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Without Pressure, Giulio Regeni And Egypt's Disappeared Youth Will Vanish Into Oblivion

ICE Graveyard 22/04/2016 Andrea Purgatori
KERRY EGYPT © Pool via Getty Images KERRY EGYPT

John Kerry's visit to Egypt went as follows: wide smiles and gold-rimmed divans at the photo op, followed by a nice declaration of support for Egypt -- described as a pillar of peace -- and a press conference that was, unsurprisingly, cancelled. And then it was ciao-ciao all around.
A quick visit with grave omission: that's the best way to describe American Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, conducted in the name of peace and security in the region. Mr. Kerry didn't say a single word to address the scandalous, mafia-like silence maintained by the regime around the killing of Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni. We'll see if The New York Times is willing to label Kerry's silence as "shameful," just as it described France's position right before French President Francois Hollande's visit to Egypt last week.
In the world of diplomacy, even silence and inaction can be full of meaning. The U.S. has decided not to utter a single word on this case -- to the disappointment of the public in Europe and beyond. We must then conclude that the focus in Washington, just as in Paris and Berlin, is on other priorities: oil, weapons, and ISIS, to name a few.

Nothing short of severe, collective European action against the Egyptian regime will force anyone in that country to change course.

It's true that Hollande later attempted to adjust his position, stating that he had spoken privately with al-Sisi about that hateful assassination. He also said that Merkel's right hand, German social-democrat Sigmar Gabriel -- who originally described the Egyptian President as "impressive" -- later stated that he finds Regeni's case frightening and worrying.
But what really worries us are these politicians: Their manifest indifference and the yawning chasm between business affairs and basic respect for human rights. This is the same logic that guided al-Sisi as he managed the dispute with Italy through the troublesome affair of Giulio Regeni's death: make promises, bide time, threaten economic sanctions and retaliation.
It's clear that, operating on its own, Italy risks winding up boxed into a corner. Nothing short of severe, collective European action against the Egyptian regime will force anyone in that country to change course. Such action could start with imposing sanctions. It wouldn't be an enormous move, but it would send a strong political message.
It is now clear that the key word in this case is politics. The men who are loyal to al-Sisi have evoked politics on more than one occasion, after talks with Italian investigators fell through, as an impediment and obstacle to full resolution of the case.
Renzi and Gentiloni can already rely on allies in Europe who are willing to stand behind the claim that Giulio Regeni's assassination was a "political crime," starting with the UK.
Other countries, and the long wait, will wind up playing to the Egyptian regime's favor: They will send the death, under torture, of an Italian student -- and all the other Egyptian desaparecidos -- to disgraceful oblivion.
This post first appeared on HuffPost Italy. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.

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