Bulgaria Rejects Libya’s Proposal To Negotiate Settlement Between Families of HIV-Positive Children, Nurses Convicted of Infecting Them
The Bulgarian government on Tuesday rejected Libyan Foreign Minister Abdelrahman Shalgham's proposal to negotiate a settlement between Bulgaria and the families of the 400 children that five Bulgarian nurses have been convicted of intentionally infecting with HIV, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 7/27). A five-judge panel of a Libyan court in May sentenced to death by firing squad the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who have been detained in Libya since 1999 and have been accused of deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV through contaminated blood products (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/6). The health care workers also were ordered to pay a total of $1 million to the families of the children, 43 of whom have died (Agence France-Presse, 7/27). Libyan Leader Moammar Kadafi 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). Two of the nurses and the Palestinian doctor said that they had been tortured into making confessions, according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 7/27).
Although Shalgham did not say what form the settlement between Bulgaria and the families could take, other Libyan officials have said that the families should receive financial compensation, Agence France-Presse reports. "We propose to the Bulgarians to negotiate with the victims' families, and if the families agree to negotiate, then we can get closer to a settlement," Shalgham said. He added that the European Union also could agree to manage the children's treatment in Europe or construct a "special hospital" for them in Benghazi, Libya, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 7/26). The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said the proposal was "unacceptable," adding that the nurses are "innocent of all charges," and there is "nothing to negotiate," according to the UPI/Washington Times (UPI/Washington Times, 7/27). "The defense categorically denies their guilt, and there is evidence to prove the innocence of our compatriots," Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Gergana Grancharova said, adding that although Bulgaria would like to help the HIV-positive children, "at this stage that does not entail negotiating with the families" (Agence France-Presse, 7/27).