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Medics face death in Libyan HIV case
December 19, 2006 3:03 AM   Subscribe

Death by firing squad is imminent (timeline) for a Palestinian doctor and five Bulgarian nurses accused of infecting 426 girls and boys at the al-Fatah Hospital in Benghazi with HIV, after having the sentence lifted a year ago and sent to retrial. Libya stands accused of using the children as diplomatic pawns and torturing confessions out of the health workers. Nature has published a series of articles refuting the dubious evidence provided by Libyan researchers, which many think was concocted to cover up the poor hospital hygiene that likely caused the infections in the first place. [previously]
posted by blendor (35 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
it wasn't torture, it was high-pressure interrogation
posted by matteo at 3:26 AM on December 19, 2006 [3 favorites]


It's times like this that it's a good thing I'm not in charge of the military, because I really don't think I could resist pegging their capital building with a cruise missile over this one.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:46 AM on December 19, 2006


And I thought Libya was rehabilitated. Tony Blair told me so.
posted by A189Nut at 3:51 AM on December 19, 2006


From one of the links:

"Earlier this year Libya said Bulgaria should pay the families of the children $2.7bn (£1.8bn) in compensation - which is exactly the sum paid by Libya for the 270 lives lost in the Pan Am 103 bombing."

Quite the coincidence, that.... Clearly, the nation as a whole has degenerated into taking hostages and demanding ransoms.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:13 AM on December 19, 2006


This is horrible. But - pegging their capitol with a cruise missile? Yeah, resorting to violence always helps.
posted by algreer at 4:18 AM on December 19, 2006


This is horrible. But - pegging their capitol with a cruise missile? Yeah, resorting to violence always helps.

Well, what would you do about it? Obviously they can't be allowed to pull this kind of shit in the future.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:33 AM on December 19, 2006


The New England Journal of Medicine has an editorial on the case in the current issue.
posted by TedW at 4:49 AM on December 19, 2006


The thing I can never get about cases like this - everyone knows they are innocent, but Gadafi and others are willing to imprison fellow human beings for seven years under threat of death to obtain diplomatic leverage. Could you do that? Could you think someone else's life so much less significant than your own, or your country? I couldn't.
posted by A189Nut at 4:49 AM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


A189Nut, you'd be a terrible dictator.
posted by thirteenkiller at 4:51 AM on December 19, 2006


Maybe a bit better than launching missiles - let's get the SAS in there, and get them out.
Would win Blair a bit of cred with the Palestinians, for one thing.
posted by Flashman at 5:28 AM on December 19, 2006


In all sincerity, get John Bolton on this one. My sense is that Libya has pretty much staged a show trial for these poor people, and will lock them up for life rather than actually execute them, but who knows.

Seriously -- neocons, wingnuts, Bush apologists -- here's a slam-dunk, morally black-and-white cause to fight for. Pour your energies into something useful for a change.

(Then again, once we start questioning Libyan justice, they only have to point a finger to Guantanomo.)

Very fucked. Hope these people make it through OK.
posted by bardic at 5:42 AM on December 19, 2006


I take pride in the fact that my beliefs are absolute, not relative. Those who ask, "but what if..." and "surely.." are always sorely disappointed. I'd be an OK dictator until I had everyone shoot themselves to prove their loyalty.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 5:55 AM on December 19, 2006


Oh yeah, I was big into absolutes when I was a teenager too.
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:14 AM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


I was going to agree with you, malusmoriendumest, but then I saw on your profile that you are a member of a terrorist organisation.

Hmm.
posted by Burger-Eating Invasion Monkey at 6:17 AM on December 19, 2006


It's times like this that it's a good thing I'm not in charge of the military, because I really don't think I could resist pegging their capital building with a cruise missile over this one.

So you'd kill hundreds of people, many of them innocent (at least not involved in this case) over this? If human life means so little to you in the first place, why do you even care?
posted by delmoi at 6:28 AM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


Gee, why didn't they just blame "teh gays" like our nuts do?
posted by nofundy at 6:40 AM on December 19, 2006


> Gee, why didn't they just blame "teh gays" like our nuts do?

In Dar al-Islam there are no gays, nofundy. They only occur in the more decadent portions of Dar al-Harb. You could have figured that out.
posted by jfuller at 6:55 AM on December 19, 2006


The HIV infections have affected at least 426 children, 52 of whom have since died. This tragedy has, at various sensitive moments, raised tensions in the area. The victims and their families have been repeatedly calling for the verdicts - death by firing squad - to be carried out.

"Let's burn down the observatory so this never happens again!"
posted by mek at 6:57 AM on December 19, 2006


Could you think someone else's life so much less significant than your own, or your country?

It's not even for 'your country', it's for some relatively short-term political gain.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:00 AM on December 19, 2006


It's not even for 'your country', it's for some relatively short-term political gain.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:00 AM PST on December 19 [+] [!]


The saddest part of it all is that Libya is actually sacrificing itself for said short-term political gain; its actions here will just cause further HIV outbreaks, since they are failing to address the underlying cause. Additionally, they're strongly discouraging foreign medical workers from ever stepping foot in their country again.
posted by mek at 7:11 AM on December 19, 2006


"Clearly, the nation as a whole has degenerated into taking hostages and demanding ransoms."

