Dumped half-naked in a ditch by a motorway on the outskirts of Cairo. That is how Cambridge PhD student Giulio Regeni was discovered two years ago. He was murdered. His body showed signs of extreme torture, riddled with burns, cuts, bruises and broken bones. The one aspect of the whole incident not disputed has been the manner of his death. In short: horrific.
The road to justice for Giulio, holding his killers to account and understanding how someone who simply went abroad to do field research on trade unions met such a fate, has been long. Those fighting to discover the truth behind why this intelligent and promising Italian student was murdered have had to negotiate a delicate terrain incorporating the Egyptian, British and Italian governments, the European Parliament and even the Vatican.
At the heart of the case is the battle around the fundamental values that underpin an open society. Beyond the diplomatic wrangling, lie wider questions about academic freedom, trade union rights, the right to political expression and the fight against corruption. Capturing the hearts and minds of many, over the past two years the campaign for truth for Giulio has been dynamic - with films, protests, vigils, letters, posters and endless lobbying - drawing persistent international attention to a crime that we cannot afford to forget.
If a Western student at one of the world’s most prestigious universities can be murdered with relative impunity, then we need to ask what hope there is for justice for the countless other victims hidden from the public eye? What is as worrying is that even in the case of Giulio, a UK resident, the British government has been slow to get any answers from the Egyptian authorities.
Over the last two years there have been repeated attempts by the Egyptian, Italian and British governments shift blame and failures to take any responsibility, but very little progress on actually bringing Giulio’s killers to justice.
Too often it has felt like people are waiting for the storm to pass. When I met the Egyptian MP Tarek Radwan, Chair of Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Committee, to press for more action, his key concern seemed to be explaining this was an isolated case to me, rather than what could actually be done.
I will continue to press for answers along with my Italian colleagues and all those who are part of the campaign for “verita per Giulio”. Tonight, Isabella De Monte, the Italian MEP for Giulio’s home town, will join me and members of Amnesty International for a candlelit vigil in Cambridge to mark the exact last moment anyone heard from Giulio.
Two years on, this case still matters. We cannot allow silence to be forged by brutality nor let European countries turn a blind eye.