Press release

Mr. President,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in North Africa and Middle East express their deepest concern with regard to the death sentence pronounced, on 19 December 2006, by the Penal Court of Benghazi against five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor. Our organisations welcome the decision of the Supreme Court of Libya to reexamine the case and call on the President of the Supreme Court and its members to ensure all the guarantees of a fair and impartial trial.

The six medical professionals, detained since 1999, have been convicted of knowingly infecting 426 Libyan children with HIV in a hospital in Benghazi, Libya.
They were tried and sentenced to death in May 2004, the decision was overturned and a retrial was ordered on 25 December 2005 by the Supreme Court on the grounds of irregularities occurred during the arrests and interrogations.

A new trial has begun on 11 May 2006, ending with the Capital punishment of 19 December 2006.

Both trials were considered as unfair, in particular due to allegations of torture to extract confessions used against the accused persons and the omission of evidences. Strong evidences which were presented to the Court demonstrating that the HIV outbreak most probably resulted from negligent hygienic conditions and the re-use of syringes in hospital as well as the traces of HIV presence before six medicals’ arrival were not taken into account.

FIDH and its member organisations reaffirm their strong opposition to death penalty, as it fundamentally contradicts the principle of human dignity proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the right to life. Furthermore, our organisations reaffirm their solidarity and support to all victims.

FIDH and its member organisations call upon the Supreme Court of Libya to ensure full compliance with the international human rights instruments and in particular, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) - ratified by Libya in 1970 - which guarantees the right to a fair and impartial trial. In view of the serious shortcomings of the trial proceedings, we consider that the death penalty should clearly be overturned.

Yours respectfully,

Sidiki KABA, President of FIDH

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