to the judiciary, in particular to the Public Prosecutor’s office in Rome—which reopened the investigation after President Cossiga accused the French.
We know that there has been widespread destruction of evidence carried out by the military in our country, but today we must demand in-depth answers to the international letters rogatory from friendly and allied countries: I am referring specifically to the United States, France and Libya, for which there is evidence—from documentation provided by NATO—that they had aircraft present in the vicinity of the DC-9.
It is a fact that Ustica was a chapter in the upsurge of the Cold War in the 1980s, which by its nature is essentially secret—but for this very reason, the commitment of the institutions and the government to the search for truth must be even more determined.
Let us remember that the truth about Ustica could be already seen in the immediate reactions to the event: it is documented by the recordings of the conversations between radar sites, by a state of alarm already raised while the flight was still in the air—one could see military planes moving in search patterns around the DC-9—and help was even sought from the US embassy in Rome, in an absolutely unusual procedure. A radar track was immediately available and was seen by some, showing an obvious attack maneuver against the DC-9.
However, it was decided, probably in an emergency meeting at the same US Embassy in Rome—which is still unexplainable—that the Italian citizens should not know.
Instead, the military and the Air Force, with all their prestige and technical capabilities, took the position that, even though it was flying in clear skies without any present danger, the plane could only have crashed due to structural failure, invoking the “tragic, obvious fact that planes crash.”
Accordingly, the investigation by the judiciary became toothless, and found a scapegoat in the Itavia company, the private business that owned the aircraft and which was forced into bankruptcy.
In the short term, the Ustica affair disappeared out of sight, just as the DC-9 had sunk into the Tyrrhenian Sea.
We had many years of silence: then, under the pressure of public opinion, in a climate of renewed attention, the work of the Commission on Terrorism, presided over by the late Senator Gualtieri, who was able to get important resolutions voted through unanimously, and of the judiciary, with the investigation led by Judge Priore and the Prosecutor’s Office of the Rome, gave us the outlines of the truth.
On this 40th anniversary, we must start again from that effort and from those results. The Commission on Terrorism unanimously pointed out “to Parliament the responsibilities of the military institutions for having transformed a ‘normal’ inquiry into the loss of a civilian aircraft, with all its 81 passengers, into a web of lies, reticence, irregularities.” It added that “one can begin to demand accountability for those behaviors that have so long hindered the search for the truth within the public administration.”
We must point out in forceful terms that only the relatives of the victims were able to find the strength to hold the authorities to account, and, as a result, we have a series of definitive civil judgments against the Ministries of Transport and Defense. We ask for the due, and full, respect of these decisions.
And, rejecting the shameful campaigns of falsehoods and misdirections put forward by those who are still nostalgic for the “bomb on board” theory, we must reiterate that the truth is in the findings that Judge Priore delivered to us, and we must set for ourselves the indispensable objective—for the very dignity of this country—to obtain the full explanation of what happened.