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Procedure : 2006/2676(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Select a document: :

Texts tabled :

B6-0027/2007

Debates :

PV 17/01/2007 - 7
CRE 17/01/2007 - 7

Votes :

PV 18/01/2007 - 9.7
CRE 18/01/2007 - 9.7

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2007)0007

Debates
Wednesday, 17 January 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition

7. Imposition of the death penalty on medical personnel in Libya (debate)
PV
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  President. – The next item is the Council and Commission statements on the imposition of the death penalty on medical personnel in Libya.

 
  
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  Günter Gloser, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to express the Council’s serious concern about the death sentence passed, on 19 December 2006, and for the second time, on five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor.

I would remind the House that the presidency of the Council, in its statement of 19 December 2006, condemned this ruling by the judges and at the same time expressed the Council’s hope that the Supreme Court, to which the case has again been submitted, will review the decision without delay.

In this regard, it has to be observed that this case has already been dragged out for some considerable time – since 1999, in fact – and that these medical workers have been in custody for seven years now. The first death sentence was pronounced on 6 May 2004, only to be suspended on 25 December by the Supreme Court, which had re-opened the case.

I would also like to take this opportunity to point out that the Council, for the entire duration of the case, had been calling on the Libyan authorities to do everything in its power to ensure a just and fair trial.

It also pointed out that it had expressed very serious doubts about the justice of the accusations giving rise to the nurses’ and the doctor’s prosecution, as well as grave misgivings as regards the conditions under which they were held and the unjustified delays to the proceedings.

I would also like to state that the Council has been very concerned about the Aids tragedy in Benghazi and has at every opportunity expressed its deep sympathy with the victims and their families, and would also stress that the Council has supported the HIV Action Plan and the International Benghazi Fund in a spirit of solidarity and with humanitarian ends in mind, using all means possible and in close consultation with the Commission and with the support of international partners.

I would also remind your House of the Council’s position on its relations with Libya, which was set out in the conclusions of the October 2004 Council meeting, in which the Council had called on Libya to take a positive view of the European Union’s involvement, reminding it of the Council’s desire that Libya should pay due attention to the EU’s concerns, particularly in relation to the case of the medical personnel.

We take note, with interest, of the points raised by your House in its resolution. We would also like to point out that the Council shares the concerns expressed therein and assures your House that it, together with its Presidency, is continuing to give high priority to this matter.

We also wish to reassure your House that the Council will spare no effort in seeking the most satisfactory solution possible to this problem on a humanitarian basis.

 
  
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  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Madam President, whom I congratulate on her brilliant election, honourable Members, following on from what we were just told by the Council representative, Mr Gloser, I am going to try to inform Parliament of the latest developments in the problem posed by the death sentence handed down to the Bulgarian and Palestinian medical personnel in Libya, on 19 December. I will provide you with some background information from the Commission.

As you just pointed out, Mr Gloser, the Libyan Supreme Court quashed the first death sentence on 25 December 2005 and ordered a retrial. This retrial ended on 19 December 2006 with confirmation that the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor had been sentenced to death. According to the Libyan authorities, the case will be referred again to the Supreme Court in the next few weeks. Therefore, the judicial procedure has not concluded and is continuing. However, on 30 December, the Libyan President issued some public statements reviving the theory of an international plot against Libya, which has caused widespread concern.

At the same time as the judicial procedure is taking place, political consultations are under way to try to resolve this problem on the basis of humanitarian principles, with account being taken of the suffering of the child victims of the infection and of that of the medical personnel. What is the desired outcome? On the one hand, to guarantee the children and their families appropriate medical treatment and financial support and, on the other hand, to secure the release of the medical personnel.

In this context, an international fund for Benghazi has been set up. This fund receives contributions in the form of money or benefits, services or equipment, from public and private donors. It will enable three actions to be carried out: medical care for treating AIDS in Libya to be improved, sick children to be treated abroad and each family to be given financial support. I must also stress that the children’s treatment has already been guaranteed thanks, on the one hand, to the solidarity of several Member States and of the European Commission and, on the other hand, to the funds made available to the families by the Libyan Government.

The Commission clearly regards this as a high priority matter. It is devoting all the resources, all the efforts necessary to find a solution. We have made sure that we have provided technical and medical assistance to Benghazi hospital, where the infection broke out among the children. This work began in September 2005 and is continuing. It has meant that the quality of treatment and the practices carried out inside the hospital have been improved.

At the same time, the Commission is playing an active part in the political consultations already mentioned. We were obviously very disappointed that the death sentence was decided for a second time. True, this is the responsibility of the Libyan judicial authorities but, at the same time, we have begun a dialogue between the parties concerned and we believe that the strategy for getting out of this crisis must be defined in the context of this dialogue. The Commission remains fully involved in this process.

To conclude, and to echo Mr Groner, speaking on behalf of the German Presidency, the dialogue is still under way. It is true, however, that this is a very sensitive matter, which requires the European Union to act with discretion, but not, for all that, to be soft on the need to secure the release of the Bulgarian and Palestinian medical personnel. Furthermore, we feel that it is necessary for the European institutions clearly to show solidarity with the medical personnel, while being very careful not to compromise the development of the work begun and not to affect the climate of discussions with Libya by carrying out impromptu actions.

