Trial of Neurosurgeon in Libya is Test of Country’s Capacity to Serve Justice

Press Release
June 7, 2012

Trial of Neurosurgeon in Libya is Test of Country’s Capacity to Serve Justice

Doctor Categorically Denies Accusations He Purposefully Withheld Medical Treatment from Anti-Gaddafi Fighter Who Died

Amnesty Turned Away from Visiting Imprisoned Doctor; Protests in Doctor’s Support Planned Friday

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) – Amnesty International said today the case of a neurosurgeon accused of purposefully withholding medical treatment in the death of an anti-Gaddafi fighter is a test of whether Libya’s judiciary is capable of delivering justice. The human rights organization said the trial of the neurosurgeon seems to involve “revenge, not justice.”

 

Protests are planned on Friday in the city of Derna in solidarity with Hisham Anour Ben Khayal, the neurosurgeon, who categorically denies the accusation that he purposefully withheld medical treatment from Fathi Mohamed Abou Shanaf, who died on May 26, 2011 from a gunshot wound to the head.

"This trial is a test for the Libyan judiciary to show it is capable of serving justice, and of staying independent and impartial in the face of public pressure or intimidation,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director.

Amnesty International visited Jedayem prison on Tuesday asking to meet Khayal but was refused a private meeting by the prison's director, despite having obtained written authorization from the head of the judicial police to visit prisons.

Khayal said in court that he wasn’t even the treating physician in the case, and that two operations were conducted at the Sbi’a Hospital in an attempt to save Shanaf, who died after being transferred to the Sbi’a Hospital, where Khayal headed the neurosurgery department, some 35 days after his initial injury.

However, the militia group named after the dead fighter accuses the doctor - who previously treated Colonel al-Gaddafi and is deemed by some to be an enemy of Libya’s “17 February Revolution” - of medical neglect.

Khayal was abducted Tripoli on April 1 by a militia group that includes several relatives of the dead man. The doctor is on trial in the dead fighter's hometown, Al-Zawiya, where there is a swell of public feeling against him.

"What we are witnessing here is revenge, not justice. It is extremely dangerous when relatives of the deceased are the ones deciding on the fate of the alleged perpetrator," said Sahraoui. "The Libyan authorities must ensure that Hisham Anour Ben Khayal is treated fairly and that an independent medical review into the cause of Fathi Mohamed Abou Shanaf's death and the treatment he received in hospital is conducted.

”All Hisham Anour Ben Khayal's torture allegations must also be properly investigated and remedied."

After being seized at his clinic in Tripoli, Khayal was detained at the militia’s base in the city of al-Zawiya, where he was beaten with whips and sticks.

The doctor's brother, Ashraf Anour Ben Khayal, eventually located him on April 3 and went to the militia’s base to see his sibling. Instead, he was also reportedly detained and tortured.

Khayal was later transferred to nearby Jedayem prison, charged with breaching laws relating to medical conduct.

His torture claims have yet to be investigated despite strong photographic evidence supporting them, and he was not referred for medical examination.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.