Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at

December 26, 2006

Christmas day and Libya death penalty case

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya,Uncategorized — admin @ 12:40 am

I haven’t posted since the death penalty verdict last Tuesday, because I’m still analysing carefully all the different responses and positions. But it is Christmas Day, so I thought I’d post symbolically, just to point out it was on this very day last year that the six were cleared by the Supreme Court of Libya of the charges against them.

One year later, Valya Chervenyashka; Snezhana Dimitrova; Nasya Nenova; Valentina Siropulo; and Kristiana Valcheva, the five Bulgarian nurses, along with Ashraf Ahmad Jum’a, a Palestinian intern trainee doctor, have again been given the death sentence following the 19 December court ruling in the retrial at the Benghazi criminal court.

That is despite the fact that this was not a fair and impartial trial, and that the court refused to hear the considerable body of international scientific evidence that could exonerate the medics, and show that this is a typical hospital-borne spread.

The Libyan children are being treated in European hospitals — thanks in part to a humanitarian fund established by the international community –and this Christmas, our thoughts are also with them and their families. But denial of the problems all health systems face will not help these children, or those children who risk being infected in future through hospital infections in many countries, such as the almost 100 children infected with HIV in a Kazakhstan hospital this summer — see older BBC story here.

Bulgarian media have launched a “You are Not Alone” ribbon campaign for the six — see logo at top of this post. I endorse it, as defending the most basic of human rights; the right to a fair trial. This case is not only about fundamental human rights principles, but also about the role of scientific evidence, and how we face up to, and not deny, the potential health threats to us and our children, posed by deficiencies in all our health systems.

This case should be an issue of health and science, not a power play between governments as it is turning out to be. Let’s get back to the fundamental principles of health, science, and law in this case. And think of the two groups of innocent victims in this case; the six, falsely accused, and the infected children.

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