In a nutshell, and I mean a true nutshell, for those of you not familiar, the case involves five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who have been wrongfully charged for allegedly infecting children with HIV. They were tortured and forced to sign "confessions" written in Arabic they did not understand now they are awaiting execution by firing squad in Libya . In fact, the poor hygiene, dirty needles and bad practices in the hospital are to blame.
If there was ever a human rights issue which highlights the abject lunacy of torture the case of the Tripoli Six should become the world template against the use of torture.
Torture begets "confessions" because it is common knowledge that people will say anything to make their depraved interrogators cease inflicting heinous, barbaric and deeply grievous assaults.
There is a lot here that is universal and also a great deal that is very relevant to the US situation, such as extraction of confession under torture, ignoring scientific evidence and turning a blind eye to human rights abuses when you want to suck up to a government.
I suppose in the world we inhabit, it takes courage to acknowledge that non-American lives are worth less than American lives. But it seems fitting to draw such a sad conclusion since the United States decided to reestablish diplomatic relations with Libya in May, without the medics case being resolved as part of the deal. And then at the end of August, the Libyan prosecutor called again for the death penalty.
And forgive my cynicism but Libya has lots of oil. After we take out Iran, we're going to need that Libyan oil and we want a happy Libyan dictator.
World Top 10 - Oil Reserves Countries
Country Billions of Barrels
Saudi Arabia 261.8
You may be wondering why has nyceve become involved in this. Mostly because it's about take-your-breath-away injustice which many of us hope will soon get on the radar of the world's media. Secondarily because our own much admired and loved Gina Cooper brought it to my attention. She put me in touch with two remarkable individuals, a health and science blogger named revere and the senior correspondent of Nature, Declan Butler.
Here's the background. I came home last week to an email from Gina.
Hi! I was wondering if you heard about this. I don't have the voice you have for promoting things, but this comes from a real source. What do you think of this? thanks! -gina
I was initially a little confused but after a ton of emails, and my own research I sorted out the players and the urgency of the matter. Declan Butler is a senior correspondent at Nature. As you may know, Nature is the world's premier science journal. The fact that they have weighed in on this is highly unusual and extremely significant.
As Declan himself said in an email to me, "I was very pleased, but not at all suprized, that Nature's editorial and news team took up the challenge, and in particular the determination of Philip Campbell, Nature progressive Editor-in-Chief, that the issue merited a tough stand."
Gina's email to me also contained a forwarded message from a highly regarded science blogger who goes by the name of revere. revere blogs at the science and public health blog Effect Measure which you can read here:
In his email to Gina, revere described the reality of the case.
I apologize for the length of this email. I rarely post here, as my
main interest, public health, comes up only occasionally (OK; I also
comment sometimes on the mid east). However this is something a bit
different which I am hoping the progressive blogosphere will take up.
It's not about the mid terms but it is about using the power of the
internet to save some lives. There are interesting US foreign policy
aspects to it, too, which some may wish to follow-up.
A few hours ago I received an urgent message from Declan Butler,
senior correspondent at Nature. As you may know, Nature is the world's
premier science journal. The fact that they have weighed in on this is
highly significant. Declan has been a supporter and enabler of science
blogging at Nature, and Nature has been showing real leadership on
some important progressive issues.
Today Nature has a news article from Declan accompanied by a very
strongly worded Editorial about six medics (5 nurses and a doctor) on
trial for their lives in Libya. They are accused of infecting many
children with HIV. The scientific evidence for this has been examined
by Luc Montagnier (co-discoverer of HIV) and he has adduced evidence
the children were infected prior to the workers getting to the
country. Other evidence implicates bad hospital hygiene as the cause,
but the important point is that Montagnier's evidence has been
excluded by the Libyan judge and it now appears likely they will be
condemned to death by firing squad. The parents are outraged at the
deaths of their children and are demanding revenge. The medics are a
convenient target. Admitting the children died by the malfeasance of
the Libyan hospital system isn't.
