Wednesday

30th Nov 2022

EU 'shocked' at Libya death verdict for Bulgarian nurses

  • The West has been calling on the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to free the medics (Photo: EUobserver)

The EU has condemned as "unacceptable" a Libyan court decision to sentence five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor to death for allegedly infecting hundreds of children with HIV.

The European Commission and Finland's EU presidency expressed their shock and disappointment on Tuesday (19 December) following the announcement of the final punishment for the medics who have been in detention in the north African country for seven years.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The six were accused of infecting 426 Libyan children with HIV at a hospital in Benghazi in the 1990s, over 50 of whom having died in the meantime.

The medics deny the charges with a number of expert studies suggesting the infection was present in the hospital before their arrival and its real cause was poor hygiene.

Bulgaria's foreign ministry said the verdict "is clearly setting back the efforts to solve this painful case," stressing "any linkage of this tragedy to the work of the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor is absolutely unfounded and misleads the Libyan people and the concerned families."

Libya has asked for €10 million in compensation for each of the affected families in return for lifting the death penalty for the prisoners but Sofia has rejected the idea, claiming it would be tantamount to admitting the prisoners' guilt.

The EU last year set aside €2 million in its common budget to help AIDS victims in Libya, with the commission releasing the latest €500,000 slice of it just last Friday.

Commission vice-president Franco Frattini - involved in communication with Tripoli over the issue - stated "My first reaction is great disappointment. I am shocked by this kind of decision. I strongly hope that somehow the Libyan authorities will rethink this decision."

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said his country's incoming EU presidency would push Libya to drop the sentences.

"We will continue to exert pressure under the German presidency that Libya doesn't only take part in a solution but ultimately brings about a solution," he said in Brussels.

Tuesday's verdict comes after a seven-month retrial following the supreme court's move last year to return the case to a lower court. Back in 2004, the medics were pronounced guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad.

The trial is being closely watched by the Libyan population, with media reporting that relatives of the infected children who attended Tuesday's hearing reacted by shouting "God is greatest", as well as urging their leader Muammar Gaddafi "Go ahead, our falcon, in defiance of the West."

Human rights group Amnesty International has urged the EU to reconsider its future ties with Libya - in light of the medics' case.

"A justice system that imposes the death penalty after questionable trials also reinforces concerns about the EU's eagerness to cooperate with Libya in the fight against irregular migration", said Amnesty's Brussels office director Dick Oosting.

Catalan spyware victims demand justice

Victims of the widening spyware scandal in Spain are demanding justice and reparations, following the revelations that journalists, lawyers, civil society and politicians had been targeted.

EU Commission to keep Hungary's EU funds in limbo

The EU executive, on the other hand, is expected to approve Hungary's recovery plan, worth €5.8bn, but only would disburse actual money if Hungary delivers on some 27 key reforms.

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Why the EU asbestos directive revision ... needs revising
  2. Nato renews membership vow to Ukraine
  3. Catalan spyware victims demand justice
  4. Is the overwhelming critique of Qatar hypocritical?
  5. EU carbon-removal scheme dubbed 'smokescreen for inaction'
  6. EU lawmakers under pressure to act on 90,000 asbestos deaths
  7. Post-COP27 optimism — non-Western voices are growing
  8. Legal scholars: Prosecuting Putin 'legally problematic'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us