The human rights situation in Libya has hardly changed since the sensational liberation of the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor who had been imprisoned in dreadful conditions for more than seven years, and sentenced to death as a result of confessions extracted under torture. The abuses and ill-treatment which these six medical workers suffered in Libyan jails are still being meted out on a daily basis to dozens of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.
Freedom of speech and freedom of association are still severely restricted. Many Libyan citizens suspected of political activity abroad have been arrested upon their return to the country or receive serious threats, even though some had been assured by the Libyan authorities that they would be safe if they returned to their homeland. There is still no news of many people who were arbitrarily arrested and detained incommunicado, some of them for more than 15 years now.
In spite of this disastrous record, Libya’s relations with western democracies have rapidly improved over these last few years. The United States resumed normal diplomatic relations with Libya in May 2006 and have removed the country from their list of “terrorist states”.
Despite the fact that Libya is not a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Convention and has no asylum system, and that migrants and refugees are often abused and even tortured when they are detained for being in the country illegally, Muammar Gaddafi’s country is becoming the southern buffer for the European Union to prevent potential immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa reaching our territory.
66-year-old Fathi el-Jahmi, who suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems is being held in solitary confinement at a secret location. This prisoner of conscience was arrested in March 2004 for having criticised Libya’s head of state and called for political reform in interviews with the international press. Fathi el-Jahmi had already been in prison between 2002 and 2004 for expressing his political opinions in an entirely peaceful manner. Contact with his family is very restricted and he is not allowed to receive mail, books or newspapers.
Given the lack of adequate medical care, his health is steadily deteriorating. According to those who have seen him recently, he had barely enough strength to talk and appeared emaciated, though his legs were swollen. If he does not receive proper medical attention soon, his life may even be in danger.