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France judges investigate torture allegations against Libya leader

[JURIST] French judges have launched an investigation into torture allegations by a Palestinian doctor who was detained in Libya [JURIST news archive] for eight years after being accused of deliberately infecting hundreds of children with HIV, a judicial official said Tuesday. Last year, Ashraf Jima Hajuj filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in France against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [official website], relying on France's accession to the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [text], which allows signatory countries to take legal action against torture suspects who enter their territory. Gaddafi had arrived in France that week for a five-day visit, but as a head of state, he may enjoy immunity. In January, Hajuj also filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) [official website] against Libya, alleging he was tortured during his detention. Decisions by the UNHRC are not binding, but it could ask that Libya pay damages. AFP has more.

Hajuj was among six foreign medics [BBC Q&A; JURIST news archive] sentenced by a Libyan court to life in prison [JURIST report] in July 2007 for allegedly infecting hospital patients with HIV. Libya released [JURIST report] the six that month after obtaining an agreement from the European Union to normalize and develop closer political and economic ties and increase medical and infrastructure aid. The medics have consistently maintained their innocence, saying they were scapegoated for unsanitary conditions in the Libyan hospital where they worked. Bulgaria, the home country of the nurses involved, has insisted that the medics were tortured into admitting guilt [HRW report].

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