Tribute to Giulio Regeni (1988–2016)
22 February 2016
NUJ members at the Cambridge and District Trades Council paid tribute to Giulio Regeni, a Cambridge doctoral student. Giulio 'disappeared' in early 2016 while doing field research on independent trades unions in Egypt as part of his PhD at Girton College and the University of Cambridge.
His colleagues Dr Anne Alexander and Dr Maha Abdelrahman describe Giulio's work as tackling questions "which are vitally important to our understanding of contemporary Egyptian society".
Giulio's body was discovered in a ditch in Cairo on 3 February 2016, showing evidence of torture and slow death. A devastating loss to his parents Claudio and Paola in Italy, and to his friends and colleagues in Cambridge and around the world.
Giulio's murder clearly has worrying implications for freedom of speech, academic freedom and the labour movement, in Eygpt and internationally.
In an open letter to Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi, Drs Alexander and Abdelrahman said:
"We are appalled to hear prosecutors in Egypt report that there were extensive signs of torture on his body. Those of us who knew of Giulio's disappearance before the discovery of his body were desperately concerned for his safety because he vanished in the midst of a security campaign which has resulted in mass arbitrary arrests, a dramatic increase in reports of torture within police stations, and other cases of disappearances, according to documentation by local and international human rights organisations. While we welcome the statement by Egyptian Ambassador to Italy, Amr Helmy, that the Egyptian authorities will fully investigate Giulio's death, we note that according to Amnesty International, bodies reporting to the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior and the Egyptian Ministry of Defence routinely practice the same kinds of torture that Giulio is reported to have suffered against hundreds of Egyptian citizens each year.
"We therefore call on the Egyptian authorities to cooperate with an independent and impartial investigation into all instances of forced disappearances, cases of torture and deaths in detention during January and February 2016, alongside any ongoing investigations by criminal prosecutors into Giulio's death, in order that those responsible for these crimes can be identified and brought to justice."
At the Trades Council meeting, Ann Galpin, NUJ representative, said:
"Although I didn't know Giulio in life, I was shocked and saddened to read of his murder, and have quietly made contact with some of his friends and colleagues, with Girton College and the University of Cambridge. And they have kindly given us permission to remember him here tonight.
Giulio's close friend and Cambridge alumna, Paz Zarate, who helped Giulio prepare his Cambridge PhD application, said:
"Giulio loved Cambridge so this tribute would be meaningful to him. I cannot tell you how many times he told me how happy he was in Cambridge, how fulfilled to be surrounded by like-minded people, in such a stimulating environment. In Cambridge, he felt at home. It was a place that changed him forever, for the better, where he found friendship and transcendental happiness. I thank you in advance for the tribute to this model student and gentle soul."
The Trades Council paid tribute to Giulio and agreed to send a formal expression of sympathy and solidarity to Giulio's family, friends and colleagues at Cambridge University. The council also urged colleagues to sign the e-gov petition 120832 calling on the UK government to ensure an independent and impartial investigation of the killing.