Tomorrow, the new Italian ambassador will take up office in Cairo, almost a year-and-a-half after Italy recalled its former emissary in protest over Egypt’s “unsatisfactory” investigation into the February 2016 torture and murder of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni, allegedly at the hands of Egyptian security forces.
Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, defending the decision to normalize relations, said Egypt was “an unavoidable partner” with whom it was “impossible not to have high-level political and diplomatic relations.” Regeni’s parents called the move a “dressed-up surrender.”
The parents’ wish to know the truth about what happened to their son – whose tortured body was found on a desert roadside in Cairo – and bring his murderers to justice is an all-too-familiar agony for many Egyptians. Last week, Human Rights Watch released a report documenting widespread and systematic torture by Egyptian security forces, including beatings, electric shocks, stress positions, and sometimes rape. The country’s torture epidemic, matched by near total impunity for perpetrators, is a potential crime against humanity.
Alfano insists Italian authorities will not give up the quest for truth in the Regeni case, and that they are planning ways to commemorate the young researcher. But memorials and ceremonies are not what his family, or country, expect. Italy and its new ambassador should, first and foremost, redouble their efforts to secure a transparent and effective investigation in Regeni’s case and ensure that his torturers face justice. Secondly, they should work with European allies to press Egypt to end torture and enforced disappearances and ensure accountability. For example pressing Egypt to create a special independent prosecutor to investigate and prosecute allegations of torture. It also includes supporting United Nations experts on torture, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances to access Egypt.
The best way to honor Giulio Regeni’s memory is to pursue justice for his murder, and not to forget the Egyptians who share the same fate.