Following on from the German Presidency, I can simply confirm, honourable Members, that the Commission is very motivated when it comes to continuing the efforts to find a solution to this problem which, it really must be said, has a particularly tragic dimension for the parties concerned and for our Bulgarian friends.

 
  
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  Филип Димитров Димитров, от името на групата PPE-DE. – Поздравявам Ви с Вашия избор. Уважаеми дами и господа, благодаря Ви, че сте готови да разгледате тази резолюция, засягаща съдбата на петте български медицински сестри и палестинския лекар, които се намират от осем години в либийски затвор. Вносителите на тази резолюция представяме на Вашето внимание един текст, който с всичкото съчувствие, което изразяваме към трагедията на либийските деца, станали жертва на епидемията от HIV/AIDS, едновременно с това отхвърля категорично смъртните присъди, предлага ясно ангажиране на Европейския парламент със съдбата на българските сестри и палестинския лекар и призовава към извършването на конкретни действия от другите европейски институции в тази посока.

A resolution of the European Parliament is a political act. This act is necessary because, as the representative of the Commission said, on a number of occasions the Libyan leadership has referred to this trial in purely political terms.

For eight long years the detention, which started with torture, gradually developed into a trial, which was held in a non-transparent way, with breaches of the general rules of procedure and with a challenging neglect of the conclusions of leading medical experts in the field concerning the matter.

The political character of this trial can be easily traced in the fact of the re-indictment, in which it was claimed that this was a conspiracy inspired by the CIA and Mossad, which shows the rhetoric of hatred, a rhetoric which is typical of either totalitarian regimes or pieces of art with conspiracy theory and an anti-systemic approach.

It has become clear that the epidemic started in Libya a long time before the Bulgarian nurses stepped on Libyan soil. This has been proven by leading experts in the field, in their conclusions, which, as I said, have been neglected.

Last but not least, the most sacred duty of state institutions is to defend their citizens. The Bulgarian nurses are citizens of the European Union, so please stand in their defence.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Евгени Кирилов, от името на групата PSE. – Благодаря Ви, госпожо председател, и поздравления за Вашия избор. Към г-н Баро бих желал да кажа, че не съм особено възхитен от тона на неговото изявление. Тези деликатни, чувствителни теми, за които Вие говорихте, г-н Баро, не ни помагат в случая и струва ми се, че трябва да помислим сериозно по този въпрос.

Madam President, dear colleagues, I would like to thank all those who supported the initiative to hold the debate on this burning issue during the first part-session of the year. I am sure that a number of speakers today will touch upon the drastic violations of our nurses’ human rights, severe torture and the forced signing of confessions in Arabic without interpreters. In general, we are discussing an eight-year farce involving the Libyan justice system and the political nature of this human agony.

However, I feel that it is now time to take stock of all this and state clearly that, in spite of all the efforts of the Council and the Commission, and in spite of long negotiations, for which I am deeply grateful, the results are appalling. The Libyan regime is, like every dictatorial regime, afraid of its people. It is afraid to admit that the HIV epidemic and the tragic deaths of so many children are caused by its healthcare system. As has been pointed out, although the charges of a plot were dropped at a certain time, Libyan officials and even Colonel Gaddafi himself have recently continued to blame certain Western countries and their secret services for a plot. He says he is not interested in the fate of the nurses; he is interested in the countries that were behind the plot. He is skilfully manoeuvring for compensation, which will convince his people of European and American guilt. He says there is no money in the specially created humanitarian fund, as he does not care about the significant resources spent already by the European Union or treatment of infected Libyan children.

If this absurd and monstrous charge of a plot to infect and kill hundreds of children – a crime against humanity – is still being made, why not challenge the Libyan authorities to create an international criminal court on this? Why not challenge them to seize the UN Security Council? We are not afraid of justice.

The pressure on Libya so far has borne no fruit. I fully support the text in the resolution that, in the absence of positive developments in this case, a review of the policy towards Libya should be absolutely necessary. Libya should very soon understand that there cannot be business as usual. Otherwise, cynical voices will claim that, whenever it smells of oil or gas, governments are tempted to forget about human rights.

 
  
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  Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, on behalf of the ALDE Group. Madam President, it is pleasure to see you in the Chair, I congratulate you.

To demonstrate clearly that this is not a strictly Bulgarian issue, the Bulgarian ALDE MEPs have requested colleagues of other nationalities to speak on it, which, of course, we all gladly do.

As you know, five citizens of the European Union – and I stress this – are languishing in a Libyan jail. Since 1999, five Bulgarian nurses, a Palestinian doctor and nine Libyans have been detained on charges that are now well known. On 19 December 2006, the detainees were again sentenced to death. We express our total opposition to the death sentence. We protest strongly against this wrongful conviction. We highlight the disregard for the conclusions of renowned international HIV/AIDS experts, who stated that the HIV infections were due to an in-hospital infection that began long before the Bulgarian nurses arrived. We also express our concern with regard to the allegations of torture.

The European Union and the European Parliament, in particular, must monitor this case very closely. The Commission and the Council must keep the European Parliament informed of any developments at all stages, and next week at their meeting the Member States’ Ministers of Foreign Affairs must put this affair very high on their agenda.

