"The Tripoli Six" campaign

The science blogosphere is responding magnificently to the dire circumstances of six medical colleagues, on trial for their lives in a courtroom in Tripoli, Libya. Declan Butler, Nature's senior correspondent who wrote the story in the world's premier science journal this week, is collecting the blogosphere links and stories over at the science social bookmarking site, Connotea. In less than 24 hours since we began to rally our colleagues in the blogosphere there have been more than 30, many right here in the Science Blogs stable, but also in some of the highest traffic blogs on the net: DailyKos, The Next Hurrah, Fire Dog Lake, Alterpeek, Majikthise. I am not hyperlinking them because you can get them all over at the Connotea link that has many more and is updated. Maybe not yet a firestorm, but a prairie fire in the making.

This is not just a human rights story, although if it were "just" that it would have a major claim on our interests and our hearts. But it is also a science story: how scientific evidence, presented by one of the world's leading HIV scientists, was rejected out of hand, the only exculpating evidence possible in favor of these five nurses and a doctor. The goal, now, is to push -- and push hard -- for an independent scientific panel to review the genetic evidence that the discoverer of HIV, Luc Montagnier, indicates shows these aid workers were not responsible for infecting Libyan children with the virus.

How do we "push, and push hard"?

Our ScienceBlogger sibling, Mike Dunford at The Questionable Authority has taken a leadership position for the science blogger community. He has some important concrete suggestions and tools:

We can blog about this matter, and you can read about it, but that will do little to actually help. We need to do what little we can to act. Supporting Lawyers Without Borders, who are defending the medics, is one way. There are others.

This is a case where calling and writing your elected representatives, scientific organizations, the State Department, and the Libyans can help. Those are the people who can do something about this situation, either by doing the right thing (in the case of the Lybians) or by bringing diplomatic pressure to bear. Those are not, for the most part, people who are going to be in the habit of reading blogs. They're not going to see the outrage in our posts or in your comments here. If you want to do something more than just get mad, if you want to try to change things, you will need to do more than read blog articles and post comments. You need to write people. You need to call people. You need to send faxes and emails.

Here's why:

Believe it or not, politicians pay lots of attention to what their constitutents are saying. Every elected official out there has at least one staffer responsible for reading and classifying feedback. They track these things by issues, and you can safely bet that the politician will get regular reports on what their constituents are concerned about. If enough of the voters start to care about an issue, it will make it onto their radar.

Here's how:

Writing an original letter yourself, addressing the envelope, putting on a stamp, and mailing the thing takes longer than any of the other methods for contacting the elected official. Congresscritters and their staffers know this well, and they do take that into consideration. That makes it worth doing. If you can come up with any way to find the time, I strongly encourage you to write your own letter. Mail it to as many of the people I list below as you can.

When you write a letter to an elected official, be clear, be concise, and be respectful. If at all possible, keep the letter to no more than one page in length. Make sure that you identify the reason for the letter in the first paragraph, and make sure that you clearly state what you expect the elected official to do. In this case, I would suggest telling them that you would like to see our government publicly inform the Libyans that this conduct is unacceptable, and that there will be consequences if they continue down this path.

Form letters aren't taken as seriously as original letters, but they do help, too. I'll try to write this weekend and post it here for anyone who wants to cut and paste it.

Emails should be written just like a letter, but you should be aware that they are not given the same weight as a snail-mail letter.

Phone calls can work, too. If you call, you might benefit from having a script in front of you. Again, it's important to make sure that you make your points clearly and concisely. The less time you take up, the happier the staffer you talk to will be. If you make your point clearly, they will be more likely to get it right when they put it on the communications report.

Here's who:

1: Libya. This is probably going to be the least effective, but it's still worth a try - and you never know, it might just work. The Libyans have invested a huge amount of effort in trying to regain international respect, so there's at least a small chance that they might be responsive.


I'd suggest mailing letters to a Libyan embassy.

For Americans, the best choice would be the Libyan UN Mission.
Mission of Libya to the United Nations
309 - 315 East 48th Street,
New York, NY 10017
The phone number for the UN mission is: (212) 752-5775

Email: The Center for Nursing Advocacy has an online form and form letter. The email address that they are using is: libya@un.int I have not used that address myself, and cannot vouch for whether or not it works.

2: Your own CongressThings.

Get in touch with your own representatives. Feel free to remind them that you vote in their districts (if this is true.) Contact them even if their political views are totally opposed to your own, and particularly if they also sit on a key committee.

As long as you know your zip code, these websites will quickly provide you with the contact information for your representatives:

US House of representatives contact page (Reps only)

Click your Senator or Representative's name for info


3: Key congressional committees.

Contact the majority and minority leaders of the House Committee on International Relations and the Senate Foreign Relations Committees.

