On 25 January 2016 at 7.41 pm, Giulio Regeni, an Italian PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, disappeared near a metro station in Cairo, Egypt. He was in Cairo for his PhD research on trade unions. A few days later, his battered body was found in a trench near a road in the suburbs of the city. Giulio’s name was subsequently added to the list of people kidnapped, tortured and murdered in Egypt.
ADI (Association of Doctoral candidates and PhDs in Italy) joined the “Truth for Giulio” campaign (launched by Amnesty International) from the onset, organising and taking part in many events across Italy. No light has since been shed on Giulio’s murder; instead, serious and shocking acts from the Egyptian government continue to insult the memory of the PhD candidate and to hinder any search for the truth on his murder. A minister of the Egyptian government defined this as an “ordinary murder”, something that can happen everywhere, while Regeni family lawyers suffered intimidation and arrest.
In April 2016, Italy recalled its ambassador to Cairo in protest at the lack of progress in the investigation by Egyptian authorities. Unfortunately, the Italian Government returned its ambassador to Cairo in August 2017. It is only thanks to pressure from the Regeni family and activists that the Chamber of Deputies suspended its contact with Egypt on 29 November 2018.
The European Parliament condemned the murder of Giulio Regeni and the ongoing human rights abuses of the al-Sisi government in Egypt on 10 March 2016. In December 2018, it passed a resolution asking for EU member states to stop the export of security and surveillance equipment to Egypt. On 23 October, the EU Parliament approved a resolution that “strongly condemns the latest crackdown and the ongoing restrictions on fundamental rights in Egypt”, and also highlights the “lack of a credible investigation” into the kidnapping, torture and murder of Giulio Regeni.
While the EU condemns the Egyptian Government, the Egyptian ambassador in Italy is supposed to visit a school and students were told to not ask him questions about Giulio. Moreover, Italy and Egypt decided to launch a joint call for bilateral research projects in science and technology, including funding for researchers mobility. In our view, this is unacceptable and poses serious risks to the life and work of Italian and European researchers. There should be no room for joint research projects before the murderers of Giulio Regeni have been brought to justice.
Eurodoc and ADI hope that EU will continue to speak with one voice on this matter, and hope for concrete and coherent measures to follow to this resolution. PhD candidates, researchers, and all European citizens ask “Truth for Giulio” - we need it for science and we need it for democracy.