Finally, Libya should realise that her standing in the world and her relationship with the Union and its Member States is at stake. Libya should not forsake this opportunity to demonstrate that she abides by the fundamental principles of international law and human rights. Most of all, Libya must be aware that we are all in full solidarity with the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor.

 
  
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  Hélène Flautre, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(FR) Madam President, I should like to congratulate you on your election. In this debate, I should like to begin by pointing out the European Union’s stance against the death penalty and this, in all circumstances, whether it be in the case of the Benghazi medical personnel, of Saddam Hussein, of the political opponents in China or even of all the unknown persons about whom less is said, especially in the United States. The right to life is a fundamental, essential right to human dignity, and that is why the abolition of the death penalty is one of the conditions for accession to the European Union and why it is a priority for the external action of the Union, which has developed specific guidelines along these lines.

The situation of the Benghazi medical personnel is tragic; it is a tragedy that affects families and children infected by the AIDS virus. It is therefore crucial for the European Union to continue to help implement its action plan so that it can come to the aid of the victims and their families.

However, is there any need to add horror to the tragedy? The Palestinian doctor and the Bulgarian nurses who have been in prison for more than seven years now and who have been going through non-stop hell since their arrest did not commit this crime. Countless independent analyses have proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that they did not do it, and their so-called confessions were extracted by torture, as everyone knows.

The Benghazi medical team is therefore being held hostage by a shameful form of bargaining, and it is time for this travesty of justice to end. The European Union’s actions have not yet succeeded in getting the entire medical team out of this hell, and we ought perhaps now to question the European Union’s relations with the Libyan authorities.

Indeed, since we are talking about the Benghazi case, everyone agrees that Libya is not a democratic country, that its judiciary is not independent, that torture is commonplace and that rights are flouted there. However, as soon as we talk about the management of migratory flows, it is as though all of that were no longer true. Speeches become sugary, calling on Libya to continue on the road to democracy and giving the impression that people’s rights could be respected there.

Do you not believe that, if this matter is to have a happy ending, there needs to be a policy for promoting human rights and democracy that is credible, coherent, free of any double standards and implemented at every level? That is, I believe, the condition for success.

 
  
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  President. – Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to welcome former President Borrell Fontelles to the Chamber

 
  
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  Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I would like to add my congratulations on your election.

Today we are talking about a tragedy in three parts. There are five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, innocent of wrongdoing, who have been in a Libyan jail for some eight years now, much of that time under sentence of death. This frightening situation is an enormous tragedy for them and for their families.

There are hundreds of Libyan children who have contracted HIV, probably through faults in the Libyan blood transfusion system. We know from impeccable international expert analysis that the HIV strain afflicting the children was already present and spreading locally in Benghazi years before any foreign medics arrived in Libya. It should also be noted that there have been many other cases of HIV and BSE transmission through infected blood transfusions in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in France and in other countries. None of this attaches any culpability to the medical staff giving transfusions.

It is an enormous tragedy for the children and their families and, in response to this, the European Commission launched its Benghazi AIDS action plan in November 2004. By March of last year, EUR 2 million had been allocated to this programme, and more is being done through NGOs.

The third element of the tragedy is the impact that this issue is having on the relationship between Libya and the international community. Over the past five years, Libya has begun to come in from the cold since admitting responsibility for certain past terrorist acts and giving up its WMD programme. The thawing of relations is of enormous potential benefit to Libya, with its need for access to Western technology and assistance in order to upgrade its oil industry and to diversify its economy, and we welcome close relations with Libya. There is, then, so much at stake for so many people over an issue that could be resolved very quickly.

Once again, I implore President Gaddafi and the Supreme Court in Libya to exercise their powers and bring about the speedy release of the imprisoned medical personnel. I feel sure that the status of President Gaddafi is such that he would not for a moment be disturbed by any trivial accusation of loss of face. I feel sure, also, that he would not wish to undo all the progress of recent years by giving in to those who seek to use the nurses as some sort of political hostages.

I know that Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner has personally been very involved and committed on behalf of the nurses and that she has visited them and had discussions with President Gaddafi. From my recent conversations with her, I know that she, too, shares our disappointment over lack of progress and hopes for early resolution of this matter.

I acknowledge the need for some sensitivity and discretion. On Monday, the General Affairs and External Relations Council will meet. We hope that the parallel processes of diplomatic dialogue and action by the Supreme Court in Libya will produce rapid results. At the same time, I ask that the Council and the Commission draw up measures that they will take, a range of positive and attractive steps to assist Libya if there is the desired outcome, and a number of other measures if there is no progress. Let this issue not become yet another example of the EU making statements but failing to deliver a useful outcome. Both the Bulgarian and Libyan people deserve better.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Атанас Папаризов (PSE). – Нека и аз на свой ред да Ви поздравя с Вашия избор. Бих искал да започна с благодарност към колегите от Европейския парламент, които и преди нашето присъединяване, от 2004 г. насам следят внимателно този въпрос. Заедно с г-жа Катрин Ги Kен (Catherine Guy-Quint), в Съвместния парламентарен комитет, ние неведнъж поставяхме въпроса. Г-н Ван Орден (Van Orden) като докладчик за България го поставя на няколко пъти пред Вас.

