European Outrage Over Libyan Death Sentences
December 19, 2006
A Libyan court's verdict condemning six medical workers -- five Bulgarians and a Palestinian -- to death for allegedly infecting 426 hospitalized children with HIV was met with swift condemnation.
European Union officials warned Tripoli against carrying out the executions, and EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini expressed "great disappointment" with the verdict, which he said could compromise Libya-EU ties.
The European Commission called the verdict unacceptable, said it had "serious concerns" with the trial process, and echoed calls for the decision to be reviewed at higher levels. The EU presidency, now held by Finland, said it "expects" the higher court to find a "just, equitable and humanitarian" solution.
"The whole court case was compromised," read a joint statement issued by Bulgaria's president and prime minister. "We urge the Libyan authorities to intervene at once, speedily review this ruling, overturn the absurd sentences, and release [the defendants]." Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin, who plans to meet with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today, characterized the sentence as "absolutely ungrounded and misleading the Libyan society about the real cause of the tragedy."
The European Union and France are "fundamentally opposed" to the death penalty, said Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French foreign minister. France has played a strong diplomatic role by treating the Libyan children infected by HIV.
The Council of Europe said the ruling deserves "particularly strong and unequivocal condemnation," adding that the only "decent" course is to set the defendants free.
Rights groups have argued defendants' confessions, later recanted, were extracted under torture. "The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and in this case it has been imposed after a grossly unfair trial," said the London-based rights organization Amnesty International.
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.