URGENT ALERT: Write to Libyan authorities urging for justice for the Palestinian doctor sentenced to death

Islamic Human Rights Commission

21st July 2004

URGENT ALERT: Write to Libyan authorities urging for justice for the Palestinian doctor sentenced to death

1. Background
2. Suggested Action

1. Background

On the 6th of May 2004 a Palestinian doctor, Ashraf Ahmad Jum’a Al-Hujuj, and five Bulgarian nurses were sentenced to death by the Benghazi Criminal Court in Libya. The court ruling came after a trial had lingered for more than five years.

Those sentenced to death are: Palestinian doctor — Ashraf Ahmad Jum\’a Al-Hujuj and five Bulgarian health professionals — Kristiana Malinova Valcheva, Nasya Stojcheva Nenova, Valentina Manolova Siropulo, Valya Georgieva Chervenyashka and Snezhanka Ivanova Dimitrova.

They were convicted of deliberately infecting 426 children with the HIV virus, while working in al-Fateh Children\’s Hospital in Benghazi. Nine Libyan doctors in the same trial were all acquitted.

Prominent independent scientific experts have concluded, however, that the systematic infection was not perpetrated by those accused. Many of the children were infected prior to the arrival of these health practitioners, and the evidence further shows that unsanitary health conditions are to blame.

The doctor and the nurses were tortured in order to extract confessions, which they later retracted on the basis that they had been forcibly coerced. Methods of torture they reported included: extensive use of electric shocks; being suspended from a height by the arms; being blindfolded and threatened with being attacked by barking dogs; and beatings, including falaqa (beatings on the soles of the feet), being beaten with electric cables and sexual abuse.
Ashraf Ahmad Jum’a Al-Hujuj and the Bulgarian nurses have the right to appeal against their sentences before the Supreme Court.
On July 5 the lawyers for the Palestinian doctor Ashraf Al Hujuj and the five Bulgarian nurses filed an appeal in the supreme court in Tripoli against the death sentence.

2. Suggested Action

Please write to the Libyan Ambassador in your country. A model letter to the Libyan Ambassador in Britain is pasted below.

Please also contact the Minister for Foreign Affairs in your country. UK campaigners should write to Rt. Ho. Jack Straw MP reminding him that he has a duty to raise this issue with the Libyan government.

Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP
King Charles Street

Model letter to Libyan Ambassador

[Your name]
[Your address]

HE Mr. Mohamed Abu Al Qassim Azwai
The People’s Bureau of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
61-62 Ennismore Gardens


Your Excellency,

Regarding the death sentences of Ashraf Ahmad Jum’a Al-Hajuj and the Bulgarian nurses

I am writing to express my outrage at the recent death sentences handed down to the Palestinian doctor Ashraf Ahmad Jum’a Al-Hajuj and the five Bulgarian nurses who were convicted of intentionally infecting more than 400 Libyan children with the AIDS virus. There is strong evidence that the spread of AIDS among these children began before these foreign workers arrived in Libya, and that unsafe medical conditions, common in many other countries as well, was likely the reason for the spread of the virus.

It will be travesty of justice if these convictions are upheld, and I urge you to convey my concerns.

I am deeply troubled by reports that these health professionals have been detained on trumped up charges for five years and have suffered at the hands of Libyan authorities from horrendous forms of torture, including electric shocks, suspension from heights by the arms, beatings, and rape. Torture, a clear violation of international human rights law, is never an acceptable form of punishment or interrogation, whether it be by Libyans in regards to these health workers or by Americans in regards to Iraqi prisoners. While these health workers are still in detention in Libya, I urge you to ensure that they are protected from further abuse.

I implore you to release these health workers to their countries of origin. I also strongly urge you to work with HIV/AIDS experts to identify and address the health infrastructure problems that may exist in Libya, such as unsafe needles, lack of sufficient sterilization, transfusions without proper testing, and inadequate supplies and training among health professionals. Scapegoating foreign health workers is a travesty and will not solve these problems.


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Holy Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verse 75

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