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HRW calls on Libya to suspend death sentences of Gaddafi supporters

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on Libya Friday to suspend the death sentences [press release] of Ahmed Ibrahim [JURIST report] and Walid Dabnoon, who were convicted of crimes related to the country's uprising [JURIST backgrounder] in June 2011. HRW contends that Ibrahim, a former official in the government of deposed president Muammar Gaddafi, and Dabnoon, a volunteer for pro-Gaddafi fighting forces during the clash with protesters, were denied the full benefits of due process during their trials, including the ability to consult counsel regularly and confidentially. According to HRW:

Lawyers and family members for Ibrahim and people knowledgeable about the proceedings against Dabnoon told Human Rights Watch that prison authorities allowed only some of the visits the lawyers requested and dismissed lawyers; requests to meet with their clients privately. The sources said a guard was present during meetings at the detention site and in court, intimidating the defendants and making them reluctant to discuss the case freely with the lawyers. Lawyers were not present during prosecutors; interrogations of the two men. During the court proceedings, the presiding judge rejected the defense lawyers; requests to summon key witnesses for cross examination. The court relied on allegedly coerced confessions by co-defendants who incriminated Ibrahim and Dabnoon.
HRW, which is categorically opposed to capital punishment on human rights grounds, went further in their request, asking that Libya instate a moratorium on all capital punishment. They cited the widespread disarray of the Libyan judicial system and the large number of persons already on death row.

During the period of time now referred to as "the Arab Spring," countries across the Middle East erupted in protests from citizens demanding an end to oppressive regimes and the beginning of true democracies in their nations. The pro-democracy protests began in Tunisia [JURIST news archive] and spread quickly to Egypt [JURIST backgrounder] and on to Libya and other nations. The recent death sentences come amid debate between the UN and Libya over the proper venue to try Gaddafi-era officials. Libya remains in conflict [JURIST report] with the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] over the trial of Gaddafi's son and the efficacy and fairness of trying him in a Libyan court.

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