SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: January 25, 2016

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):The American University in Cairo | University of Cambridge

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Egypt

New or Ongoing:New Incident

Giulio Regeni, a 28-year old PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, UK and visiting scholar at the American University in Cairo, reportedly went missing after leaving his home in the Giza district in Cairo around 8:00 pm on January 25, 2016.  His body was found on a road in the outskirts of Cairo on Wednesday, February 3, showing signs that he had been tortured.

Regeni, an economics student who was studying Egyptian labor movements, had reportedly been in the process of preparing to do field research for his PhD thesis, including identifying labor rights activists for possible interviews.  On the evening of January 25 – the fifth anniversary of the uprising that eventually resulted in the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak – he left his home to visit a friend, and was not heard from again.  After Regeni’s body was identified, authorities indicated that it showed signs that he had been tortured and suffered a “slow death” – he was naked from the waist down, with a number of knife wounds and cigarette burns on his body.

As of this report, Egyptian authorities have not indicated that any suspects have been identified in connection with the incident.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparently targeted killing of a student.  In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and institutional autonomy.  State officials have a responsibility to ensure the security of higher education communities, to prevent future attacks, and to hold perpetrators of violent attacks accountable.

Updates: More than a year after Regeni’s death, investigations by both Egyptian and Italian authorities involved in a joint investigation of the case had not conclusively identified the perpetrator(s). Egyptian authorities denied that government officials were involved, although international news sources reported that Regeni was in police custody prior to his death, and pointed to signs of evidence- and witness-tampering in the investigation.

In December 2020, it was reported that Egyptian authorities had closed the investigation domestically, dismissing evidence that a group of four state security officials had perpetrated Regeni’s murder. That same month, Italy indicted the officials. In February 2024, after a series of delays, prosecutors began an in absentia trial of the four security officials. In June 2024, it was reported that Egyptian authorities had banned four prosecution witnesses from traveling to Italy to testify in the trial.