Rome, January 7 - The Italian association of criminal defense attorneys on Tuesday said attorney-client confidentiality is routinely violated in Italy, undermining the integrity of the country's justice system. ''Conversations with our clients are listened in on, in spite of the fact that the Italian criminal code expressly forbids tapping communications between defenders and defendants," the association said in a note ahead of a three-day work stoppage on January 13-15. Criminal defense attorneys also objected to possible reform of the principle of judicial immutability, which means the same judge must preside at pretrial hearings, trial and sentencing. "That principle must not be watered down in the name of shortening unreasonably lengthy trials," the note said. The right to a free and effective defense is at the basis of any balanced justice system, the association concluded. Trials in Italy, including preliminary investigations, hearings, trial and appeals, can last several years.