Brussels, 19 December 2006
Today the Libyan Criminal Court has confirmed the death sentence on the Bulgarian and Palestinian medical personnel involved in the Benghazi case. European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, gave this reaction:
“We simply can not accept this verdict and trust that the matter will now be referred to a higher authority. I firmly hope that clemency will be granted to the medical staff, in the same spirit of mutual respect and humanitarian compassion which characterised the intense discussions held between the European Union and other partners with the families of the Benghazi children.”
The Supreme Court cancelled a first death sentence verdict on 25 December 2005 and reopened the case.
The Commission has also been closely following and working with the Libyan authorities on the Benghazi AIDS tragedy, where more than 400 children and mothers have been infected with HIV/AIDS. In November 2004 the EU launched the “HIV Action Plan for Benghazi”, which includes technical and medical assistance for the Benghazi Centre for Infectious Diseases and Immunology (BCIDI); helping the social integration of patients and their families; and assisting the Libyan Authorities in designing a national AIDS programme. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said on this matter: “We continue our work to upgrade the quality of care for the infected children and will spare no efforts to bring them back to a normal life. This started 2 years ago with great success through the HIV Action Plan for Benghazi and will continue through the Benghazi International Fund, now supported by many governments as well as public and corporate sponsors.”
Work under this action plan, implemented by the Libyan authorities with support from the Commission and EU Member States, is well on its way and the Commission has already provided €2 million from the Community budget. Several EU Member States are preparing to contribute to the EU Action Plan for Benghazi.
Five Bulgarians nurses (Kristiana Vulcheva, Nasya Nenova, Valentina Siropulo,
Valya Chervenyashka, Snezhana Dimitrova) and one Palestinian medic (Ashraf Al
Hagoug) have been in prison in Libya since the outbreak of HIV/AIDS at the
Benghazi hospital in 1999. The EU has repeatedly expressed serious reservations
about the basis on which they were prosecuted and tried, their treatment in
prison, and delays to the legal process. The EU has repeatedly urged the Libyan
authorities to ensure a fair trial.