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

April 6, 2007

“Justice in Libya? Let Scientific Evidence Prevail”

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya,Uncategorized — admin @ 5:24 pm

That’s the title of a recent editorial in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, one of the top journals in this field. You can access the full article here.
Concluding paragraph:

How will this sad and deplorable episode end? Six foreign health care workers have now been jailed in Libya for ∼8 years, reportedly tortured, and now once again (on 19 December 2006) sentenced to death. Appeals are being considered, and ransom negotiations continue. Assuming the presumption of innocence as a basis for a fair trial, it must be stated that, by any objective standard, there is no scientific evidence to convict anyone of deliberately infecting unfortunate Libyan children. Moreover, epidemiologic and molecular evidence demonstrates that the HIV strain that caused the nosocomial outbreak was circulating in the hospital before the arrival of the foreign health care workers, and poor hygiene standards, such as the reuse of needles, were reportedly widespread. We can only hope that world pressure will continue until this miscarriage of justice is reversed. As noted by Ahuja et al., what has happened in Libya has sent “a chilling message to all health care workers who choose to work in difficult circumstances to deliver life-saving care to HIV-1–infected or at-risk people worldwide” [9, p. 924]. At a time when enormous progress is being made in the rollout of antiretroviral drugs to the developing world, we can ill afford such chilling messages. Let us all continue to exert whatever individual and collective pressure we can to bring this injustice to an end.

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