Italy's failure to offer compensation to victims of rape and other violent crimes is a breach of European Union laws, the court's top court ruled on Tuesday, adding pressure on Rome to change its statutes.
Under current legislation, public aid is provided only for certain types of crimes, such as Mafia or terrorism-related violence, and is not available for those who suffer sexual assault or other kinds of serious physical harm.
This contradicts a 2004 EU directive protecting all EU nationals who are victims of a violent crime, including in another member state of the bloc, the EU Court of Justice said in a statement.
The directive calls for "national scheme[s] guaranteeing a minimum level of fair and appropriate compensation for victims of any violent intentional crime committed on [their] territory," EU judges said.
Governments cannot "limit the scope of the compensation scheme for victims to only certain violent intentional crimes," they added.
The European Commission, which monitors compliance with EU laws, had long called on Italy to change its legislation. Following the court ruling, the country will have to act, or else face fresh legal action before EU judges, leading to hefty financial penalties.
EU rules say public compensation should be available when attackers are not found or are insolvent. Some rape victims in Italy have obtained it in recent years, but only after winning individual court cases, while a generalized compensation scheme should be in place.