Western Countries Should ‘Show Compassion’ for Libyan Children Infected With HIV, Libyan Prime Minister Says
Western countries criticizing the death sentences of six Bulgarian health care workers and a Palestinian doctor accused of intentionally infecting more than 400 children in Libya with HIV through contaminated blood products should "show compassion" for the HIV-positive children, Libyan Prime Minister Shokri Ghanem said on Sunday, Reuters reports (Heneghan, Reuters, 6/6). A five-judge panel last month sentenced the workers -- who have been detained in the country since early 1999 -- to death by firing squad. 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 adequately screen blood products and allowed poor sterilization practices at Al Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi, where the children were infected. Western governments and human rights groups have denounced the sentences, saying that they were based on false confessions resulting from torture. The health workers are currently appealing the case (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/11). Ghanem, speaking at a symposium sponsored by Boston-based Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, said he is not suggesting that Libya broker a deal with the health workers. However, he requested from Western nations a "show of compassion so the families of the victims at least will feel that people are sharing with them the suffering inflicted on them." Ghanem declined to elaborate on how this should be done or what effect such actions could have (Reuters, 6/6).
The San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday profiled the case, saying that the lives of the health care workers -- "accused and convicted in a diabolically farcical five-year trial" -- "now depend on the whims" of Kadafi (Terzieff, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/6). The complete article is available online.