Italian Governments have long considered human rights protection as a fundamental guiding principle of their foreign policy. In a number of cases, Italy has thus used its diplomatic pressure to criticise human rights infringements committed by other States. In this area, Italy has increasingly acted in coordination with its European partners and in the framework of relevant international organisations, from the United Nations (UN) to the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe (CoE). Moreover, Italy has often referred explicitly to international human rights treaties to remind other countries of their legal obligations in the field.
At the beginning of 2016, the Italian national Giulio Regeni was murdered in Cairo in unclear circumstances. This soon became a major issue in the foreign policy of Italy and a cause of tension in its relations with Egypt. The event is here illustrated through the accounts given by the members of the Italian Government themselves, on the occasion of official reports to the Parliament. At the same time, some important political and legal aspects are also briefly addressed.
During 2016, the Italian Government was often questioned before the Parliament about arms exports from Italy to countries where either a conflict was occurring or international norms were being violated. The statements by the different members of the Government highlighted a heterogeneous practice, contingent upon different variables, some of which related to the presence of international measures and others to political considerations of the Government itself.
SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC, 3rd PERMANENT COMMISSION (FOREIGN AFFAIRS – EMIGRATION), XVII LEGISLATURE, 67th MEETING, 17 FEBRUARY 2015.
On 18 January 2015, two Italian trawlers (the Jonathan of Siracusa and the Albachiara of Cagliari) were arrested by the Egyptian coast guard about 36 nautical miles far from the coast of Egypt. The timely intervention of the Italian Government brought to the release of both the two vessels and their crews (except the catch) before a full day had passed since the incident. One month later, Mr Lapo Pistelli, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, intervened in the Senate and, commenting upon these facts, made a statement that might be read as implicitly accepting the third-party effects of a bilateral treaty aimed at delimiting two Exclusive Economic Zones in a highly contested area. In the words of the Deputy Minister: