Bulgaria, Libya, U.S., E.U. Officials Meet To Discuss International Fund for HIV-Positive Libyan Children
Representatives from Bulgaria, Libya, the U.S. and the European Union on Thursday met in Sofia, Bulgaria, to discuss an international fund that was set up last week for the families of about 400 HIV-positive Libyan children, who allegedly were infected with the virus by five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian physician, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 1/26). The six health workers were sentenced to death by firing squad in May 2004 for allegedly infecting the children through contaminated blood products. Libyan Supreme Court President Ali al-Alus on Dec. 25, 2005, overturned the convictions two days after Bulgaria, Libya, the U.S. and E.U. agreed to establish the fund. The agreement did not mention the accused health workers, and Bulgarian officials said that the fund is part of an international effort to find an end to the situation (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/24). The Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement said, "The participants in the talks discussed ways and means for reaching the goals of the international fund" but did not describe the talks in more detail (AFP/Yahoo! News, 1/26). John Beyrle, U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria, said he hopes the talks lead to a resolution for both the children and the health workers (Sofia News Agency, 1/26).
Human Rights Watch Report
In related news, the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch on Wednesday released an 80-page report condemning Libya for human rights abuses, including the country's handling of the nurses, Knight Ridder/San Jose Mercury News reports (Allam, Knight Ridder/San Jose Mercury News, 1/25). The health workers have said they were tortured by Libyan officials during interrogations, and two of the nurses have said they were raped while imprisoned (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/3). A Libyan court in June 2005 acquitted nine police officers and a physician who had been charged with torturing the nurses to force them to confess (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/9/05).