|Libya; Violation Of The Right To Fair Trial|
12 April 2004Subject: Libya; violation of the right to fair trial
Mr. Bertrand Ramcharan
Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations, PW-2-092
1211 Geneva 10
Dear Mr. Ramcharan,
The Libyan League for Human Rights has learned that a group of 155 political prisoners staged a protest on 7 April 2004 against a provocative decision taken by the People’s Court (revolutionary court) to adjourn for a third time, to 25 November 2004, their appeal against cruel and inhuman penalties, including two death sentences. The closed session, like the previous two, lasted only minutes before the Court pronounced the adjournment which the defendants, who had already spent six years in pre-trial detention, regarded as unjustified prolongation of the judicial proceedings and an unacceptably cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Most of the defendants were arrested in June 1998 and charged with the “crime” of belonging to a political party: the Muslim Brotherhood Party. It is noteworthy that membership of a political party is a basic human right recognized in the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which the Government of Libya has acceded.
This incident will undoubtedly have a very negative impact on the outcome of the appeal. It is feared, in particular, that the defendants’ protest, although justifiable, may have complicated their case by allowing scope for disregard of even the minimum procedural norms governing fair trials. It is equally feared that this incident may have dashed any remaining glimmer of hope that the Government, despite its well-known history of constant interference with the administration of justice through obstructing the work of the courts, might abstain, this time, from open and gross interference with the appeal as a goodwill gesture towards the newly established diplomatic exchange with the US and UK Governments. What is clear, so far, is that the Government has imposed a lengthy pre-trial detention (six years) in violation of the right of the detainees to trial within a reasonable period of time or release pending trial. It has also deprived the detainees of their right to freely choose their lawyer and none of the prisoners was given the opportunity to prepare a defence as is required by the right to a fair trial. The “People’s Court” does not meet the requirements of a “court of law”. Its characteristics are more reminiscent of those of a paramilitary disciplinary committee than an independent and objective court. The public has consistently been excluded from its hearings and members of the families of the detainees and their designated lawyers have repeatedly been denied access to the courtroom.
This is, in brief, the precarious situation of the 155 detainees. They are at the mercy of a judiciary that is neither independent nor impartial. Since the court is subjected to tremendous direct and indirect inducement, pressure, threats and interference from the Government, its members are unable to adjudicate without fear or favour. It is this complex situation that prompted us to address this letter directly to you to inform you officially of this sensitive file and to seek your direct intervention in the matter. We suggest, in particular, that your office write to the Government of Libya in order to: (1) request information on the case known as “the Muslim Brotherhood” registered under “254/2000”; and (2) request that your office be invited to send an observer when the court proceedings resume. In a similar case (the Bulgarian Medical Team case), the Libyan Government agreed to the attendance of observers from Bulgaria and the European Union at the trial proceedings.
The Libyan League for Human Rights takes this opportunity to wish you full success in your endeavours and reiterates its readiness to cooperate with your office with a view to bringing this file to a satisfactory conclusion. Meanwhile, please do not hesitate to contact us if further information is required on this matter.
Soliman Bouchuiguir (Ph.D)