Gariwo: the gardens of the Righteous

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Rocco Chinnici 1926 - 1983

brave promoter of the first anti-Mafia team of the Palermo courthouse, was killed by the cosche (Mafia group)s

Rocco Chinnici

Rocco Chinnici

Born in Misilmeri on January 19, 1925, Rocco Chinnici graduated in Law on July 10, 1947. He became a magistrate in 1952 and he was assigned to the Trapani courthouse for two years. From 1954, year of birth of his first child Caterina, he had been working for 12 years to the magistrates’ court in Partanna. This long professional period allowed him to develop a direct relationship with the citizenship, which deeply influenced his personality and gave him the opportunity to exercise his human and professional values. He established with the local population an extraordinary syntony indeed, which actually led him to posticipate the time for a more prestigious judiciary office. During that happy time two other children were born, Elvira (January 1959) and Giovanni (January 1964). He was transferred in Palermo in 1966, to the Education Office of the courthouse, where he started to take up more delicate cases.

The first big Mafia trial, for the “slaughter of viale Lazio”, was entrusted to him in 1970. In 1979 he became Consigliere Istruttore, starting to direct the office in which he had been working for thirteen years. By then, Italian institutions started to waver under the strokes of Mafia, now so powerful and shameless to challenge the State itself. Chinnici had a great intuition: he created, in his office, some work teams - something revolutionary for the time -, in so giving birth to current “anti-Mafia pool”. On his side, there were two young magistrates: Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, with whom he strarted the investigations that became, in the 80s, the greatest trials for Mafia.

The Education Office in Palermo became, under his leadership, an example of judiciary organization for other Italian magistratures. Rocco Chinnici, though, did not stop his activity in the courtrooms. Getting back the relationship that characterized his previous work in Partanna many years before, he tried again to raise the civil society and the institutions’ awareness. He focused on youngsters in particular: he partecipated to several public and scholastic meetings, in order to talk with them about Mafia and the dangers of drugs - instruments for power and money in the hands of clans.

Chinnici was killed on July 29, 1983, in an ambush: in front oh his house, the first of several car bombs used in the 90’s slaughters ended the magistrate’s life and marked the further and dramatic outburst of Mafia violent strategies. Together with Chinnici, the caretaker Stefano Li Sacchi and the two body guards Salvatore Bartolotta and Mario Trapassi were murdered.

In one of his last inteviews, Chinnici declared: “The worst thing can happen is to be killed. I’m not afraid of death and, even if I walk with the body guards, I perfectly know Mafia can hit me anytime. I hope that, if it happens, the men with me would not be harmed. For a magistrate, like me, it is normal to be in the cosche bullseye; but this doesn’t stop me and the judges from keeping working”.

The Rigteous against Mafia

positive examples to break the criminal oppression

As weel as a strong act is needed to stop a genocide or to spoil a totalitarian regime force, a synergy between democratic state and citizens is needed in order to neutralize the Mafia power, with the creation of an alternative attraction pole, that only individuals’ initiative can create. What is needed is the example of a contagious difference, the civil courage of the Righteous able to move the consciences, as it has happened in the 80s and 90s with the judges Falcone and Borsellino, preceded and followed by other magistrates, investigators, politics, priests, teachers, intellectuals, common people, who broke the isolation by transforming a single shelter in a collective force.

The Righteous are the thorn in the flesh of Mafia power: telling their stories, developing the educational memory about them, honouring them with all of the usual and unusual practicable forms, it is a powerful mean to fight the cosche, because it shows to new generations a way out - the possibility to break oppression and live in a condition of social and personal freedom.