Сега ние имаме изключителната възможност, с пълно единодушие, надявам се, тъй като проектът за резолюция е подкрепен от всички политически сили, да покажем на либийската страна, че Европейският парламент стои зад петте европейски гражданки и зад палестинския лекар, че Европейският парламент отстоява ценностите на хуманността, на човешките права и ще кажа ясно и точно, независимо от дипломатическите процедури, преговорите, че ние сме за това, българските сестри и палестинският лекар да бъдат освободени незабавно.

Мисля, че силата на една резолюция на Европейския парламент, силата на това, което правят неправителствените организации, ще могат действително да повлияят на това отношение към българските медицински сестри и палестинския лекар, които нямат нищо общо със законността и хуманността. Надявам се, че нашият общ глас ще има реално значение за свободата на българските медицински сестри и палестинския лекар. Благодаря Ви, госпожо председател.

 
  
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  Alexander Lambsdorff (ALDE).(DE) Madam President, I, too, warmly congratulate you on your election.

Libya’s unjustified sentence passed on the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor has horrified people not only in Bulgaria, but throughout Europe, including in my own home country, Germany. At the same time, we all still have clear recollections of the former President of the Commission, Romano Prodi’s, almost historic handshake with Libya’s President Ghaddafi. That was at the end of April 2004, at a time when Libya was talking in terms of a strategy of serious rapprochement with Europe, a strategy that it has not officially abandoned.

Three years on, though, we find ourselves discussing a court sentence that cannot but strike us as grotesque in the way it flagrantly violates the principles on which the EU rests. Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor have been sentenced to death for having – allegedly – deliberately infected children in the Al-Fatih hospital with the Aids virus. No evidence has been produced in support of this allegation. The court proceedings were not fair. These children are not the victims of nurses, but of Aids.

The EU’s values and principles are inalienable, and among them are the repudiation of the death penalty and the upholding of the law and of justice, both of which are imperilled by the proceeding we are debating today. The fact is that citizens of the European Union have been sentenced to death in a trial that was discriminatory and legally highly dubious. In April 2004, Colonel Ghaddafi and Mr Prodi spoke of a bilateral relationship of trust, but such a thing can exist only if it is backed up by actions.

Libya must be in no doubt about the fact that this trial is a serious obstacle to the closer partnership with the European Union to which it aspires, and President Ghaddafi must be made aware of the solidarity Europeans feel with the prisoners and their families. For their sakes, we hope that they will, as soon as possible, be reunited in each others’ arms back home, and it is for that reason that we declare that if Libya wants to draw closer to the European Union, to the enormous benefit of both parties, then the implementation of the resolution, the release of the European and Bulgarian citizens and of the Palestinian doctor will help us achieve that end.

I should like to add that I believe that this is another debate that we should be conducting in Brussels rather than in Strasbourg.

 
  
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  Mario Borghezio (UEN). – (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, my compliments. In 2004, Romano Prodi, then President of the Commission, spared no efforts to get Libya to join the Euro-Mediterranean process. Today, as the Italian Prime Minister on an official visit to Sofia, he is sparing no words, but they are like crocodile tears: they are pouring out, gushing out like crocodile tears. In fact, we should have taken a stand against this regime and this despot a long, long time ago, rather than protesting about Minister Calderoli’s T-shirts!

We are facing an unprecedented situation, unless we count the Stalinist trials of doctors and others. It is scandalous, and an insult to the principles of international law and human rights. The whole affair of these nurses and the Palestinian doctor is typical of the arrogant violation of human rights by a country bordering the European Union: we Italians have that country right opposite us, and we can hear the hypocritical threats that its petty tyrant is always uttering about the suffering of African emigrants. Europe needs to change its tone towards him: we cannot suffer insults, and we cannot tolerate such serious, arrogant and unacceptable violations of the rights of European citizens or, indeed, of anyone else.

 
  
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  Eoin Ryan (UEN). – Madam President, I also wish to join with others in congratulating you on your election.

The very sad and tragic situation of 462 children being infected with the HIV/AIDS virus in Benghazi in the 1990s must not be compounded with death sentences being carried out on six people for crimes that they did not commit. Two wrongs will never make a right.

The decision of the Libyan court of 19 December 2006 to reaffirm the death sentence of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian medic is simply unacceptable. These sentences were handed down notwithstanding the body of international expert advice that was given to the Libyan court, from the International Council of Nurses and from Luc Montagnier, the French doctor who first detected the HIV/AIDS virus.

I have written to President Gaddafi, whom I have met before, and I have urged him to reach a solution with the international community, based on humanitarian grounds, in these cases.

Last week in Brussels I personally met with the Libyan representative to the EU, Sifaw Hafiani, and I urged the Libyan Government to resolve this issue humanely and diplomatically. I do not believe, in this situation, that confrontation will work.

The Libyan Government has also agreed to meet shortly with a delegation from the Irish Nurses’ Organisation in Brussels to discuss this case. Nurses and medical staff from Ireland and from Europe work in hospitals all over the Middle East and they face certain difficulties. I believe that this issue and this situation are only compounding those difficulties. They are deeply concerned, as is the International Nurses’ Organisation, about these cases and the precedent it sets for their members.

I would ask everybody to work in a diplomatic way to try to resolve this situation with the Libyan Government. I believe that we can bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.

