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In memory of Giulio The Righteous Regeni

by Riccardo Noury, Amnesty International Italy

Giulio's mother demonstrating for truth in Rome

Giulio's mother demonstrating for truth in Rome

Riccardo Noury, Spokesperson of Amnesty International Italy, in the following article for Gariwo remembers the Italian boy tortured and killed in Egypt and explains why we should consider him as an exemplary figure. 

On 7 April, I was in the studios of tv programme Uno Mattina, whose staff joined the campaign "Truth for Giulio Regeni" from the start. 

According to the schedule, my remarks would be preceded by an interview with Alaa al-Aswamy, whom I deem to be the greatest living Egyptian writer. 

Being in a tv studio and commenting about the words, still unknown to me, of the author of monumental works such as The Yacoubian Bulding or Cairo Automobile Club, already set me in an emotional mood. Then those words were pronounced.

Al Aswany uttered words of great admiration for Giulio and the research he was carrying out in Egypt. Even a dialogue, which today would sound as paradoxical, about Giulio's wish to write for leftwing paper il manifesto (which was not so interested in his offer, as we know) and al-Aswany's approval statement ("Nice, you know, me too is leftwing!")

In this consisted the purity, or Righteousness of Giulio: he was a person without hindsight and defences. He was the perfect target. Would he had been on the payroll of some interest or state (alas, in Italy there is this vice of insulting, mocking and "littering" the image of those who risk their lives or die abroad out of their wish to learn more about the world, further explore it, and bring solidarity to the people, - as show the events relating to  Ilaria Alpi, Ezio Baldoni, Giuliana Sgrena, le Simone, Vanessa e Greta, Giovanni Lo Porto... - at the first warnings that his coverup was about to be discovered he would get back home.

On the contrary, Giulio felt under threat and, as we know, he was worried but lacked a complete perception of crossing the "line".

I am using this expression to define the borderline between what is licit or nonetheless tolerated and what is not.Under Mubarak such line was clear enough, while under al Sisi is has unstable. Journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, physicians, comic authors, photographers, researchers: everybody can inadvertently cross that line and start being considered as threats or enemies. 

On 8 April, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni temporarily called back the Italian ambassador in Cairo. This was a necessary and timely gesture, in the face of the blatant unavailability of the Egyptian bench to cooperate in the investigation about the arrest, abduction, torture and murder of Giulio.

A constant emerges thus from the reconstructions provided so far by the Cairo authorities: the attempt to lift the institutions from any responsibility, putting the blame on an act against the good relations between Italy and Egypt, or a car accident, a party ended into bitter, a personal brawl or even a gang of xenophobic criminals, all this accompanied with a complete array of insults and mockery against Giulio. 

And instead, Giulio's murder must be considered in its proper framework, i.e. a framework of systematic denial of human rights. It is everything but an isolated case, a newspaper criminal story...  

The information provided by Centre El Nadeem for the rehabilitation of the victims of violence and torture, one of the most influential Egyptian human rights groups, active since 1993 and recently ordered to shut down not by chance by the Ministry of Health, confirm this. 

According to El Nadeem, in 2015 there were 464 cases of forced abduction and 1176 cases of torture, nearly 500 out of which ended into death. This year over just one month, February, torture cases were 88, eight of which deadly.

The circumstances and the date of the abduction (the fifth anniversary of the "revolution of 25 January" 2011, preceded by early warning signals of militarisation and repression), the torture methods to which he was submitted (the same so often used by the security apparatus), the unwillingness to cooperate in the search for truth, the initial assignment of the investigation to a police officer sentenced in 2003 for a case of deadly tortured and then charged with torturing, convicting upon false counts and murdered some demonstrators in 2011, the similar fate of two Egyptian activists gone missing in the same days in January: all this suggests that there is an actual probability that the Egyptian security forces are guilty for Giulio Regeni's murder.

"I know", wrote Pasolini on 14 November 1974 about certain Italian tragic events. "We - millions people - know", now, in Italy and Egypt. 

But the fact that we know does not suffice. The Cairo government must say what we know, reporting the truth to us.

That government,which, unexpectedly, today is finding itself in front of an outraged movement of men and women, families of missing and tortured people, who defy the repression (armed also by Italy, the only country in the European Union having sent guns and rifles to Egypt iun 2014 and 2015) wearing t-shirts with the picture of Giulio and the writing "One of us".

I consider Giulio an activist for human rights. He awakened consciences in Italy and has been heartening and strengthening them in Egypt. "A guy from the future", as his mother Paola defines him. And this is why he is a Righteous, too.  

Riccardo Noury, spokesperson Amnesty International, Italian branch

Analysis by Riccardo Noury, spokesperson Amnesty International, Italian branch

14 April 2016

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