Libyans Protest U.S. Condemnation of Death Sentence for Bulgarian Workers Accused of Infecting Children With HIV
May 11, 2004
Nearly 1,000 people in Libya on Sunday marched and burned an American flag to protest U.S. criticism of a Libyan court verdict sentencing six Bulgarian health care workers and a Palestinian doctor to death for allegedly intentionally infecting more than 400 children with HIV through contaminated blood products, the Columbia State reports (Columbia State, 5/10). A five-judge panel on Thursday sentenced to death by firing squad the six workers who have been detained in the country since early 1999. Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi initially accused the health workers of taking orders from the CIA and the Israeli secret service to kill Libyan children in order to destabilize the country. However, some European governments and human rights groups say that the Libyan Health Ministry failed to screen blood products adequately and allowed poor sterilization practices at Al Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi, where the children were infected (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/6). Western government and human rights groups denounced the sentences, saying that they were based on false confessions resulting from torture, according to the AP/Sioux City Journal (AP/Sioux City Journal, 5/10).
Although Kadafi has "turned over a new leaf on the international stage," these diplomatic moves have not stopped a "miscarriage of justice" in the Bulgarian trials, a Toronto Globe and Mail editorial says. The "most obvious explanation" for the widespread infections -- that there was "inadequate sterilization in the hospital well before the accused workers arrived" -- was "brushed aside," the editorial says. In addition, the health care workers have claimed that the two confessions on which the convictions were based came after torture and the forced signing of statements written in Arabic that they did not understand, the editorial says. Therefore, it is "impossible not to believe that the charges were trumped-up and that, as the Bulgarian government has long argued, there was no credible evidence against the accused," the Globe and Mail says. The workers should be pardoned and "since there is every indication that [they] have been made scapegoats for homegrown negligence," the Libyan government should "shoulder [the] burden" of providing the compensation it feels the families of the HIV-positive children deserve, the editorial concludes (Globe and Mail, 5/10).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.