Home World Mauro Palma, Guarantor of persons deprived of liberty: “Stop repatriation to Egypt for inhuman treatment”

Mauro Palma, Guarantor of persons deprived of liberty: “Stop repatriation to Egypt for inhuman treatment”

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ROMA – Mauro Palma he is very worried. He was in the courtroom when the Regeni trial began, and was immediately over. His thoughts, constantly, go to Patrick Zaki and his imprisonment. And while its staff, as a sample, gets on the charters that carry out the forced repatriation of migrants also in Egypt, Palma decides to launch an alert, a “no” to those repatriations to the countries of origin that could result in consequent inhuman treatments. Because the facts speak for themselves and Palma, speaking with Republic, lists them in an alarm that becomes progressive. There is a round numerical figure, a thousand people, many Egyptians are sent back home from 2018 to 15 September 2021. And since, as the ‘Guarantor of persons deprived of liberty’ explains, “many international reports speak of cases of detention in Egypt based on ideological reasons and, in light of the facts, there are no guarantees on the future of the people who are expelled, once they return to that country, then we need to rethink forced repatriation to Egypt, because we risk inhuman treatment “.

Let’s start with the Regeni case. Why did you decide to be in court during the opening trial for your murder?
“It was important to verify, in this terrible circumstance, the cooperative will of the Egyptian authorities. Just as it was important to make everyone who dealt with this affair perceive, because they were affected by their affections or by professional commitment, that the eye of a institution that guarantees the rights of the most vulnerable people exists and is vigilant “.

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In what sense can you, as Guarantor, supervise an event like this?
“The National Guarantor is a prevention body within the framework of a specific UN treaty, known by the acronym Opcat. It must prevent ill-treatment and torture, and for this very reason affirm a culture of accountability: State authorities must answer for how they treat their citizens and be able to identify situations in which the first fundamental rights – dignity and physical and mental integrity – are not respected. It must be able to defeat any hypothesis of implicit impunity. This is a theme that has no boundaries; which calls into question the responsibility of every state, including Egypt, especially when the question involves our fellow citizen illegally deprived of his liberty, and tortured to death “.

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Excuse me, but your data speak clearly on Egypt. There were 748 repatriations from 2018 to 2020. In 2021 Egypt is the third largest destination after Tunisia and Albania. And 252 Egyptian citizens repatriated as of September 15 this year. We are talking about a thousand people, in less than four years …
“Already in 2018, in our Report to Parliament, we had expressed strong doubts about the advisability of organizing forced repatriation flights to countries such as Egypt that have not established a national body for the prevention of torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. . A country that has not signed or even ratified that Opcat treaty I mentioned earlier “.

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The reports of various non-governmental organizations speak of Egyptian prisons where the most basic human rights are not respected and document that one can be jailed for an opinion or for a tweet, as evidenced by the story of Patrick Zaki, in a cell for a year. at ten months. Who can really think that returnees are guaranteed rights?
“Precisely this opens up a problem in considering the possibility of repatriation of Egyptian people without specific guarantees. The UN Rapporteur on torture has repeatedly pointed out that States that intend to expel foreigners from their territory must scrupulously assess whether the person does not run the risk of ill-treatment once he returns to his homeland, also considering the ‘general situation of violence’ in the recipient country. It is not enough to check that a series of protection laws are in force there; it is also necessary to consider the reports of reliable international organizations on the real situation “.

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But in the light of the Regeni and Zaki cases it is evident that Egypt does not provide these guarantees at all.
“If you ask me what is the physiognomy that emerges of Egypt today, I reply that it is certainly not the same as when cooperation agreements with Italy were established many years ago, because these agreements must always be subjected to examination. of the variability of the internal situation. And also the events of Regeni or that of Zaki, which we hope will soon have a positive outcome, are indicators of the current climate or that of very recent years “.

So how do you conclude your reasoning in the light of the facts we face?
“In a very simple way. To date, it cannot be excluded a priori that citizens in a position of irregularity forcibly repatriated are perceived, once they return to Egypt, in some way as hostile to the regime and that due to these perceptions they may suffer particular harassment , which we cannot foresee today. This is why I believe that Europe, as a whole, should reflect on the issue of forced repatriation when countries with a dubious democratic situation are involved “.

Professor Palma, are you saying that not only Italy, but democratic European countries, must think about suspending forced returns to Egypt?
“In the light of what has just been said, I think it is at least a duty to reflect on the advisability of repatriating people to Egypt. It is not the first time that the National Guarantor has asked for in-depth reflections on certain destinations: we did it recently, obviously, for repatriations. in Afghanistan “.

In Italy there is the case of a young Egyptian, Hassan Sharaf, who died in prison under unclear circumstances. The news came yesterday that a trial will take place, but that the hearing date is set for 2024. What do you think about this case?
“The only positive part of this terrible story is that a judicial procedure is underway to shed light on the death of Hassan Sharaf. The duty of the Italian state, however, is to give an account of what happened in a short time. But all this postpones on the one hand to some slowness that occur for many reasons in the judicial field, on the other to the complexity of investigations of this type. Of course, even the relatives of Hassan Sharaf have the right to have the truth come quickly “.

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