Interview. We spoke with Erasmo Palazzotto, the Italian deputy pushing for a parliamentary investigation into Giulio Regeni’s death. ‘The bill I am supporting aims to push the government and the parliament to take up a clear political position.’

Italian MP: Truth for Regeni is an ‘institutional duty’

Three years and two months after the discovery of Giulio Regeni’s lifeless body next to the highway between Cairo and Alexandria, the demand for truth on the part of Rome has been reduced to nothing more than a rote platitude. On Tuesday at 10 a.m., the first hearings before the joint parliamentary Justice and Foreign Affairs Committees were held on a bill that calls for the establishment of a parliamentary committee of inquiry on Regeni’s murder. However, not one, but two bills have been put forward to this effect.

The first bill was introduced on May 28, 2018, an initiative spearheaded by Deputy Erasmo Palazzotto (Sinistra Italiana), explicitly calling for the establishment of the historical truth: “The death of Giulio Regeni tore open a gash, giving us a glimpse of a reality that we have been willing to ignore for far too long. We have the political and institutional duty to say clearly that Giulio was a victim of the world that we ourselves have helped to build.” The bill discussed on Tuesday, however, was another one, proposed by Sabrina De Carlo (M5S), which was introduced on Feb. 25 (probably so that the majority wouldn’t be put in the position of having to vote for a Sinistra Italiana initiative). One of the speakers before the joint committees was Mario Esposito, professor of constitutional law at the University of Salento.

We interviewed Palazzotto, the Sinistra Italiana deputy who put his signature to the first of the two bills.

What purpose will these hearings serve?

They are an attempt to buy more time. After all, these hearings are taking place before what seems to be an already-established committee. I find this downright surreal: holding hearings before the committee about whether we need to put together the committee—this is quite outrageous. The bill which has my signature is among the minority proposals, as the majority didn’t want to support it. It should have been discussed in March—now, it will likely be postponed until May, in an attempt to slow-walk the process so that no work gets done. This is also in stark contradiction with the position taken by Mr. Fico, the President of the Chamber, but apparently he is unable to get the current majority to listen to him.

What would be the aim of a parliamentary committee of inquiry, whose powers would overlap with those of the judiciary?

My aim is not to interfere in the work of the judiciary—the objective is to establish a political truth, not to take the place of the criminal investigators.

Do you think the reason behind these delays lies in the friendly relations that the government is maintaining with Egyptian President el-Sisi?

This government is in perfect continuity with the previous one in this regard. In recent years, our heads of government and ministers have been going to Egypt to prostrate before el-Sisi, marginalizing the quest for truth, to which both our countries are supposedly committed. But neither country truly is. The bill I am supporting aims to push the government and the parliament to take up a clear political position. We have the duty to say what actually happened: it can be an uncomfortable truth, but we have to speak out about what is happening in Egypt every day.

How were the experts who will be called to speak before the Justice and Foreign Affairs Committees selected?

The majority groups put forward their proposals. Some were not feasible—such as the Egyptian ambassador in Rome, because this is outside the bounds of protocol. Then, they opted for joining the two committees together and setting up joint hearings, whose purpose I don’t understand. Apparently these hearings should help us establish whether we need to set up a committee to investigate the murder of Regeni. Is it really possible that we’re stuck on this point?


The Egyptian parliament approves constitutional “superpowers” for el-Sisi

On Monday, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and the Legislative Committee of the Parliament in Cairo rubber-stamped the two proposed amendments to the Egyptian constitution being pushed by President el-Sisi (with only seven deputies out of 50 daring to vote against). Tuesday, the amendments were approved in a floor vote by a large margin, as expected.

A popular referendum is expected to be organized as early as next week (reflecting the astonishing pace of the proceedings). With these amendments, el-Sisi aims to get even closer to near-unlimited power, with a change to the provision on term limits which would allow him to remain in power until 2034, by serving two terms of six years each (compared to the current four-year terms), conveniently discounting the time he has already spent in power.

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