The decision by Libya’s High Judicial Council to lift the death sentences imposed on the Bulgarian medics removes a cloud that has been hanging over the country for the past eight years. But why the Libyan leader declined to use his authoritarian position to intervene earlier is probably a question that will remain unanswered. Despite Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s recent attempts to build ties with the West, the case has been widely regarded as a hangover from the north African country’s diplomatic isolation. The EU has been at the forefront of efforts to secure a compensation deal.
The External Affairs Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, has made several trips to Libya not only to meet the prisoners but also to help towards improving conditions for hundreds of children with HIV or Aids. According to EU officials, the key to the medics’ release is a deal signed by Ferrero-Waldner which will lead to the full normalisation of EU relations with Tripoli. The agreement will no doubt gradually shift global attention away from Libya. But what many Libyans fear is that spotlight will also disappear from their chance of sparking reform and having an effective voice in government.