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Italy: Justice for a veteran's family in DU related case

A court in Rome ordered the Italian Ministry of Defence to compensate the family of Stefano Melone, a soldier who died of a malignant vascular tumour. According to the court, Mr Melone's death was "due to exposure to radioactive and carcinogen substances" on missions in the Balkans.

Stefano Melone was suddenly, in February 2000, diagnosed with cancer (Epithelioid Hemangioendothelioma of the bone, lung and pleura). In August 2000 a military commission acknowledged the link between his illness and the military service abroad, so he applied for a pension. However, after many surgical operations, he died on 8th November 2001 in Milan, at the age of 40.

Since then, his wife has been engaged in a battle to obtain compensation from the Ministry of Defence, together with many other soldiers and families in similar situations. Before dying, Stefano had asked his wife to do this, so that their children and all the other families could safeguard a future in spite of the terrible pain and loss. To date, 27 Italian soldiers have died of lymphoma, cancer or leukaemia, and 260 are currently ill, after their missions abroad. Many of these missions took place in countries where DU has been used, including Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq.

After three reports and many mistakes, a commission nominated by the Ministry of Defence, has eventually acknowledged an increase in lymphoma among soldiers assigned to missions in the Balkans. In spite of that, the Italian Ministry of Defence refuses to give compensation to their families, let alone to admit that DU has a role in these cases. Hardly any information is given to soldiers currently on missions abroad about the risks the are facing, and whoever complains about this lack of information is treated as a traitor and marginalised. It is too expensive and difficult to obtain medical tests and therapies for these kinds of health problems. Only a few soldiers or families have the courage to stand up and ask for compensation after illness or death.

On the 26th of June, in Rome, the magistrates of a local court have ruled that the Ministry of Defence must pay 500.000 Euros in compensation to Stefano Melone's family.

By Francesco Iannuzzelli of Peacelink, Italy (

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Page last updated: January 28, 2003