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General News of Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Source: GNA

Govt committed to protecting nationals in Libya

Accra, Feb 19, GNA - Government of Ghana on Tuesday reacted publicly to the execution of Ghanaians in Libya in recent times and reiterated its commitment to protect the interests of its citizens abroad, including those living in Libya.

The Government however, reminded nationals abroad to respect the laws of their host countries and conduct themselves properly and in ways that would make them worthy ambassadors of Ghana. Mr. Akwasi Osei-Adjei, Minister of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday read to a sombre looking Parliament, a statement on a series of events that led to the executions.

Uncharacteristic of the House, no member, either from the Majority or the Minority made a contribution to the statement after the Minister finished reading it.

Four Ghanaian nationals are reportedly executed since the past few weeks, and according to the Minister, all efforts to secure a reprieve for the Ghanaian nationals proved unsuccessful. The Minister stated that Government of Ghana did not seek to undermine the laws of Libya, but added that, it would have wished the authorities in Libya would have prevailed more strongly on the families of the victims to reconsider their position on the executions, at least on humanitarian grounds.

According to Libyan law, execution or pardon of an accused rested on the wish of the relatives of the victim of the crime.

The Foreign Affairs Minister said the Embassy of Ghana has since learnt that one more national remained on the death row in Libya for the murder of another citizen of Ghana and the Ministry is exploring the options available in that case.

The chronology of the executions, as the Minister told the House is as follows:

"Mr Speaker, is it with deep sense of regret that I inform the House of the execution by the Libyan authorities on Saturday, 16th February, 2008 of two Ghanaian nationals who had been convicted and sentenced to death in 1998 and 2002 for separate murder of a Libyan national and a national of Senegal, respectively.

"Earlier on 22nd January 2008, two other nationals of Ghana were executed for their involvement in the murder of the Libyan national in question.

"Three of these nationals together with a Nigerian national were tried in a Libyan Criminal Court and a guilty verdict was issued on 17th May 1998. All four were sentenced to death. It was alleged that the four persons tied up the Libyan national in his workshop and bludgeoned him to death because of a dispute over a transaction in drugs.

"The verdict was appealed in July 1998 but was dismissed. "The Embassy of Ghana in Libya took a keen interest in the case and arranged for the defence of the accused persons during the trial and subsequent appeal.

"Subsequently the Embassy had contact with the family of the deceased to explore, in accordance with Islamic practice, the possibility of seeking clemency or the payment of compensation to cancel the death sentences. The family however, rejected any negotiations and insisted that the law should take its course.

"In December 2007, the Embassy was informed that the three nationals of Ghana and the national of Nigeria were to be executed. The Embassy alerted Government to this development and recommended that an intervention be made at the highest level.

"The President, H. E. Mr John Agyekum Kufuor immediately addressed an appeal for clemency on humanitarian grounds to his Libyan counterpart. The Libyan authorities took no further action on the matter and the four persons remained incarcerated in Libya for the next five years.

"In May, 2007, the Libyan authorities notified the Ghana Embassy that the three nationals of Ghana were scheduled to be executed within days. The Nigeria Embassy was similarly notified about its national. The Ghana Embassy reported this development to the Government and recommended, once again, intervention at the highest level.

"Consequently a second stay of executions was secured for the nationals of Ghana. The national of Nigeria was however executed. "The Embassy resumed its contacts with the family of the Libyan victim in an effort to get it to reconsider its stance on the executions. Officials of the Embassy travelled to the town of Ghat in the South of Libya, for a meeting with the family, which was arranged by local Islamic dignitary, in mid-May 2007. The family was apparently under the impression that the executions had been carried out. "Upon receiving information from the judicial police that the three persons were still alive, the head of the family flew into a rage and abandoned the meeting. The Embassy officials returned to Tripoli without making any progress.

"In late May 2007, the President, H E Mr John Agyekum Kufuor visited Libya and raised, among other matters, the plight of the three nationals with the Libyan Leader who promised to look into the matter. "In June 2007, officials of the Embassy made another attempt to contact the family of the murder victim but the latter declined a meeting.

"On 29th December 2007 the Ambassador of Ghana took the opportunity of visit to Ghat to discuss the matter with the Governor of the Province. The latter however explained that the case was a difficult one because of the persistent of the family to modify its position, not even on the instance of a request emanating from the office of the Libyan Leader.

"On 20th January 2008, the Embassy was notified yet again by the Libyan authorities that two of the three nationals were scheduled to be executed by 22nd January 2008. The Embassy immediately made representations to the Libyan authorities for a further stay of execution to allow time for consultations with Government on this development.

"However, without responding to the Embassy's request, the Libyan authorities proceeded to execute the two nationals by firing squad, together with three others, including a Libyan, a Sudanese and an Egyptian.

"In the second case, the national of Ghana and a national of Gambia were tried and convicted for the murder of national of Senegal. The intervention by Government in May 2007 secured a stay of execution of this national. The Gambian was however executed.

"The Embassy of Ghana made representations to the Embassy of Senegal in Libya on the possibility of clemency from the family of the deceased. Even though the Embassy of Senegal was unable to locate the family of the deceased national, it took upon itself to offer clemency to the Ghanaian national.

"This decision was duly conveyed to the Libyan authorities but regrettably, the latter failed to take this into consideration and proceeded to carry out the executions, which include the third person from the previous case on the 16th February 2008. "The bodies of all four nationals have since been deposited at a mortuary on the Benghazi Central Hospital and the autopsy is in the process of formally notifying the families in Ghana."

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