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STRASBOURG (Reuters) - Europe's human rights court found Italy guilty of torture over a raid in which riot police kicked, punched and hit dozens of protesters who had gathered inside a school building during a meeting of world leaders in Genoa in 2001.
The ruling concerned violence that occurred during a summit of the G8 group of industrialised nations in July 2001, at time when a wave of concern over economic globalisation often prompted violent clashes on the fringes of such gatherings.
The European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg, denounced what it called a "particularly serious and cruel" police raid on the protesters who were using the Diaz-Pertini school in Genoa as a base during the summit.
It said many of those hit by police were sitting on the floor with their hands in the air.
In a ruling prompted by legal action that 42 people present at the school filed, the rights court said: "The court considered that the violence perpetrated against the applicants had caused severe physical and psychological suffering and had been particularly serious and cruel."
"It therefore held (ruled) that the treatment to which the applicants had been subjected in Diaz-Pertini School was to be regarded as torture" in violation of the European rights convention, a statement on the ruling said.
Italy was order to pay damages of 45,000 euros per plaintiff and 55,000 euros in the case of two of the plaintiffs, on top of legal costs.
Anti-riot officers "arrived at the scene running and in anti-riot gear, wearing helmets and carrying shields and truncheons", the statement on the ruling said.
"They had entered the school premises using an armoured vehicle to force their way through the entrance gate. Once inside, the officers had made indiscriminate, systematic and disproportionate use of force," it said.
The incident happened in the middle of the night on July 21, 2001, during a summit where, in a totally separate incident, a protester was killed in skirmishes with police in the ancient port city in northwest Italy.
(This story was refiled to change dateline to STRASBOURG from PARIS)
Reporting by Gilbert Reilhac; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Alison Williams