Diplomatic efforts to force Libya to convene an independent scientific
panel to consider the genetic analyses of the HIV isolates has been
unsuccessful. There are more details in my post, below, which went up
this evening and the Nature pieces (which are short; links at Declan's
Gina, God bless her, put me in touch with revere and Declan Butler and we began to correspond.
revere wrote to me as follows.
Gina suggested I get in touch with you regarding the Tripoli Six
issue. Do you want me to email Declan and have him call you? You could
try emailing him yourself, as that would be quicker, and say Revere
suggested it. He knows me. Or do you want me to make an intro?
This is an interesting blogging issue because of US policy (make nice
to Ghaddafi without mentioning the plight of the 6) and the role that
science blogs (and also now dKos, TNH, FDL, Alterpeek, Majikthise) are
playing instigated by print media, in this case Nature, the world's
premier science journal. Often the other way around. Nature is
embracing the blogosphere, a significant development. They put
themselves out there on this issue and we are supporting them and
standing by their side in our own way.
Let me know if you want further info. Posts up at Pharyngula, Effect
Measure, Respectful Insolence and dKos, TNH, FDL, etc.
Then Decland Butler wrote:
This has been a long-running story, with many intrigues. The six are currently on retrial in Tripoli. The attached articles describe the current situation, but don't give a great deal of background, because of space limitations. Let me know what else you would like to have.
I appreciate that there are many human rights abuses. Perhaps I'm an optimist, but I think that with some pressure in the right places, a renewed diplomatic effort could quickly resolve this case. I also think that at a time when the US and EU have restablished diplomatic relations with Libya, this case raises several fundamental questions about respect for some fundamental democratic principles in international relations.
I won't be available this evening, but let me know more by email and I'll respond by tomorrow morning at the latest.
Declan Butler has taken the lead in bringing this travesty to the attention of the world community. I urge you to read everything he has written in Nature. Links provided.
Lawyers call for science to clear AIDS nurses in Libya
International pressure needed to save health workers from death penalty.
Lawyers defending six medical workers who risk execution by firing squad in Libya have called for the international scientific community to support a bid to prove the medics' innocence. The six are charged with deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV at the al-Fateh Hospital in Benghazi in 1998, so far causing the deaths of at least 40 of them.
On 28 August, when the prosecution was scheduled to close its case, the Libyan prosecutor called for the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor to be sentenced to death. Attorneys from Lawyers Without Borders, who are handling the defence of the six, have responded by calling for the international community to request that the court order an independent scientific assessment, by international AIDS experts, of how the children became infected.
. . .During the first trial, the Libyan government did ask Luc Montagnier, whose group at the Pasteur Institute in Paris discovered HIV, and Vittorio Colizzi, an AIDS researcher at Rome's Tor Vergata University, to examine the scientific evidence. The researchers carried out a genetic analysis of viruses from the infected children, and concluded that many of them were infected long before the medics set foot in Libya in March 1998. Many of the children were also infected with hepatitis B and C, suggesting that the infections were spread by poor hospital hygiene. The infections were caused by subtypes of A/G HIV-1 -- a recombinant strain common in central and west Africa, known to be highly infectious.
But the court threw out the report, arguing that an investigation by Libyan doctors had reached the opposite conclusion. Montagnier believes the judgement was based at least partly on mistranslation from English to Arabic of the term 'recombinant' -- instead of referring to natural recombination of wild viruses, as intended, it was interpreted to mean genetically modified, implying human manipulation.
I'll leave you with two things. First, a link to a chilling film called INJECTION.
INJECTION explores how over 15 million Africans will get HIV during the next 5 years through unsafe health care as clinics across Africa often re-use syringes.
Second, some of you may know that I attended the Clinton Global Inititive which was held last week in New York City.
In 2005, in its first year, one of the largest commitments involved $18 million from the Pan African Health Foundation for the construction of an auto-disposable syringe factory in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Healthcare is a disaster in the United States, it is far, far worse and much more dangerous in the developing world.
Comments are closed on this story.