Demand for justice for Giulio Regeni

By Giorgio Caracciolo, senior programme advisor, DIGNITY
Photo: Alisdare Hickson (FLICKR)

On the 5th of December 2018 the family of Giulio Regeni and the Federazione nazionale della Stampa Italiana (Italian Press National Association) held a press-conference to shed light on the progresses made by Italian Prosecutors in the investigation regarding the forced disappearance, torture and murder of the Italian researcher Giulio Regeni.

Earlier in December, the Italian prosecutors had decided to register five names on the list of persons potentially involved in the crimes against Giulio Regeni. Almost simultaneously the Italian Camera dei Deputati (Lower Chamber) decided to suspend its relations with the Egyptian counterparts.

Both decisions are to indicate a symbolic protest by the Italian authorities against the lack of willingness to reach the truth in the case of Regeni by Egypt. The decision by the Italian magistrates allowed them to move forward the investigation in an independent fashion and close its coordination with the Egyptian counterparts, the latter having contributed to stalling the investigative process.

The case of Giulio Regeni shocked the international community when in January 2016 the body of Regeni was found – after days of disappearance – on a desert road outside Cairo. Shortly afterwards his family learned that the Italian researcher was severely tortured for several days and that the torture was followed by an inevitable death. The forensic report issued by Italian Forensic indicated that the torture was systematic and complex, in a way that no ordinary criminal would or could inflict. Such torture could only come from experienced and equipped perpetrators.

Since January 2016, Regeni’s parents have asked for truth and to bring the perpetrators to justice. They have received support by a constant work by Amnesty International Italy, by their Italian lawyer Alessandra Ballerini, as well as by the crucial work done by the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedom (ECRF) that acted on a consultative basis.

This year on the 26th of June, the UN International Day in Solidarity with Victims of Torture, DIGNITY held, in cooperation with its closest partners in Egypt (including ECRF), a side-event at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where the request for Truth and Justice was reiterated and amplified within the highest international human rights forum.

On 13th of December, the European Parliament issued  a resolution in which it “recalls its continued outrage at the torture and killing of the Italian researcher Giulio Regeni” and denounced, once again, the lack of progress in the investigation into this brutal murder; furthermore it “reminds the Egyptian authorities of their responsibility for the safety of the Italian and Egyptian legal team investigating the case of Giulio Regeni”.

During the press conference December 5th, the Regeni Family and lawyer A. Ballerini shared the five names of those investigated by the Italian prosecutors, though they added that the investigation points to up to 20 other persons all linked to Egypt National Security and all with a share of potential responsibility in the crimes committed against Regeni.

From the five names emerges figures that lead the National Security such as General Tarek Ali Saber as well as Major Sherif Magdy Ibrahim.

These names are already known to the human rights community. General Saber is pivotal to most of the investigations/cases led against human rights groups in Egypt; Major Sherif was instrumental to the arrest of Ahmed Abdallah, founder and board member of ECRF (the latter also sharing in the press conference on December 5th).

Lawyer Ballerini rightly pointed to the fact that should the investigation by the Italian prosecutors lead to evidence of culpability, those found guilty would be liable of arrest outside Egypt.

The Ballerini also highlighted that “time will not make us forget but will only make us stronger”.

Why is this important for DIGNITY and its partners?

Firstly, this is an important step towards justice, possibly the most important since after the uprising of January 2011. In the case of Regeni, the involvement of National Security in the use of torture and cases of extra-judicial killings is being proved, and in this step, the ECRF has played a key role.

However, ECRF has paid a dear price for their work. Ahmed Abdallah was arrested for five months and since May, Amal Fathy, wife of Mohamed Lotfi directors of ECRF, is kept in prison without a fair trial.

In the words of lawyer Ballerini “Amal is kept hostage for the work ECRF has done on the case of Giulio Regeni”.

Secondly, this is important for DIGNITY and any other organization that works against torture in Egypt because we are all preparing for justice. We know that it is a matter of time and we know that the road needs to be paved with documentation of the countless cases of enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killing that the Egyptian regime has committed since 2011 and especially since June 2013.

As lawyer Ballerini puts it “justice depends on all of us” and DIGNITY is proud to support its partners in this quest.

A final note: on the 5th of December, the state lawyer submitted a new decision (n. 6) to withdraw the license of El Nadeem Centre – the only rehabilitation center for victims of torture in Egypt and DIGNITY’s partner since several years –  claiming it has been issued on the same day of decision no. 16 regarding the closure 98 (February 2018). It is practically impossible to issue the two decrees on the same day.

Lack of impartiality and malpractices by the Egyptian judiciary did not affect only Regeni’s case but it is annihilating the entire human rights movement and it is keeping young human rights defenders in jail, creating a “generation jail”.