 
  
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  Kathalijne Maria Buitenweg (Verts/ALE). – (NL) Madam President, today, we would do well to ponder the nightmare in which the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor have been trapped since 1998 – a nightmare, as I said, of captivity and torture, with the threat of the death penalty hanging over them. As someone stated before, a nightmare is also what the parents of the children of Benghazi, the 426 children that have been infected with HIV, are going through, and I welcome the EU’s concern about this too.

I want not only to express our horror at how things stand at the moment, and our hope of a favourable outcome for the six innocent prisoners in the near future, but also to turn to what it means to our relations with Libya, because it is not the case, of course, that everything will be hunky-dory again once this episode finds a favourable outcome. Libya, where irrefutable proof of innocence is simply being ignored by the courts of justice, is clearly not a constitutional state. Human rights are being trampled underfoot and torture is also being practised.

The Libyan Government is sacrificing innocent people for failings of the country’s own health care system, and playing a game with the international community by involving Lockerbie as compensation of some kind for the compensation that Gaddafi paid. Only a sick mind could dream this up.

Where do we go from here? The European Council is seeking closer cooperation with Libya in the area of illegal immigration. The EU wants joint patrols on the Mediterranean and to strike a deal with Libya about the return of immigrants who use it as a route to the European Union. Let me make it quite clear that I am not in favour of isolation. It is one thing to back and promote the right sort of development in Libya, but it is quite another to take cooperation that far.

You will have to agree with me that it would be hypocritical to decide, on one day, that certain immigrants in Libya – five Bulgarians and one Palestinian – are being treated unjustly and inhumanely, only for the next day to see the reaching of an agreement with that country about handing more immigrants to the Libyan authorities. This is the sort of cooperation that would lead to human rights violations, and this is why it is important, as the resolution says, to ponder the question how we should proceed from now on.

 
  
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  Simon Busuttil (PPE-DE). (MT) Madam President, as correctly stated by Commissioner Barrot, this is a delicate and sensitive matter – and one that is highly emotive. It raises strong feelings on all sides, because, on the one hand, there are hundreds of children, who, having been infected, are now victims. A large number of these children who were infected with AIDS are now dead. On the other hand, there are other victims, because the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor are victims too. They are victims because they have languished too long in prison in Libya, and they are victims because of the death penalty hanging over their heads. There can be no graver penalty than this. The judicial process took too long, and the conviction did not take into account clear evidence provided by renowned international experts showing their innocence. We can only oppose the death penalty; we can never accept it. What has been happening? It must be said that considerable efforts have been made, especially on the part of the European Commission, which has launched the Benghazi Action Plan. This plan seeks to help the children, to help their families, to help also the Libyan authorities and to improve the sanitary conditions in hospital, particularly in Benghazi. It should also be pointed out that the Benghazi International Fund was established in January of last year. These are all positive developments.

However, the reaffirmation of the death sentence a few days ago has exacerbated the situation. What can we do, therefore? A stronger sense of humanitarianism is required. We must show greater solidarity with the children, with the parents and with the Bulgarian and Palestinian victims of this situation. At this point, we must urge the Libyan authorities to reduce the existing tension by declaring immediately that they will not carry out the death penalty. This resolution is not confrontational, nor does it seek to threaten. It is balanced, yet clear, on these points.

 
  
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  Кристиан Вигенин (PSE). – Уважаема г-жо председател, уважаеми колеги -членове на Европейския парламент, има нещо символично в това, че на първата сесия на Европейския парламент след приемането на България в Европейския съюз ние обсъждаме един въпрос, който поставя на изпитание готовността на европейските институции, на европейските правителства, на европейските народи изобщо, да се борят за ценностите, върху които е изграден нашият Съюз. Защото потвърдените смъртни присъди на пет българки и на един палестинец са предизвикателство към демократичния свят. Тези смъртни присъди са основани на измислени доказателства и на изтръгнати с нечовешки мъчения фалшиви самопризнания. Те са опит за бягство от политическа отговорност на либийските ръководители и лично на Кадафи, за тежкото състояние на либийското здравеопазване. Те са опит една смърт да бъде възмездена с друга смърт, невинни хора да платят с живота си за трагедията на други невинни хора.

Ние не можем да приемем това. Трябва да спрем произвола. Днес гласът на Европейския съюз трябва да бъде силен и ясен, за да бъде чут и в Триполи. Времето тече все по-бързо и става все по-важно недвусмислените декларации да бъдат последвани от недвусмислени действия. В последните години много политически лидери обещаваха подкрепа за медиците в Либия. Паралелно с това, Либия беше извадена от изолацията и една след друга европейски компании и правителства сключват милиардни сделки с нея. Има нещо лицемерно в това.

Аз моля днешната дискусия да не остане само упражнение, с което да успокоим съвестта си, че сме направили всичко, което е в правомощията ни. Аз моля да пренесете тази дискусия в националните парламенти и правителства, защото животът на шест невинни човека трябва да бъде незаобиколим фактор в отношенията с Либия. Не искам дори да си представя ужаса този парламент да започне своя сесия с минута мълчание. Благодаря Ви.

 
  
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  Sarah Ludford (ALDE). – Madam President, I too wish to congratulate you on your election.

Commissioner Barrot called for discretion, and none of us want to do or say anything to prejudice the prospects of a just solution to this terrible situation affecting our fellow EU citizens and the Palestinian doctor.

