LIBYA: Deep concern about the death of human rights defender Fathi El-Jahmi: United Nations and Libyan authorities urged to react

17/06/2009
Press release

Paris-Geneva-Copenhagen, June 3, 2009. On May 21, 2009, Libyan human rights defender Fathi El-Jahmi, Libya’s most prominent advocate of democracy and respect of human rights, died in suspicious conditions after the Libyan Government had hastily evacuated him to Amman, Jordan, officially for emergency "medical care", as he was reportedly in a semi-conscious or comatose state and breathing on a ventilator.

On May 29, 2009, the Libyan League for Human Rights (LLHR), the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders[1], and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) denounced Mr. Fathi El Jahmi’s unnatural death and referred the case to Ms. Navanethem Pillay, United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as to relevant special procedures.

Our organisations fear that the evacuation was decided, wholly or partly, in an attempt to cover up a potential death in custody, resulting from either lack of proper medical care or outright neglect.

Since his incarceration in October 2002, Mr. El-Jahmi had been kept in inhuman detention conditions. We recall in this regard that a score of human rights organisations had repeatedly requested the Libyan Government to allow Mr. El-Jahmi to be transferred to a properly equipped medical centre but that the authorities had always denied Mr. El-Jahmi the right to be granted medical care by independent physicians. We also underline that in a move to strike down the legitimate concerns expressed on that case, Government’s top security officer Colonel Tohamy Khaled had even asserted that Mr. El-Jahmi was in good health condition but mentally disturbed.

In the light of the situation, our organisations urge the Libyan authorities to open an immediate, effective, thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned facts, the result of which must be made public, in order to identify all those responsible and bring them before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal.

Our organisations more generally urge the Libyan authorities to conform in all circumstances with the 1998 the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and with international and regional human rights standards and instruments ratified by Libya.

For further information, please contact:

FIDH : Karine Appy, + 33 1 43 55 25 18
OMCT : Delphine Reculeau, + 41 22 809 49 39
EMHRN : + 45 326 417 16
[1] The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

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