Libya's 'HIV medics'


When the world observes World AIDS Day and concerns coming from everywhere about the depressing statistics, I want to go tangentially and write on a different issue of high concern.

I want to write about the 'Tripoli Six', Six medics in Libya's prison who are waiting for the final verdict on December 19. The trial of five Bulgarian nurses and One Palastenian doctor ended earlier this november and the verdict is awaited. They had missed previous conviction of sentence to death in 2005 after pressure from the scientific community around the world. Worst part is that they are in prison since 1999 and waiting for justice.

Nature in its September issue, strongly condemned the General Gaddafi's (Libyan President) attempt to scapegoat the inocent medics. Nature in its 'news section', regularly followed the proceedings of the Tripoli trial.

Nature's strong editorial titled 'Libyan Travesty', reads

Imagine that five American nurses and a British doctor have been detained and
tortured in a Libyan prison since 1999, and that a Libyan prosecutor called at
the end of August for their execution by firing squad on trumped-up charges of
deliberately contaminating more than 400 children with HIV in 1998. Meanwhile,
the international community and its leaders sit by, spectators of a farce of a
trial, leaving a handful of dedicated volunteer humanitarian lawyers and
scientists to try to secure their release.

Implausible? That scenario, with the medics enduring prison conditions
reminiscent of the film Midnight Express, is currently playing out in a Tripoli
court, except that the nationalities of the medics are different. The nurses are
from Bulgaria and the doctor is Palestinian.

The case is politically embarrassing for Gaddafi. Finding a scapegoat is easier
than having to admit that the infection of the children was an accidental
tragedy. But the most likely diplomatic compromise — that the medics will be
condemned to death, with this being commuted to a life sentence — is
unacceptable. They are innocent, and the law and science can prove it, if they
get the belated opportunity.

The scientific community has also been relatively silent on the case, perhaps in
the hope that it would be sorted out by diplomacy. But the latter has not proved
to be the case, and scientific leaders need to use all their influence urgently,
as the fate of the medics will be sealed in the coming weeks. It is time not
only to save the doctor and nurses, but also to defend a common vision of
science and law in establishing the truth, above all other imperatives.
Meanwhile, Gaddafi has the opportunity to put this affair behind him by giving
the six an immediate pardon.


Richard J Roberts, 1993 Nobel laurette in Medicne heading a team of 113 other fellow Nobel laurettes wrote an open letter to General Gaddafi showing their concern for the medics.

Strangely enough, the efforts from the US & UK are not impressive till date. Both US and EU had several opportunities in resolving this issue. Unfortunately this plight of medics was not in their priority list.

On this World AIDS Day 2006, I keep my fingers crossed for the acquittal of those innocents. Let us hope for a just verdict on December 19. I will update you on this.


Trivia section:

The theme for World AIDS Day 2006 remains 'Stop AIDS. Keep the promise.' It focuses on keeping commitments to stop AIDS at all levels: personal, community, organisational and governmental.

Do you know the count !!!!??? 40 million and ticking, with India contributing a significant fraction.....!!!!!!!!!!!! Ahem...