However, the Commissioner rightly also called for firmness. The search for a solution must not be affected by the development of wider interests between Libya and the EU, such as the close cooperation that has grown, in particular between Italy and Libya, regarding the return of illegal immigrants, of whom Libya is now hosting over one million.

The European Parliament has expressed great concern about the lack of access of many of these people, whether in the EU or Libya, to a refugee determination process. Whatever our interests in managing or preventing that flow – and, unfortunately, the lack of a truly comprehensive EU migration policy hinders proper management – we must not let those interests prevail over the demands of justice and human rights. Plans for an EU-Libya action plan on migration are quite rightly, if unhelpfully, frozen because of the Benghazi case, and they must not be unfrozen until there is a proper solution.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, what we are confronted with is quite simply a case of blackmail aimed at achieving certain political and economic benefits. The European Union cannot give in to blackmail and must take decisive action on this issue.

Economic interests can never take precedence over respect for human rights. Such is the essence of the European spirit and our historical legacy. Libya is one of the main suppliers of oil and natural gas, but this must not be allowed to have any bearing whatsoever on the fact that the lives of innocent people are hanging in the balance. The Union must express its solidarity with Bulgaria and stand shoulder to shoulder with it in the fight to overturn the unfair and politically motivated judgment handed down by the Libyan court. We must make use of all the measures still available to us, sanctions included. It is imperative to send a clear message to the people of Bulgaria, strengthening them in their conviction that accession to the Union was worthwhile, and that the Union will stand by each and every one of its Member States when they are in difficulty. After all, that is the true meaning of the common Europe to which we all belong.

 
  
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  Luisa Fernanda Rudi Ubeda (PPE-DE). – (ES) Madam President, I would like to begin by congratulating you on your election as Vice-President and on having obtained the highest number of votes in yesterday's election.

We in this Parliament are once again discussing the case of the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor sentenced to death in Libya. I would like firstly to express the solidarity of the whole of Parliament with the child patients – some of whom have now died – and with their families.

At the same time, however, I would also like to make a strong statement in defence of our principles and against the death penalty. In the countries of Europe – thanks be to God – we reached the conclusion many years ago that no human being has the authority to take away the life of another nor to justify the possibility of that happening.

In April 2005, the Members of the Delegation for Relations with the Maghreb Countries and the Arab Maghreb Union had the opportunity to go to Libya and talk about this case with the authorities. At that time there appeared to be a glimmer of hope because the plan – which was subsequently approved – for European Union cooperation with the children and the Bengazi hospital was in operation.

Nevertheless, in view of the review of the trial and the new sentence, we have seen that the technical reports that have cleared the Bulgarian nurses of blame — some of them signed by the very person who discovered the AIDS virus and by Oxford scientists — have demonstrated, by means of a philogenetic analysis of the children's virus, that this virus had arrived in Libya many years before the Bulgarian nurses arrived on Libyan soil.

In spite of that, we have seen that those reports have not been admitted in the court, and the nurses and the doctor have not therefore been given adequate judicial guarantees.

I shall draw to a close, Madam President. Commissioner Barot asked us for discretion and prudence in relation to this issue. In fact, I believe that we have been acting in that way for eight long years now, and we can see how much we have achieved so far. Perhaps the European Union, as well as applying the principles of discretion and prudence, should now place the accent on firmness.

 
  
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  Elena Valenciano Martínez-Orozco (PSE). – (ES) Madam President, I would like to congratulate you on being seated at that table.

The Socialist Group in the European Parliament considers the sentence confirming the death sentence for the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor, unfairly accused of infecting hundreds of children with the AIDS virus, to be extremely serious. Through this sentence, which is entirely unacceptable to all European democrats, the intention in Libya is to condemn not just the accused, but also humanitarian aid and medicine.

We therefore entirely reject the death penalty under any circumstances and we reiterate the European Union's commitment to fighting for its abolition and a global moratorium on its application.

The death penalty is particularly unjust in this case. Firstly, because the trial did not conform to the rules on the independence and impartiality of the court, a widespread problem in the case of Libya, and, secondly, because the sentence contradicts the tangible evidence presented by neutral experts, which proves that the accused are innocent.

Furthermore, as I have said, public health and medicine are being punished, because the real reasons for the children catching the AIDS virus are being kept hidden. We would stress the drama being suffered by these condemned people, after eight years in Libyan prisons, in sub-human conditions and complaining of ill treatment; and we would also point to the drama being suffered by the ill children and the families of the children who have died, with whom my group expresses it full solidarity, and we also support the European Commission’s programmes in Libya to fight AIDS.

We call for the immediate release of the nurses and the doctor, who are innocent, and we demand that the Libyan authorities focus on the infected children.

Let us all therefore promote a human rights policy that is properly coherent, credible and firm.

 
  
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  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – A Uachtaráin agus ba mhaith comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leat as a bheith tofa. Is ábhar áthais dom, ar an ócáid seo, mo chéad chomhrá i 2007 a thabhairt daoibh i mo theanga dhúchasach, an Ghaeilge. Tá áthas orm chomh maith gurb é aidhm an chéad chomhrá sin ná comhpháirtíocht a thairiscint do cheann de na Ballstáit nua, an Bhulgáir. Níl a lán ama agam, mar sin déanfaidh mé dhá phointe ghearra.

