Effect Measure

The final act in the drama of five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor imprisoned for seven years and sentenced to death by firing squad in Libya after being accused of deliberately infecting over 400 chidren with HIV in a children’s hospital in Bengazi (see posts here) is now being played out in the Libyan capital of Tripoli:

Libya’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld death sentences on six foreign medics for infecting Libyan children with HIV, a ruling that paves the way for moves by Muammar Gaddafi’s government to win their freedom.

Experts said the ruling completed the role of the judiciary in the highly-politicised trial of the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, and Libya’s executive can now step in and seek to secure their release subject to a deal with the families of the children.

The case is expected to go to a government-controlled High Judicial Council which will have the power to commute the sentence or even pardon them. (Reuters)

The case has become a cause célèbre for the international scientific community, including, significantly, the scientific blogosphere. Affirming the death sentence is a (regrettably) necessary first step in resolving the issue and, paradoxically, saving the lives and obtaining the freedom of the accused, whose confessions they say were coerced by torture. A precondition for a positive outcome for the accused was an agreement between the EU and Libya’s Gaddafi Foundation charity on funding lifetime care for the children, an agreement said to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

The announcement today that the deal has been affirmed along with news that the High Judicial Council will meet on Monday is believed to be a signal to the international community the sentences will be commuted. Until the Tripoli 6 have been repatriated and are free we can only update you on developments.

Many here have been following this story and were important, along with thousands of others, in letting the Libyan government know your concerns when we originally posted on this. We hope to be able to put the final punctuation mark to this story soon. We will keep you posted.


  1. #1 Terp Mole
    July 11, 2007

    Gee, and just yesterday we had a deal for their release?

    Is anyone really surprised?

    It ain’t over ’til Kaddafi gets his kaching.

    And right on queue, UK begins the Lockerbie bomber release PR campaign;

    Jail hall overcrowding concerns

    Overcrowding at the Scottish jail housing Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi has been criticised by prison inspectors.

    Torture! Gitmo! Free Victim #271!

    Watch it happen… the writings already on the wall– the Lockerbie bomber will be enjoying his oppulent family estates before these nurses see the light of day.

  2. #2 bar
    July 11, 2007

    “A precondition for a positive outcome for the accused was an agreement between the EU and Libya’s Gaddafi Foundation charity on funding lifetime care for the children, an agreement said to be in the tens of millions of dollars.”

    Of course our hearts must go out to those children, however analysis of the facts that we have been told leaves a bad taste.

    Such analysis must lead to the conclusion that the EU is paying “blood money” for a crime that EU nurses did not commit.

  3. #3 M. Randolph Kruger
    July 11, 2007

    Extortion is what they call this in just about every country in the world.

    Big surprise. Its not over until they are across the border and I have to mind what I really want to say, and more so do if it were me.

  4. #4 DT
    July 12, 2007

    I hope it is resolved soon. I have worked in the tropics, and feel for these people – there but for the grace of god and all that.

    They are certainly totally blameless for HIV’s introduction into the local hospital population. Will the Libyans ever bother trying to find out who was really rersponsible? Will they review their infection control procedures and equipment re-use policy? I somehow doubt it. They just want their blood money and it seems like they will get it.

    When in Africa in the early 1980s we had so few sterile disposable needles and biopsy instruments available that we re-used them (and disposable latex gloves) after a sterilisation step (autoclaving) but there were no guarantees it worked sufficiently well. No doubt some patients were exposed to blood borne viruses in this way, but the thought that at another time and another place I might have been sentenced to death for carrying out normally accepted practices to try and help people makes me feel quite sick.

  5. #5 M. Randolph Kruger
    July 12, 2007

    Did these guys do it that way DT? Sometimes as I said before it may be better not to do anything. They may get treatment from the EU but man I’ll tell you what, this is pure BS. Next time they want something they’ll just take some more hostages.

  6. #6 Rod
    July 13, 2007

    Future helpers may be in short supply.