by Carlotta Mingardi
Seven months after the body of Giulio Regeni, the young Italian researcher from Cambridge, was found lifeless in Cairo, with evident signs of torture, Italian senator Luigi Manconi, Amnesty Italy and Giulio’s parents are calling on the Italian government to resist pressure from Egypt to restore full diplomatic relations. Italian civil society has also been putting pressure on the government not to go easy on the Al-Sisi regime. The more the Italian delegation has investigated in Giulio’s murder, the more has become known of the massive and shocking repressive apparatus responsible for human rights violations and forced disappearances in Egypt. According to Tina Marinari from Amnesty Italy, Giulio’s case inadvertently became “a way to make even more evident the systematic violation of human rights in Egypt, a country who is an important strategic ally for Western countries in the war on terrorism and often looked at as a key for the stability of the area”. After seven months the campaign is still on-going, and according to Sergio Bassoli, representative for human rights and international politics of the Italian worker’s union CGIL,
“Italy hadn’t seen such a vast popular mobilization on human rights in decades: that’s why we often call Giulio as a human right activist. His case shed lights on the thousands currently detained, the hundreds tortured or disappeared under Al-Sisi regime.”
Diplomatic relations between Italy and Egypt were officially interrupted last April with the withdrawal of the Italian ambassador Maurizio Massari from Cairo. In July, the Italian parliament voted to suspend the selling of F-16 spare parts to Egypt. Although it was mainly a symbolic vote, it showed a first political commitment, which may be on its way to normalization. Everything depends, in the words of Sergio Bassoli, “on the moves the Italian government will make in September”. In the last few days Giulio’s family and the Italian senator Luigi Manconi called for the government not to send the new Ambassador to Cairo. This is a move in response to Al-Sisi’s declaration to Al-Watan, where he described the diplomatic relations between the two countries
as “perfectly good”. Sending the ambassador back to Egypt would implicitly signify the seeking of normalization of diplomatic relations, something that would undermine the efforts undertaken until now to obtain concrete collaboration from the Egyptian authorities.
For many reasons Manconi says, “The Italian government still shows a timid attitude towards its Egyptian counterpart”. Italy’s international position is very delicate: it has not received any kind of support from other European countries. Whereas Italy withdrew its ambassador in April, the next move from France was to secure new economic deals with the North African country. This sheds light on the political crisis inside the EU. In the words of Riccardo Noury, representative of Amnesty Italy, “if the EU had been united in facing the atrocities of Al-Sisi’s government, we would have seen 27 withdrawn ambassadors and not just one”. European countries seem more interested in preserving the existing deals in terms of regulation of migration and counter terrorism, than to take into consideration the massive violation of human rights their money is contributing to.
On September 8th the Italian and Egyptian investigation committees will meet to discuss the developments in Giulio Regeni’s case. The hope is that, in the words of Giulio’s mother, “the Italian government won’t drop Giulio’s case for the sake of normalization of the diplomatic relations with Egypt”. That path would lead to the implicit acceptance of not only Giulio’s death, but also the illegal detention, torture, and disappearance of many others in Egypt.
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