Tá nath cainte againne in Éirinn, 'ní neart go cur le chéile', agus sin atá i gceist againne inniu. Táimid ag tabhairt tacaíochta don Bhulgáir ina h-iarrachtaí ar shaoirse a bhaint amach do sheisear daoine neamhchiontacha: cúigear banaltraí agus dochtúir as an Phalaistín agus iad faoi bhagairt píonós an bháis sa Libia.

Ar an dara dul síos, áfach, tá nios mó ná tacaíocht na Parlaiminte ón Bhulgáir. Tá ról lárnach ag an nGearmáin ina hUachtaránacht, agus ag an gComhairle chomh maith, chun dul i ngleic leis an gceist phráinneach seo. Caithfidh siad úsáid a bhaint as a gcuid tionchair ar an leibhéal idirnáisiúinta chomh maith.

 
  
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  Simon Coveney (PPE-DE). – A Uachtaráin, nuair a bhí an Pharlaimint ar athló i rith na Nollag agus na hAthbhliana, fuair cúig bhanaltraí ón mBulgáir cathróireacht ón Aontas Eorpach. Ag an am céanna, áfach, dúirt Cúirt sa Libia go raibh siad daortha chun báis. Tá siad cúisithe toisc go raibh baint acu le galrú 426 paistí le HIV in ionad Benghazi sa Libia.

Is é seo an dara triail sa chás seo, tar éis rialú ón gCúirt Uachtarach, ach tá a lán imní ann ó thaobh cóir agus neamhchaontacht na trialach.

It is now being reported that Mr Gaddafi intends to use this case as a political bargaining chip. He intends, it seems, to begin talks on revising the death sentence for the Bulgarian nurses on the condition that a Libyan convicted for the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 is released. This is nothing more than using people’s lives as political capital. The nurses have already been incarcerated for eight years and the sole purpose of this resolution must be to repeat calls for their unconditional release.

The defendants now have the right to appeal against their sentences. At this final stage of trial, the scientific evidence concerning the origin and timing of the Benghazi infection must be considered again without the presence of a biased or politically motivated Libyan expert panel to refute claims. I strongly support the idea of nominating an EU special rapporteur to this case to monitor and scrutinise the defendants’ appeal.

The reported use of torture to extract confessions from the defendants while in custody and the shameful delays during this trial process continue to be of serious concern to the EU. As Libya claims to intend to develop a positive relationship and engagement with the EU, we must make it clear that we in this Parliament attach significant importance to the treatment of our citizens in Libya and attach the highest priority to calls for their unconditional release.

 
  
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  Ana Maria Gomes (PSE). – Madam President, it is good to see you in the Chair.

We are opposed to the death penalty anywhere. Therefore, we are appalled by the decision of 19 December 2006 on the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor; even more so because they could not be given a fair trial in a country where torture is common and where the people still suffer a mad and terrorist dictator after many years of also suffering UN sanctions because of his terrorist adventures.

But even more appalling is the fact that EU governments and the Commission seem too easily to have forgotten Lockerbie and the UTA mass murders ordered by the Gaddafi regime, and they now enjoy cosying up to that killer dictator, as EU ministers did recently in Tripoli. Is it because of the oil and the deals that many of them seem to care more about than the human rights of European and Palestinian citizens? Is it because, in fact, several EU government members are held to ransom by the Gaddafi regime for fear that he will expose them for having been involved with his regime in the outsourcing of torture by the Bush Administration within the framework of the extraordinary renditions programme? Why do governments, such as the British Government, or my own, the Portuguese Government, not disclose the purpose and the contents of the frequent flights to and from Libya since June 2003, which we have identified in the European Parliament’s Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners? Why do EU governments and the Commission not act finally, decisively and audibly to get these five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor released?

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE). – (PL) Madam President, I too would like to congratulate you on the splendid result you achieved yesterday.

Under international pressure, Libya withdrew its official support for international terrorism a few years ago. It also admitted its involvement in the Lockerbie disaster. Nonetheless, Libya is still failing to respect human rights and civic freedoms. I have watched with interest as the country has become involved in international cooperation in many areas, such as the oil trade and dealing with illegal immigrants attempting to cross into Europe through Libya.

Libya is a beautiful country, and it boasts significant but little-known monuments dating back to the times of the Roman Empire. It needs support to develop its tourist infrastructure. In other words, Libya needs Europe and Europe needs Libya. A relationship of mutual cooperation should be developed. We cannot, however, agree to cooperation at any price, such as the lives of the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor. Experience tells us that Colonel Gaddafi and his country will only give in when confronted with strong, determined and consistent international pressure.

That is the approach urgently required now. The European Union must stand firm and demonstrate solidarity as it fights for the release of those unfairly imprisoned. Commissioner, the time for backstage negotiations in the hope of reaching an amicable settlement of the case concerning the Bulgarian nurses is past. We must come to terms with the fact that those efforts have been unsuccessful. The European Council and the European Commission must adopt a much more determined tone. They must resort to all possible means of hindering Libya’s efforts to develop contacts with Europe, ostracising it from the international community and turning it into a pariah once again. As a result of Libya’s actions, all forms of contact with that country must cease.