It's been going on for a while.
posted by atchafalaya at 7:48 AM on December 19, 2006


What gets me is this accusation is so unbelievable: foreign medical personnel in Libya giving HIV on purpose to children. It would have been much better to accuse them of what the NEJM admits they did, failing to follow the obvious protocol of using new or at least re-sterilized needles, and execute them for that. Personally I think such fatal negligence is criminal, especially in a rich country like Libya.
posted by davy at 8:38 AM on December 19, 2006


Probably Ghadaffi will magnamously pardon them - but they'll still be in prison, the ransom will still stand, and it will still have been a political show trial.
posted by boogieboy at 9:39 AM on December 19, 2006


Amnesty International has some info.

I used to be a member of Amnesty's Urgent Action Network. I'll be joining up again...
posted by webnrrd2k at 9:41 AM on December 19, 2006


This should serve as a warning to anyone considering to go work in the medical field in a country where you won't get a fair trial -- i.e. just about anywhere in the Arabic world.
posted by sour cream at 9:51 AM on December 19, 2006


I particularly liked how Nature offered free access to articles that one would otherwise need to pay for.

It's ironic that all this information , while probably excellent both quanti and quali-tatively , can't reach any mass audience as it is far too complicated to be appreciated by many.

It still amazes me that brilliant scientist, including these medics, still may believe that sound and resistant evidence is something that can win a very large audience of ignorants.
posted by elpapacito at 10:21 AM on December 19, 2006


Jeez, people, lighten up on Mitrovarr; there's no need to stoop to cheap "oh but *I* would never consider violence" shots. He/she clearly states they are glad it's not their call; not unlike an anti-death-penalty advocate being glad they wouldn't have to make the call on someone who had hurt their loved one.
posted by hackly_fracture at 10:34 AM on December 19, 2006


At least no more kids will get aids from filthy hospital conditions... err.. evil minded western health care workers.

In the face of this let me publicly (if mefi meekly) declare a giant thanks to doctors without borders and other aid workers who risk this exact retribution for their services, and who keep on after things like this happen again and again.

If we are fantasizing about being dictator, let's go further and play god. If 5 decent humans still exist I'll spare the whole lot.
posted by sarcasman at 11:25 AM on December 19, 2006


mek: The saddest part of it all is that Libya is actually sacrificing itself for said short-term political gain; its actions here will just cause further HIV outbreaks, since they are failing to address the underlying cause. Additionally, they're strongly discouraging foreign medical workers from ever stepping foot in their country again.

Libya is not sacrificing itself; the government is sacrificing its people. The rich and connected in the government aren't going to have any loss in medical care, just the common people. This is, of course, part of their goal; the more isolation and suffering they can inflict upon their citizens, the easier it will be to scapegoat them on their enemies, building up a fanatical army while not ending up hanging from the streetlights for their horrible abuses.

It's straight from Dictatorship 101, really. Even if this accomplishes nothing other than chasing foreign medics and aid agencies out of the country, it benefits the cadre.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:51 AM on December 19, 2006


My reading of the story is that has not all that much to do with Qadaffi or dictatorship but with the passion of the people whose children were infected with HIV. The immediate discovery of HIV infected blood vial in the nurse's quarters (planted? couldn't find more info on that) immediately made the case appear open-and-shut to the parents and their supporters, who tend to be poor and tribal, even by Libyan standards.

Qadaffi is in a bind in the sense that the families want justice, the internal medical system wanted (and got) a scapegoat, and now the guilt of the doctor and nurses is established 'fact' in the minds of the people. If Qadaffi caves to outside influence, it looks bad. The lifting of the sentence originally and the subsquent outrage and protests seem to have prompted the new result. The Libyan government's efforts to reach a compromise through $$$, has been seemingly heavily influenced by the families, many of whom who say they would accept that form of justice.

In any case I mean to say that something of this nature sounds more like 3rd world xenophobia and institutional CYA of the worst kind rather then a dictatorial desire to kill these people.
posted by cell divide at 12:10 PM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


The hideous irony is that when Libya was exiled by the West only fraternal nations like Bulgaria, hardly the richest nation itself, gave any charity. And this is what they got back.
posted by A189Nut at 1:57 PM on December 19, 2006


The hideous irony is that when Libya was exiled by the West only fraternal nations like Bulgaria, hardly the richest nation itself, gave any charity. And this is what they got back.

What irony? The leaders wanted their country to be exiled. That's why they're doing this.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:52 PM on December 19, 2006


Irony for the poor Bulgarian doctors who were there trying to help. I suppose there might be an irony for the Libyan leadership... fascinating you thought so and not the other way around.
posted by A189Nut at 3:28 PM on December 19, 2006


It's the theatre of the absurd at its highest form. Boogieboy is mostly right, Gaddafi will commute their sentences in a grand show of magnaminity once he's obtained the proper promises from the west. The west will give into his demands for a while and then slack off on payments, then he will pull another stunt. We've seen this episode of Dictator vs. Western Powers time and time again, different actors usually, but same basic plot.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:10 PM on December 19, 2006


My thoughts go out to the bulgarian and palestine medical personnel and their families.

Somebody needs to get a proper grip around Qadaffi's testicles and squeeze. Hard.
posted by flippant at 1:13 AM on December 20, 2006


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