Committee Chair: Richard Lugar
Ranking Member: Joseph Biden
Mailing Address:
U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-6225
Majority Phone: (202) 224-4651
Minority Phone: (202) 224-3953

Chair: Henry Hyde
Ranking Member: Tom Lantos
Mailing Address:
House Committee on International Relations
2170 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Other contacts:
Phone: (202) 225-5021
Fax: (202) 225-2035
E-Mail: HIRC@mail.house.gov

4: Executive Branch Officials.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Main Switchboard:

President George Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461

The same letter, with few modifications, can be sent to all of the politicians on this list. Go for it. Postage isn't that expensive, and letters can make a difference. If people don't tell their representatives that they should care about something, it will be hard to blame them for doing nothing about it.

5: Scientific Organizations.

The Nature editorial . . . makes a compelling case for scientists to get involved in this. Tell other scientific organizations - particularly ones that you might be a member of - that this is an issue worth taking a stand on.

The largest organization of scientists in the US is the American Academy for the Advancement of Science. If you subscribe to the journal Science, you're an AAAS member. Tell them to join the editors of Nature in taking a stand.

Alan I. Leshner
AAAS Chief Executive Officer
1200 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005
Tel: 202-326-6400

I'm sure many of you are members of other organizations. Look for the contact information for those groups, whatever they are, and get in touch with them.

If you are angry about what's being done to these poor medics, channel your anger into something productive, and start writing letters. The more of us who do, the better the chances are of accomplishing something.

[UPDATE: 21 Sept 1120 EST]

Another of the Sciencebloggers pointed out that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is an MD, and that he is sensative to threats against medical providers. Given his position in the majority, he's in a position to help.

Office of Senator Bill Frist
509 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Frist staffer email: Ken_Scroggs@frist.senate.gov

Mike Dunford has done a lot of the heavy lifting. It's up to the rest of us to give a little extra push. Ten minutes, maybe? Instead of surfing?

Nature and Declan Butler have put themselves out there. Shouldn't the science blogosphere be standing at their side?

More like this

As Revere notes, the trial of the Tripoli six is scheduled to resume on October 31. This means the time for serious action is now. As Mike Dunford points out, If you want to do something more than just get mad, if you want to try to change things, you will need to do more than read blog articles…
A senior science reporter at the journal Nature, Declan Butler, put out an urgent request for bloggers to help draw attention to the plight of the Tripoli Six - five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian physician that are on trial accused of deliberately (as agents of Israel and the United States)…
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Reed Cartwright found out that a vital ecological research facility may be closed. The Savannah River Ecological Laboratory is operated by University of Georgia on land owned by the US Department of Energy. The DoE had a plutonium processing facility there, which is now closed. The unpopulated…

I am very worried about this case.

--from www.euromed.epp-ed.org, comes a description of the legal system of Libya, "Socialist Peoples' Libyan Arab Jamahiriya--Political System".

"The legal system of Libya is based on a combination of Civil Law and Islamic legal principals." Islamic legal principals refers to Sharia'a Law.

In ancient writings of Islam (hadith), under Sharia'a Law, the non-Muslim had very little standing within the legal system. A non-Muslim could not testify against a Muslim in court. Testimony presented by a non-Muslim was not admissable. The only way a non-Muslim could defend themselves was to hire a Muslim.

I do not know what goes on in modern courts in Libya, but I believe it would be prudent for your readers to enlist the aid of the moderate Muslim community in your efforts to help the "Tripoli Six".

Hope this helps,
Library Lady

By LibraryLady (not verified) on 22 Sep 2006 #permalink

Okay guys... a word from the right of center. I dont like aid workers of any kind getting swacked for any reason ever. If there were more of them, then likely there wouldnt be any wars. Which is where I always came in. So far this year writing to Congressmen has gotten sequences released and by just zipping out the email to Frist its not going to take you more than about a minute. Yes, they do read that crap.

Libya is not going to ignore inquiries from the Senate Majority Leader and by just getting Frist to mention the name of the Chinese that spilled the beans on H5N1, it likely saved them a long prison sentence . All of this happened just this year. Left and right holding the world accountable and in doing so its hard to imprison Nobel winners. The world takes a dim view of it. I certainly do. Dr. Frist was one of the first to take on the attacks on I. Capua by the pharma and lets get a sellable vaccine governments. He augered into the Chinese about trade and tied it to the sequence/isolates/vaccine issues. So its a friendly camp you are writing. Write the damned email. Tommorow may be too late.

Get him to mention these people by name and it may be coming from the mouth of the next president. Libya isnt stupid, dumb maybe but not stupid. They will not take the chance that they will piss off that kind of opportunity to show they are a civilized nation to the US and the world.

So Revere here has given you more than enough avenues to keep these people alive. Yep, I would write one even for Bill Clinton because what they are doing is wrong. They are GUILTY until proven innocent there. By not writing it you lefties will be hippocrites. The right side you need to do it because its wrong. You can make a difference here by as you have heard me say before, "pushing the right buttons."

