U.N. Secretary-General Annan ‘Deeply Concerned’ About Libyan Court’s Death Sentence of Medical Workers
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan late last month said he is "deeply concerned" about a Libyan court's decision to sentence five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor to death for allegedly intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, and he offered U.N. support for the children and for efforts to "find a humane solution for the fate of the medics," the AP/Yahoo! News reports (AP/Yahoo! News, 12/23/06). The six medical workers in May 2004 were sentenced to death by firing squad for allegedly infecting 426 children through contaminated blood products at Al Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi, Libya. They also were ordered to pay a total of $1 million to the families of the HIV-positive children. The Libyan Supreme Court in December 2005 overturned the medical workers' convictions and ordered a retrial in a lower court. A court in Tripoli, Libya, last month convicted the health workers and sentenced them to death. The health workers say they are innocent of the charges, claiming that they were forced to confess and that they were tortured by Libyan officials during interrogations (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/19/06).
Annan, Other Officials Reaction
Annan, whose tenure as secretary-general ended on Sunday, said lauded the international community for providing treatment and medicine to the HIV-positive Libyan children (AP/Yahoo! News, 12/23). "It is my strong hope that ... Libyan authorities will take the necessary measures to review and annul the death sentence," E.U. External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said on Thursday in a letter to the Libyan Foreign Ministry (AP/International Herald Tribune, 12/28/06). The Libyan Foreign Ministry in a statement released Thursday said, "The political stance expressed by the Bulgarian government, the E.U. countries and others is a clear bias to certain values that are likely to trigger wars, conflicts, and cause enmity between religions and civilizations" (Reuters, 12/29/06). Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivalo Kaflin on Friday said, "The reaction of Bulgaria was absolutely reasonable and (Libya) could hardly expect any other after such a verdict," adding, "We will follow and exhaust all means of defense that Libya's judiciary offers" (Hadijyska, AP/International Herald Tribune, 12/29/06). The Arab League general secretariat in a statement released last month said the medical workers have the opportunity to appeal the verdict and urged all sides not to politicize the case, the MENA News Agencyreports. The statement acknowledged the distress of the medical workers and their families, as well as expressed sympathy for the HIV-positive children and their families (MENA News Agency, 12/23/06). Kaflin said Bulgaria would continue with talks about a potential political resolution to the cause with Libyan, European and U.S. diplomats, which have yet to yield a solution (AP/International Herald Tribune, 12/29/06).
The Libyan court's "outrageous verdict" is "more about politics than justice," and it "must not stand," a Sacramento Bee editorial says. If Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi "hopes to gain the international respect he craves, he must ensure that a judicial system he dominates acts in accordance with civilized standards of justice," the editorial says, concluding, "[T]he world must apply the means needed to secure that result" (Sacramento Bee, 12/23/06).