Commentary. Italian policy has affirmed, sometimes explicitly and sometimes silently, that political realism and human rights could not converge.

Where Egyptian cynicism meets Italian cynicism

What distinguishes a mature democracy from a totalitarian regime is, among other things, the criminal and judicial model chosen. Al Sisi’s Egypt, with the cynicism typical of those who use power in an authoritarian manner, has thrown a spanner into our system of guaranteed rights, preventing Italian judges from proceeding against the accused murderers of Giulio Regeni.

What has happened so far, as well as the decision of the Supreme Court of Cassation, should make us ask hard questions about the culpable failure of Italian policy, which has been utterly incapable of forcing the Egyptian authorities to provide even minimal judicial cooperation. The choice of all our governments from 2016 to the present, to keep the level of conflict with the Egyptian government low and instead keep economic affairs and military agreements running smoothly, was made while consciously sacrificing any chance of justice and the discovery of the truth. Justice, especially when it has to involve the relationship between states, can exist only with political choices. This is not merely a technical issue. Our policy has affirmed, sometimes explicitly and sometimes silently, that political realism and human rights could not converge.

There is an interactive map on the European Union website that shows the countries sanctioned by the EU with economic and financial measures. A number of African countries appear there, but there is no mention of Egypt. So, for European and Italian governments, Egypt is not a problem. News reports from just over a year ago spoke of arms orders of up to almost a billion euros to be delivered from Italy to Egypt. An enormous figure, which comes with an equally enormous and immoral profit. In recent weeks, after the Russian attack on Ukraine, there was even talk in Parliament about an increase in arms production relative to GDP, as if there was any connection between that and the current war. As is well known, once produced, weapons are sold around the world, including to regimes, such as Al Sisi’s, who couldn’t care less about human rights. So, Egyptian cynicism is overlapping with Italian cynicism.

The lack of justice for the torture and murder of Giulio Regeni has its cause in this double cynicism. Over the years, we have heard the usual litany many times over, namely that to get judicial cooperation from Egypt, we had to be good friends with them. This has not been the case. They even refused to help us find the addresses of the defendants indicted by the very diligent prosecutors in Rome, thus making a mockery of our courts and our guarantees of human rights.

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