This took all of 5 minutes to write. Can you do the same to save someones life? Make sure you think about that before you eat breakfast or go to bed. Did I do my part for my fellow man? Christians that dont write dont have a leg to stand on if you dont. If you post here and you havent written the email at the least then you should be ashamed. Their crime? Trying to help. This is terrorism plain and simple. The noise has to be so loud that they dare not execute them. Without it the only racket you hear will be the firing squads.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 22 Sep 2006 #permalink

Started with the CenNA and worked my way on out of the onion. Passed on the cause to the few I know that will write. Feels a tad like pissing into the wind but that's nuthin' new.

By tympanachus (not verified) on 23 Sep 2006 #permalink

Thanks, tymp. Declan thinks this is going to make a difference. Really. There are now more than 50 blog posts, including some of the biggest sites out there. Others are getting involved, too. Randy provided some good contacts, like the Frist one.

We'll see. You have to piss somewhere, why not into the wind?

Shouldn't this matter be addressed to Kofi Annan at the UN?

By Jonathan Fast (not verified) on 23 Sep 2006 #permalink

I emailed Scroggs, urging him to fill Frist in with the details, while noting Senator Frist was in a unique position to save those poor people's lives.
What an unending nightmare. What unimaginable depravity in their persecutors.

snippet from Wiki:

Although he concurred with the guilty verdict, Gaddafi had proposed releasing the six medics if, in return, the Pan Am Flight 103 bomber Megrahi, serving a life sentence in a Scottish jail, were to be released and $5.7 billion compensation were paid to Libya for the care of the HIV-infected patients.


I know little about the details of the case, but they were imprisoned long ago, in 1999? (according to my memory...) It is an old story that has now somehow gathered steam, no doubt because of the death sentences approaching.

The root is 'terrorism' and the story of flight 103 (Lockerbie), which is...murky.
Lybia finally accepted guilt for it, a settlement was made, Lybia's aim was to have sanctions lifted. One mainstream article, the hype about WMD is to be ignored:


To put it delicately, Gaddafi correctly calculated he had no choice. But it sticks in his craw. I have heard he is still sore about the Reagan Admin killing his adopted daughter. In 1986 the US bombed his home in Tripoli.

All I am saying is that there is a larger context, and considerations about sharia law or whatever are somewhat irrelevant. The 6 medics are part of global struggle - pawns in a way. And for that reason, they could do with the extra mile...

Ana: Yes, it's been seven years since they were imprisoned. The first time the death penalty was imposed it was sent back by the Libyan Supreme Court as I understand it and how they are again on trial in Tripoli for the same offense. Because the scientific evidence was excluded, it was considered likely they would again be convicted and the final step would again be the Libyan Supreme Court, which could commute the death sentence to life, still not a just outcome and for some, perhaps, worse than a death sentence.

On Thursday one of the defense lawyers failed to appear and the trial was adjourned until November, so there is still time. Pressure is mounting on Ghaddafi, thanks to everyone who is taking an interest, fueled anew by Nature and now the blogosphere.

Your point about the larger context is competely accurate. This isn't really about sharia law, except on the surface. It's about (among other things) the international community (especially the US and the EU) turning a blind eye to suck up to Ghaddafi, the manipulaiton of science for political ends, the massive failure of the health care system for not providing clean syringes and needles, extraction of confessions by torture. Since these aren't Americans I don't know what role Ghaddafi's personal animus resulting from the US killing of his infant daughter in an assassination attempt plays. Very little, I expect, but to the extent it does, it shows how you open Pandora's Box when you employ state sponsored assassination as a tool of foreign policy and the hypocrisy of one kind of state terrorist demanding retribution on another kind of state terrorist.The US doesn't bomb civilian airliners but it does bomb civilians, knowingly and for political purposes. A different method.

In the post above, there is a reference to discovering the addresses through your zipcode. But there is no link. I posted 3 earlier, but they seem to have gotten lost in the ether. congressmerge.com will let you look up contact info for your Federally Elected Congressfolk, based on your zipcode. they also have some helpful hints about writing your Congressrat or Senator.


By Man of Misery (not verified) on 23 Sep 2006 #permalink

MoM: Thanks. I'll search to see where your comments got held up. There seem to be a lot of missing links in that post that need fixing. I try to get to it. Thanks for the links, too. Things are moving very fast. It got frontpaged again at DailyKos (the largest lefty site and that got frontpage linked on Instapundit, the largest right wing site. So it is now frontpage on the two largest political sites in the world, both left and right. Pretty amazing. And it started in the blogosphere here.

I googled US Senate foreign relations committee, and from there went to members, and from there was able to send a number of emails to some of the members. Most had a form that had to be filled in, but I copied and pasted my letter so that, with minor alterations, I could send the message to each senator without too much typing. The chair of the senate foreign relations committee, Senator Richard Lugar, has an email address that requires none of the identity filling that the others do. You can email him directly at senator_lugar@lugar.senate.gov. Just copy and paste that address and send him an email about this situation. I'm sure if he gets enough he'll be compelled to take a look into the situation.

By mary in hawaii (not verified) on 23 Sep 2006 #permalink

MiH: Good for you. Thanks. I'll have a bit of an update tomorrow. Things are spreading fast in the blogosphere and it started here.