 
  
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  Pierre Schapira (PSE).(FR) Madam President, the situation is shocking, scandalous and unacceptable. This is a second death sentence for the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor. The Libyan justice system has once again shown that it is iniquitous and that its judiciary exploits politics for its own ends. The AIDS affair is nothing but a poor excuse.

Faced with the seriousness of the fundamental rights violations committed by the Libyan authorities and with the failure of all the steps taken, we must react firmly. I should like the EU Member States to join forces against Gaddafi’s regime, to speak with one voice and not to give in to any of the regime’s blackmail.

In this way, the Member States could seize the opportunity of the European tour planned by Colonel Gaddafi to agree to refuse him the right to enter EU territory until the medical personnel have been released. We must make it clear to the Libyan regime that the EU Member States will all support Bulgaria and will all act with the same determination that they would demonstrate if this matter directly affected their own nationals.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR VIDAL-QUADRAS
Vice-President.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE). – (SK) As an MEP and a physician, I do not believe that a Palestinian doctor and five Bulgarian nurses, whose sacrosanct duty it is to help and cure the sick, would consciously and deliberately have infected children with HIV while doing their work in Libya.

I am rather inclined to ask myself whether it is possible to believe Libya and its discredited leader, Colonel Gaddafi. This is a country that is still led by a person who intentionally and deliberately ordered the annihilation of innocent victims by terrorists who blew up a passenger plane over the town of Lockerbie. Apart from its admission of responsibility for this ghastly crime, the only ‘positive’ thing about Libya is its vast deposits of oil and natural gas.

The capital punishment meted out to the health professionals is a hideous and cynical act on the part of Gaddafi and his regime, not an expression of the rule of law and justice. I also wonder whether this might be part of a dirty game played by Libya, an attempt to grab huge sums of money in the form of compensation for the children’s lives, or whether perhaps Libya is blackmailing the West and the European Union now that Bulgaria is a member, in an effort to orchestrate the release of the Libyan terrorists who have been justly sentenced and imprisoned for their deeds.

I therefore call upon the European Commission, and Germany as the presiding country of the European Council, to make use of all available means to exert political and economic pressure on Libya in order to save the lives of the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian physician. Political concessions to Gaddafi and his authoritarian policies would be a serious and fatal mistake. Accepting politicians with a terrorist past, or still more so, collaborating with them, is immoral and can undermine the principles on which Europe is built – truth, the rule of law, human rights and respect for human dignity.

 
  
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  Günter Gloser, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Mr President, honourable Members, I thank you for your contribution and also for your commitment to the welfare of the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor.

As in the past, it must be made clear that the European Union will be unstinting in the solidarity it demonstrates with Bulgaria, with the nurses and with the Palestinian doctor and in its efforts on their behalf.

I can assure you that the Presidency – on the basis, of course, of this debate, but also of earlier decisions – will, in its dialogue with the Libyan authorities, consistently spell things out in plain language.

Neither the proceedings nor the verdict can be seen as satisfactory; as others have said, the European Union rejects the death penalty not only for itself but also elsewhere. It is indeed the case that, as a number of speakers have said, Libya has drawn closer to Europe, and, while this reversal of the position Libya took up to a few years ago was right and necessary, the practical expression of this rapprochement requires that it be made abundantly clear that we cannot accept what has happened in Libya in this case to date.

It is for that reason that the German Presidency of the Council will join with the Commission in endeavouring to step up pressure on Libya, so that the people who have a death sentence hanging over them should no longer have to live with uncertainty in the way they have had to for many years now. On the other hand, though, we have also made it clear and will continue to do so in the future that we are, of course also aware of the other side to this tragedy and will continue to support the infected people, not least the children, wherever our help is required, but, since that must not be misused for other purposes, it is important that the Presidency should also receive Parliament's backing.

 
  
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  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, whom I congratulate on his re-election, I can tell you that my colleague, Mrs Kuneva, and I have listened most carefully to this entire debate, which reflects the very profound concern of the whole of the European Parliament faced with the unacceptable situation of these persons imprisoned since 1999, a date that ought not to escape you. On behalf of the Commission, we are convinced that the European institutions have an absolute duty to show solidarity in this matter and that we should be resolute in our support.

I therefore confirm, as the Presidency has just done, that all of the European institutions will show solidarity faced with this tragedy. I should also like to inform you of our colleague’s, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner’s, strong determination to find a solution by means of negotiation. Mrs Ferrero-Waldner is fully involved in a dialogue that is certainly difficult but that absolutely must be carried through to a successful conclusion. Finally, while I referred just now to what are perhaps impromptu and untimely initiatives, which would be liable to disrupt this necessary negotiation and this crucial dialogue, it does not mean that the Libyan authorities should forget that the future of Libyan-EU relations will depend on the solution found to this problem.

Mrs Ferrero-Waldner will keep Parliament informed of any developments in this issue, Mr President, especially after the ‘General Affairs’ Council has been held.

I should like to thank Parliament for having used language to speak about this matter that is entirely worthy of, and in keeping with, its seriousness.

 
  
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  President. Thank you very much, Commissioner.

To conclude the debate, I have received six motions for resolutions(1) pursuant to Rule 103(2)/Rule 108(5) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 12.00 noon.

 
  

(1) See Minutes.

Last updated: 22 March 2007Legal notice